Nazi Germany (1938)
Racing Plane – 3 Built
The Messerschmitt Me 209 (also known as the Bf 109R) was a racing plane designed by Willy Messerschmitt in 1938. The Me 209 would later establish a new world record which would not be beaten until 30 years later. Although commonly associated and confused with the Me 209 fighter plane designed in 1943, it holds no association at all other than the name. To this day, only the fuselage of Me 209V1 has survived and is now on display in a museum in Krakow.
Conceived in late 1937 by Willy Messerschmitt, the primary and sole focus of the Me 209 was speed. On August 1, 1938, the first test flight of the Me 209V1, piloted by Hermann Wooster, had lasted only 7 minutes due to engine and coolant problems.
Even though established practice dictated that if an aircraft had more than a dozen problems, it was to be abandoned, however Nazi officials were unwilling to give up on this promising aircraft due to the potential impact the aircraft could generate. Eventually, on April 26, 1939, piloted by Fritz Wendell, the Me 209 set the speed record it would hold for 30 years, though the He 100, the previous record holder, was suspected to have been able to break this record had it flown at a higher altitude but was prohibited from doing so by Nazi officials.
The designation Bf 109R was used for propaganda uses in order to cause confusion with the Luftwaffe’s primary fighter, the Bf 109, to maintain an image of invincibility which persisted until the Battle of Britain.
The Me 209 had a unique design, featuring a cockpit placed far back at the rear and a cross shaped tail section. A difference between the Me 109 and 209 was that it had a broad-track, inward-retracting undercarriage mounted in the wing section, instead of the fuselage. There was no tail wheel, instead using a spring loaded metal skid, which retracted into the lower part of the tail.
Because of the success of the racer, the Nazis attempted to arm it. The main factor that had inhibited adding weaponry was the fact that wings were almost entirely taken up the engine’s liquid cooling system, which was massive. The engine consumed 2 gallons (9 liters) of coolant water a minute. Holding 50 gallons (450 liters) of coolant, it had a flight time of approximately 35 minutes.
On August 1st of 1938, the Me 209V1 flew for the first time. Piloted by Hermann Wurster, the test flight lasted only 7 minutes. Unfortunately, Wurster found the plane very unsatisfactory. In a Messerschmitt AG document found post-war by the Allies, it was found that Wurster made several complaints about the Me 209.
- The engine ran unevenly
- The high temperature reached by the coolant fluid resulted in unsatisfactory cooling
- Cockpit ventilation was inadequate, and engine gasses entered the cockpit, which necessitated the constant use of an oxygen mask
- The landing gear could not be extended at speeds greater than 155 mph (250 km/h)
- The main wheels tended to drop out of their wheel wells during high speed maneuvers
- Fuel filler caps loosened at high speed
- Undercarriage hydraulic oil escaped from its reservoir and sprayed on the windscreen
- The takeoff run was excessive, and the takeoff characteristics dangerous
- Visibility from the cockpit was limited
- Marked instability noted during climbing maneuvers
- The rudder was inadequate to control the plane’s yaw movement
- When banking at full throttle, the plane rolled itself over
- Stick forces were excessive and tiring
- At speeds around 100 to 105 mph (160 to 170 km/h) the controls softened up
- Landing characteristics were extremely dangerous
- On touchdown, the plane swerved violently
- It was impossible to employ the brakes during the landing run, as immediately when they were applied, the aircraft swerved from the runway
The only remaining Me 209V1’s fuselage, formerly part of Hermann Göring’s personal collection, currently lies in the Polish Aviation Museum in Kraków, Poland. Germany has offered to purchase the Me 209 but has been unable to do so.
- Me 209V1: The first version of the Me 209, which used the Daimler-Benz DB 601A and had steam cooling.
- Me 209V1 (mod. 1939): This was the variant that set the speed record of 755.138 km/h (~469.22 mph). It was fitted with the DB 601ARJ engine, a modification of the DB 601A, which brought the total horsepower up to 2,300, from 1,800. It suffered greatly from overheating when operating at full power.
- Me 209V2: It crashed during a test flight and was completely destroyed, and was subsequently abandoned.
- Me 209V3: Originally intended to break the speed record, it was made too late. Instead, it became a test bed for improvements.
- Me 209V4: One built. It was to be armed with two 7.92 mm MG 17 machine guns in the cowling and 20 mm MG FF/M cannon firing through the propeller hub. It also would have had lengthened wings and vertical stabilizer, strengthened undercarriage, a stock DB 601N engine, and did not feature a surface evaporation cooling system. Tests showed that the modifications made the plane inferior to the Bf 109E series, and was therefore abandoned.
Me 209 Specifications
|Wingspan||25 ft 7 in / 7.8 m|
|Length||23 ft 9 in / 7.24 m|
|Height||3.2 m / 10 ft 6 in|
|Engine||1x Daimler-Benz DB 601A (1,800 hp)|
|Maximum Speed||469.22 mph / 755.138 km/h|
|Armament||V1-V3: None (Unarmed)