Blohm & Voss BV 144

nazi flag Nazi Germany (1940)
Prototype Passenger/Transport Plane – 2 Built

Born out of Deutsche Lufthansa’ vision of an advanced airliner to replace the aging Ju 52 after the war, the BV 144 is arguably one of the rather unique looking passenger airliner planes of the 20th century. Although designed by Blohm & Voss in 1940, the first flying prototype wouldn’t take to the air until 1944, when the development of the BV 144 was no longer relevant to its original purpose and the Germans were in full retreat.

History

With rapid advances in Western Europe throughout 1940, Nazi Germany was confident that the war would be over soon. With such conditions in mind, it was very reasonable for Deutsche Lufthansa to start drafting up plans for their commercial airliner services after the war. Looking for a new aircraft to replace their aging Junkers Ju 52 transport, Deutsche Lufthansa turned to Blohm & Voss in 1940 in hopes of an advanced airliner. The design was finalized in early 1941, and was ready to be constructed. With France recently defeated, the Germans decided to take advantage of the French industry and ordered two prototypes to be constructed at the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory in Anglet, in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine province of France.

BV.144 in its assembly stage. Note the large forward lamp assembly in the nose.

Although construction started in 1941, the first prototype would not be completed until sometime between July and August of 1944. By this point, the war situation for Germany had became alarmingly worse and the BV 144 was no longer seen as important. Another factor which may have been the cause of the slow construction was the deliberate low effort put into construction by the French workers, as they didn’t wish to help Germany progress. Finally, in August of 1944, the first prototype of the BV 144 would take to the sky. Unfortunately for the Germans however, the Allied forces were moving rapidly through France after Operation Overlord. This meant the Germans were forced to abandon the BV 144 prototype due to their retreat.

After the Liberation of France, the Louis-Breguet Aircraft Company factory fell back into French hands, as well as the completed BV 144 prototype and the second unfinished prototype. Both were transported to Toulouse via road and received French registration numbers. Intrigued by the relatively advanced design, the French would continue testing the BV 144 post war. The second unfinished prototype was also completed by the French post war, but it is unknown whether or not this prototype flew before the termination of the BV 144 project once and for all. Both prototypes were scrapped.

Design

BV.144 seen with French markings

The BV 144 was an all metal monoplane with a distinguishing high wing design and a tricycle landing gear configuration. It would have been powered by two BMW 801 MA 18-cylinder engines generating 1600 horsepower. The wings were located at the shoulder position of the fuselage, giving the engines a large ground clearance. Combined with the relatively short tricycle landing gear, the design would be advantageous to passengers as the fuselage would be close to the ground, allowing much easier boarding and disembarking.

The cockpit consisted of a pilot and a co-pilot in a stepped cabin, as well as a compartment for a radio operator. Following this compartment, there would have been a cargo storage, a passenger compartment, a toilet and another cargo storage.  At the cost of some cargo and a less spacious passenger compartment, the passenger count could have been raised to 23 from the original 18.

BV.144-1
Forward view of the BV.144

Foreseeing problems with takeoff and landing, Blohm & Voss designed the plane with variable incidence wings, which meant there were electric-mechanical systems fitted into the BV 144 that allowed the wing to rotate 9 degrees around its tubular main spar within the plane. Such a system was previously tested in 1940 on the Blohm & Voss Ha 140V-3 hydroplane with success. This interesting system would have allowed the pilot to change the sweep angle of the wings during low speed landing and takeoffs without having to shift altitudes. It would also allow the pilot to have a slightly better view during landing. Along with that, long slotted flaps were also provided to aid in landing.

Side view of the BV.144 with French markings

Another interesting feature of the BV 144 was the aforementioned tubular main spar, which was patented by Richard Vogt, the chief designer for Blohm & Voss. Although quite light in terms of weight, the spar would have been able to provide excellent load carrying characteristics. On top of this, as a surprising feature, the spar could also have been used to carry extra fuel. The last notable feature of the BV 144 was the defrosting system located at both wingtips and the tail section. The system would have allowed the tips and tail to stay warm using heated air provided through an oil burner.

Operators

  • Nazi Germany – The BV 144 was intended to be used by the Deutsche Lufthansa, and possibly even the Luftwaffe as an advanced airliner meant for short-medium distance routes.
  • France – The French took over both prototypes of the BV 144 once the Germans retreated out of France and continue development of the plane postwar for a while before ultimately scrapping the project in the end.

Blohm & Voss BV 144

Wingspan 88 ft 7 in / 27 m
Length 71 ft 6 ¼ in / 21.8 m
Height 16 ft 5 ¼ in / 5.01 m
Wing Area 947 ft² / 88 m²
Engine 2x BMW 801 MA (1600 hp)
Fuel Load 1900 L (Gasoline)
Minimum Weight 17416 lb / 7900 kg
Maximum Weight 28660 lb / 13000 kg
Cruising Speed 255 mph / 410 kmh at 13123 ft / 4000 m
Maximum Speed 292 mph / 470 kmh
Service Ceiling 29848 ft / 9100 m
Range 963 mi / 1550 km
Crew 1x Pilot

1x Co-Pilot

1x Radio Operator

Payload Regular:

18x Passengers

Maximum:

23x Passengers

Gallery

The prototype BV 144 seen in a side profile illustration
A “What-if” paint scheme depicting the prototype BV 144 if it had seen service with Lufthansa during the mid forties.

Sources

Gunston, B. (1980). The illustrated encyclopedia of propeller airliners. New York: Exeter Books. , Kay, A. L., & Smith, J. R. (2002). German aircraft of the Second World War: Including helicopters and missiles. London: Putnam. , Lepage, J. (2009). Aircraft of the Luftwaffe: 1939-1945: An illustrated guide. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. , Images: Side Profile Views by Ed Jackson – Artbyedo.com

 

About Leo Guo

Leo Guo is a 17 year old student living in West Vancouver, Canada. He is an avid plane enthusiast and likes to research and write about them in his spare time. Currently, he is a Flight Corporal in the Royal Canadian Air Cadets with the aspiration of one day serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

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