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Messerschmitt AG was a famous German aircraft manufacturing corporation (AG) named for its chief designer, Willy Messerschmitt, and known primarily for its World War II fighter aircraft, notably the Bf 109 and Me 262. The company survived in the post-war era, undergoing a number of mergers and changing its name from Messerschmitt to Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm before being bought by DASA in 1989, now part of EADS.

Contents

History

Background

In February 1916 the south German engineering company MAN AG and several banks purchased the unprofitable aircraft builder Otto-Flugzeugwerke, starting a new company Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG. The articles of association were drawn up on February 19 and 20, and completed on March 2, 1916. Details of the company were recorded in the Commercial Register with an equity capital of RM 1,000,000 on March 7, 1916. 36% of the capital was provided by the Bank für Handel und Industrie, Berlin, 30% by MAN AG and 34% by Hermann Bachstein, Berlin. The first Chairman of the Board of Management was Peter Eberwein, who had previously been employed at Albatros Flugzeugwerke.

Due to the need for immediate aircraft production for the ongoing war, there was no time for development work and BFW manufactured aircraft under license from the Albatros Flugzeugwerke. Within a month of being set up the company was able to supply aircraft to the war ministries of Prussia and Bavaria. However, major quality problems were encountered at the start. The German air crews frequently complained about the serious defects that appeared in the first machines from BFW. The same thing had happened with the aircraft from the predecessor company run by Gustav Otto. It was only organizational changes and more intensive supervision of the assembly line that succeeded in resolving these problems by the end of 1916. BFW then started turning out over 200 aircraft a month, with their workforce growing to 3,000 and becoming one of the largest aircraft manufacturers in Bavaria.

The end of the war hit BFW hard, since military demand for aircraft collapsed. The company’s management were forced to look for new products with which to maintain their position in the market. Since WWI aircraft were largely built from wood to keep their weight down, BFW was equipped with the very latest joinery plant. What is more, the company still held stocks of materials sufficient for about 200 aircraft, and worth 4.7 million reichsmarks. It therefore seemed a good idea to use both the machinery and the materials for the production of furniture and fitted kitchens. In addition, from 1921 onwards, the company manufactured motorcycles of its own design under the names of Flink and Helios.

In the autumn of 1921 the Austrian financier Camillo Castiglioni first announced his interest in purchasing BFW. While most of the shareholders accepted his offer, MAN AG initially held on to its shareholding in BFW. But Castiglioni wanted to acquire all the shares. He was supported in this by BMW’s Managing Director Franz Josef Popp who, in a letter to the chairman of MAN, described BFW as a “dead factory, which possesses no plant worth mentioning, and consists very largely of dilapidated and unsuitable wooden sheds situated in a town that is extremely unfavorable for industrial activities and whose status continues to give little cause for enthusiasm”. Apparently Popp was still in close contact with Castiglioni and was perhaps even privy to the latter’s plans for merging BMW with BFW. It was probably in the spring of 1922 that Castiglioni and Popp persuaded MAN to give up its shares in BFW, so that now the company belonged exclusively to Castiglioni. Then in May of the same year, when the Italian-born investor was able to acquire BMW’s engine business from Knorr-Bremse AG, nothing more stood in the way of a merger between the aircraft company BFW and the engine builders BMW.

Reincarnation

Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW) (Bavarian Aircraft Works) was reformed in 1926 in Augsburg, Bavaria when Udet-Flugzeugbau GmbH was changed into a joint-stock company. In the early stages, BMW AG held a stake in this company and was represented by Josef Popp, who held a place on the Supervisory Board.[1]

Willy Messerschmitt joined the company in 1927 as chief designer and engineer, and formed a design team.

One of the first designs, the Messerschmitt M20, was a near-catastrophe for the designer and the company. Many of the prototypes crashed, one of them killing Hans Hackman, a close friend of Erhard Milch, the head of Lufthansa and the German civil aviation authorities. Milch was upset by the lack of response from Messerschmitt and this led to a lifelong hatred towards him. Milch eventually cancelled all contracts with Messerschmitt and forced BFW into bankruptcy in 1931. However, the German re-armament programs and Messerschmitt's friendship with Hugo Junkers prevented a stagnation of the careers of him and BFW, which was started again in 1933. Milch still prevented Messerschmitt's takeover of the BFW until 1938, hence the designation "Bf" of early Messerschmitt designs.

Messerschmitt promoted a concept he called "light weight construction" in which many typically separate load-bearing parts were merged into a single reinforced firewall, thereby saving weight and improving performance. The first true test of the concept was in the Bf 108 Taifun sports-plane, which would soon be setting all sorts of records. Based on this performance the company was invited to submit a design for the Luftwaffe's 1935 fighter contest, winning it with the Bf 109, based on the same construction methods.

From this point on Messerschmitt became a favorite of the Nazi party, as much for his designs as his political abilities and the factory location in southern Germany away from the "clumping" of aviation firms on the northern coast. BFW was reconstituted as Messerschmitt AG on July 11, 1938, with Willy Messerschmitt as chairman and managing director. The renaming of BFW resulted in the company's RLM designation changing from Bf to Me for all newer designs after the acquisition date. Existing types, such as the Bf 109 and 110, retained their earlier designation in official documents, although sometimes the newer designations were used as well, most often by subcontractors. In practise, all BFW/Messerschmitt aircraft from 108 to 163 (not the same plane as the Me 163) were prefixed Bf, all later types with Me.

World War II

During the war Messerschmitt became a major design supplier, their Bf 109 and Bf 110 forming the vast majority of fighter strength for the first half of the war. Several other designs were also ordered, including the enormous Me 321 Gigant transport glider, and its six-engined follow on, the Me 323. However for the second half of the war, Messerschmitt turned almost entirely to jet-powered designs, producing the World's first operational jet fighter, the Me 262 Schwalbe (“Swallow”). They also produced the DFS-designed Me 163 Komet, the first rocket-powered design to enter service.

Messerschmitt had its share of poor designs as well; the Me 210, designed as a follow-on to the 110, was a disaster that almost led to the forced dissolution of the company. The design problems were eventually addressed in the Me 410 Hornisse, but only small numbers were built before all attention turned to the 262. Late in the war, Messerschmitt also worked on a heavy Amerikabomber design, the Me 264, which flew in prototype form but was too late to see combat.

Post-war

After World War II, the company was not allowed to produce aircraft. One alternative the company came up with was the three wheeled motorcycle/bubble car or Kabinenroller (cabinscooter) KR175 / KR200, which was designed by an aircraft engineer Fritz Fend.

The cars were actually made by Fend's own company in the Messerschmitt works at Regensburg and Willy Messerschmitt had very little to do with the vehicles other than ruling that they carried his name. Production of the KR200 ceased in 1964.

Less known is the fact that the Messerschmitt factory also produced prefabricated houses, which were designed as "self-building-kits" mainly based on an alloy frame work.

Return to aviation

On 6 June 1968, Messerschmitt AG merged with the small civil engineering and civil aviation firm Bölkow, becoming Messerschmitt-Bölkow. The following May, the firm acquired Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB), the aviation division of Blohm + Voss. The company then changed its name to Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB). In 1989 MBB was taken over by Deutsche Aerospace AG (DASA), which was renamed Daimler-Benz Aerospace in 1995. The former DASA now operates as "EADS Germany".[2]

Aircraft

Model Name First flight Remarks
M17
M18
M20 1928 passenger transport
Bf 108 Taifun (Typhoon) 1934 trainer & transport
Bf 109 September, 1935 fighter, bomber interceptor; later versions sometimes marked as "Me 109" on subcontractor's dataplates
Bf 110 12 May, 1936 twin-engine heavy fighter, night fighter
Me 155 not built high-altitude fighter, developed from Bf 109; not built, project transferred to Blohm + Voss as the Bv 155
Bf 161 heavy fighter; prototype
Bf 162 Jaguar 1937 schnellbomber (fast bomber) based on Bf 110
Bf 163 STOL reconnaissance aircraft; prototype built by Weserflug AG
Me 163 Komet (Comet) early 1941 rocket-powered interceptor
Me 209 1 August, 1938 designed to break world air speed record; attempted fighter conversion failed
Me 209-II 1943 fighter; update to Bf 109, never produced
Me 210 September, 1939 twin-engine heavy fighter; also used for reconnaissance
Me 261 Adolfine 1941 designed as long-range record-setter; three built and used for reconnaissance
Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) 18 July, 1942 twin-engine fighter & attack aircraft; first operational jet-powered fighter
Me 263 never flown rocket-powered interceptor; advanced development of Me 163
Me 264 Amerika (America) 23 December, 1942 strategic bomber, developed under Amerika Bomber program
Me 265 not built attack aircraft, proposed
Me 309 July, 1942 fighter; advanced but underperforming design meant to replace Me 109
Me 310 1 built pressurized Me 210 development, proposed
Me 321 7 March, 1941 large transport glider
Me 323 Gigant (Giant) Fall, 1941 large transport aircraft; powered development of Me 321
Me 328 Fall, 1943 pulsejet-powered selbstopfer or parasite fighter
Me 329 heavy fighter-bomber; unpowered glider only
Me 334 tailless fighter, similar to Me 163 (development abandoned)
Me 409 Zwilling (Twin) heavy fighter; combined two Me 209 fuselages into one airframe, similar to the Bf 109Z and Heinkel He 111Z (development abandoned)
Me 410 Hornisse (Hornet) 1943 twin-engine heavy fighter and fast bomber; development of Me 210
Me 509 not built fighter, based on Me 309, with engine located behind cockpit as in P-39 Airacobra
Me 510 not built twin-engine fighter-bomber; Me 410 derivative
Me 600 Bussard (Buzzard) rare, provisional designation for Arthur Sack A.S.7V-1
Me 609 heavy fighter; combined two Me 309 fuselages into one airframe, as with Bf 109Z and Me 409 (development abandoned)
P.1101 not flown prototype swing-wing jet interceptor; later inspired Bell X-5

References

  1. ^ BMW Historical Archives www.BMWgroup.com
  2. ^ Answers.com (n.d.). [1]. Retrieved 22 March 2007.

See also

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

English

Etymology

After aircraft designer and manufacturer w:Willy Messerchmitt (1898–1978).

Noun

Singular
Messerschmitt

Plural
Messerschmitts

Messerschmitt (plural Messerschmitts)

  1. A German surname.
  2. (historical) Any of several particular types of airplane used by the German air force in the Second World War.







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