Tag Archives: Fritz Wendel

18 July 1942

Test pilot Fritz Wendel with the Messerschmitt Me 262 V3 prototype, PC+UC. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Chief Test Pilot Fritz Wendel with the Messerschmitt Me 262 V3 prototype, PC+UC. (Photograph courtesy of Neil Corbett, Test and Research Pilots, Flight Test Engineers)
Test Pilot Fritz Wendel (L) talks with Willy Messerschmitt after the maiden flight of Me 262 V3.
Test Pilot Fritz Wendel (left) talks with Willy Messerschmitt after the maiden flight of Me 262 V3, 18 July 1942.

18 July 1942: In the late 1930s, Germany began developing a fighter powered by a turbojet engine. In early 1942 the first two prototypes of the Messerschmitt Me 262 began flight testing. They had two BMW 003 jet engines mounted on the wings, but for safety, a piston engine and propeller were mounted in the nose.

At 8:40 a.m. on 18 July 1942, V3, the third prototype, call sign PC+UC, made its first pure-jet flight when it took off from Leipheim, Bavaria, with Messerschmitt’s Chief Test Pilot, Flugkapitän Fritz Wendel. (The first true turbojet-powered aircraft, the Heinkel He 178 V-1, first flew almost three years earlier, 27 August 1939).

This prototype was powered by two Junkers Jumo 004 turbojet engines. The Jumo 004 had an eight-stage axial flow compressor, six straight through combustion chambers and a single-stage turbine. It produced 1,850 pounds of thrust (8.23 kilonewtons).

Messerschmitt Me 262 V3, PC+UC, takes off on its first flight at Leipheim, 18 July 1942.
Messerschmitt Me 262 V3, PC+UC, takes off on its first flight at Leipheim, 18 July 1942.

There were problems created by the airplane’s use of a tailwheel configuration. Turbulence from the wings and reflected jet exhaust blanked out the tail surface. When the Me 262 prototype reached flying speed, Wendel tapped the brakes. The tail popped up, free of the turbulence, and the jet fighter took off. Beginning with the fifth prototype, V5, all Me 262s were built with tricycle landing gear.

Messerschmitt Me 262 V3, PC+UC
Messerschmitt Me 262 V3, PC+UC

The Messerchmitt Me 262 Schwalbe was the first production jet fighter, preceding the British Gloster Meteor Mk.III into operational service by about three months. It was a single-place, twin-engine airplane with the engines placed in nacelles under the wings. It was 10.6 meters (34 feet, 9.3 inches) long with a wingspan of 12.51 meters (41 feet, 5.2 inches) and overall height of 3.85 meters (12 feet, 7.6 inches). According to Fay, the fighter’s empty weight was 3,760 kilograms (8,289 pounds) and the maximum gross weight was 7,100 kilograms (15,653 pounds) at engine start.¹

The Me-262 wings had 6° dihedral. The leading edges were swept aft to 20°, while the trailing edges of the inner panels swept forward 8½° to the engine nacelle, then outboard of the engines, aft 5°. The purpose of the sweep was to keep the airplane’s aerodynamic center close to the center of gravity, a technique first applied to the Douglas DC-2. The total wing area was 21.7 square meters (233.6 square feet).

Messerschmitt test pilot Hans Fay told Allied interrogators that, for acceptance, the production Me 262 was required to maintain a minimum of 830 kilometers per hour (515 miles per hour) in level flight, and 950 kilometers per hour (590 miles per hour) in a 30° dive. The fighter’s cruise speed was 750 kilometers per hour (466 miles per hour).

A number of factors influenced the Me 262’s maximum range, but Fay estimated that the maximum endurance was 1 hour, 30 minutes. U.S. Air Force testing establish the range as 650 miles (1,046 kilometers) and service ceiling at 38,000 feet (11,582 meters).

The Jumo 004 was tested at the NACA Aircraft Engine research Laboratory, Cleveland, Ohio, in March 1946. (NASA)

The Me 262 A-1 was powered by two Junkers Jumo TL 109.004 B-1 turbojet engines. The 004 was an axial-flow turbojet with an 8-stage compressor section, six combustion chambers, and single-stage turbine. The 004 engine case was made of magnesium for light weight, but this made it vulnerable to engine fires. The engine was designed to run on diesel fuel, but could also burn gasoline or, more commonly, a synthetic fuel produced from coal, called J2. The engine was first run in 1940, but was not ready for production until 1944. An estimated 8,000 engines were built. The 004 B-1 idled at 3,800 r.p.m., and produced 1,984 pounds of thrust (8.825 kilonewtons) at 8,700 r.p.m. The engine was 2 feet, inches (0.864 meters) in diameter, 12 feet, 8 inches (3.861 meters) long, and weighed 1,669 pounds (757 kilograms).

Cutaway illustration of Jumo 004 engine.

The Me 262 A-1 was armed with four Rheinmetall-Borsig MK 108 30 mm autocannons with a total of 360 rounds of ammunition. (The Me 262 A-2 had just two autocannons with 160 rounds.) It could also be armed with twenty-four  R4M Orkan 55 mm air-to-air rockets. Two bomb racks under the fuselage could each be loaded with a 500 kilogram (1,102 pounds) bomb.

1,430 Me 262s were produced. They first entered service during the summer of 1944. Luftwaffe pilots claimed 542 Allied airplanes shot down with the Me 262.

Messechmitt Me 262A-1, WNr. 1117111. (U.S. Air force)

© 2023, Bryan R. Swopes

26 April 1939

Messerschmitt Me 209 V1 D-INJR. (NASM)

26 April 1939: Test pilot Fritz Wendel flew a prototype Messerschmitt Me 209 V1, registered D-INJR, over a three-kilometer course at Augsburg, Germany, setting a new Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world record with an average speed of 755.14 kilometers per hour (469.22 miles per hour). ¹ Wendel’s record broke one set just three weeks earlier by Hans Dieterle in a prototype Heinkel He 100 fighter. ² The new record would stand for the next 30 years.

Messerschmitt & Wendel
Willy Messerschmitt congratulates test pilot Fritz Wendel. (NASM)

The Me 209 V1 (also known as the Me 109 R) was specially built as a speed record airplane. It used a very short fuselage with the cockpit well aft of the wing. A small ventral fin gave the airplane’s tail surfaces a cruciform configuration. To reduce aerodynamic drag, a conventional radiator was not used. Instead, surface coolers of the type used in Schneider Cup racers were placed on the wings.

Messerschmitt Me 209 V1. Compare this airplane to the prototype Bf 109 V1, below.
BKW Bf 109 VI D-IABI prototype, left profile. (National Air and Space Museum)

The Me 209 was powered by a Daimler-Benz DB 601ARJ, a highly-modified version of the DB 601A. The production engine was a liquid-cooled, direct-injected and supercharged 33.929 liter (2,075.497-cubic-inches), inverted single-“underhead”-camshaft 60° V-12 engine with four valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 6.9:1. The supercharger was driven hydraulically. The engine was rated at 970 horsepower at 2,300 r.p.m. at 12,000 feet (3,658 meters), and 1,050 horsepower at 2,400 r.p.m. for takeoff (limited by a clockwork mechanism to 1 minute), using 87-octane gasoline. The propeller reduction gear ratio was 14:9. The DB 601A was 67.5 inches (1.715 meters) long, 40.5 inches (1.029 meters) high and 29.1 inches (0.739 meters) wide. It weighed 1,610 pounds (730.3 kilograms).

Various sources give the power output of the DB 601ARJ as 1,800 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m., and 2,300 horsepower with methyl alcohol injection, for very short periods.

Fuselage of the Me 209 V1 at Muzeum Lotwnictwa Polskiego w Krakowie.

The fuselage of the Me 209 V1 is in the collection of the Muzeum Lotwnictwa Polskiego w Krakowie (Polish Aviation Museum at Krakow, Poland).

¹ FAI Record File Number 8743

² FAI Record File Number 8744

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes