Fw 44 Trainer with Swastika

Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz

nazi flag Germany (1932)
Trainer & Sport Plane – 3,000 Built

The Focke-Wulf 44 (Fw 44) was the most famous Focke-Wulf design after the famous Fw 190 fighter. The aircraft was a biplane with a fabric-covered welded steel-tube fuselage sporting wooden wings with fabric and plywood coverings, powered by a 140hp (104kW) Simens Sh 14 radial engine. This aircraft was primarily designed as a two-seat aerobatic civilian training aircraft but was later used for military purposes.

History

Fw 44 Taxiing
Fw 44 Taxiing

The origin of the Fw 44 Stieglitz (Goldfinch) started in 1932 when designer Kurt Tank, conceived the two-seater double-decker of mixed construction. In its prototype stage it had a number of unacceptable flight characteristics. The frst prototype was making its first flight in the late summer of that year with pilot Gerd Achgelis at the controls who problems with oscillations.

Kurt Tank had joined The Focke-Wulf Company in November 1931 from BFW, later Messerschmitt, and headed the design and flight test department for Focke-Wulf at the same time, replacing Heinrich Focke who was preoccupied with rotary-wing activities. Tank would remain in the position until the end of the World War II.

After further extensive flight testing, undertaken by Kurt Tank himself, he found the root of the problem. While flying the prototype back from a test flight, he happened to be looking at the shadow of the plane on the ground and he noted that the tail’s shadow blurred which indicated some kind of vibration in that area. Then the whole aircraft shook. Having landed he and his engineers check the tail of the aircraft and they found that the vibrations were being caused by separate cables operating the elevators. By joining these together to make the elevators act as one unit, the vibration problem was eliminated.

With this issue solved the Focke-Wulf 44 “Stieglitz” soon proved to have excellent handling characteristics and powerful aerobatic capabilities that won many prizes in numerous competitions, such as the Artificial Flying World Championship.  The Fw 44 was popular, and known aircraft all over the world as a simple training glider. Following many successful aerobatic displays around Germany, demand for this aircraft was so great that other German manufacturers manufactured the Fw 44 under license. In addition to the export models, production began in several other countries, such as Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria and Sweden. It served as a standard training aircraft at the German transport school and the Luftwaffe.

One interesting fact about Fw 44 is that the body of one plane, the design retaining both the fuselage and engine, was used as the basis for the world’s first “practical” helicopter known as Focke-Wulf Fw 61.

Stieglitz’s Sporting Success

The Fw 44 was known for participation in numerous flight competitions, especially in the 1930s and always scored high, thanks to pilots Gerd Achgelis and Count Otto von Hagenburg.

  • 1935 Stuttgart Seventh German Art Flying Championship
    Gerd Achgelis achieved second place after Willi Stor who flew in a Messerschmitt M35 plane.
  • 1936 Eighth German Aerobatics Championship at Munich-Oberwiesenfeld
    Count Otto von Hagenburg won  second place. Willi Stor was victorious again with his Me. M35 plane.
  • 1936 Summer Olympic Games in Berlin
    Perhaps the most publicized aviation event in pre-World War II Germany was held in conjunction with the 1936 Olympic Games. Adolf Hitler, who wished to impress the world with the strength of Germany’s aviation industry, arranged the 1936 Berlin Summer Olympics Games to include the first ever aerobatics competition. This flying event took place within the track and field stadium. Graf Otto von Hagenburg as a pilot won the men’s competition, flying the new Fw 44. It’s very likely that the aerobatics competition was staged in a way to enhance Germany’s potential results. Either way, the German built planes and their pilots were well regarded as exceptional.
  • 1934 Paris World Championship
    An enormous event, with some 150,000 spectators crowded into the military parade-ground at Vincennes which had been modified for this occasion.
Fw 44 Stieglitz in Flight - 2008
Fw 44 Stieglitz in Flight – 2008

The initial compulsory competition required a list of manuevers to be performed within a time limit of eight minutes, including a right-hand and a left-hand spin, a bunt, a negative loop forward and upward, and an inverted 360 degree turn. Each contestant was also afforded the opportunity to fly their own routine for ten minutes. The sequence was to be submitted in advance to the judges, and each maneuver was assigned a difficulty coefficient set in the rules. New maneuvers were also awarded appropriate coefficients, but most were found to be already in the catalogue of 87 maneuvers. The judges’ task was to assign each figure a mark between 1 and 5 points for quality of performance, with a zero for figures not executed. These were then multiplied by the difficulty coefficients, the totals of all the judges were then averaged to obtain the final score.

Gerd Achgelis achieved third place with a score of 527.6 points. The winner was the German pilot Gerhard Fieseler, designer of the Fieseler Storch, with a score of 645.5 points.

Production Variants

Thanks to its exceptional flying characteristics, it was ordered by many nations around the world. In addition to export orders from Turkey, Switzerland, Bolivia, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Finland and Romania, it was produced under license in Argentina, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria and Sweden. The Fw 44 was built in substantial numbers for the Luftwaffe, serving as a trainer until the end of the World War II. It was also in use by the Deutsche Luftsportverband and Deutsche Verkehrfliegerschule. Exact production numbers are not known, due to production in Germany by Focke-Wulf and and many other subcontractors such as AGO, Bucker and Siebel, in addition to other license agreements worldwide. It is assumed that the production numbers are between 1900 to more than 3000 planes. Focke-Wulf had to build another factory just to keep up with demand for the plane.

The production variants differed from each other in minor equipment details. The most numerous variants were the Fw 44C, Fw 44D and Fw 44F, with all three models utilizing the same Siemens Sh 14a engine. The final production Fw44J model had a 160 hp Siemens Sh 14a-4 seven-cylinder radial engine.

  • Fw 44A
    The Fw 44A was powered by a 150hp Siemens Sh14a engine, and was used for flight tests. This model was in production until the end of 1932.
  • Fw 44B
    The improved Fw 44B first appeared in 1933, with production commencing in 1934. The Fw 44B, had an Argus As 8 four-cylinder inverted inline air-cooled engine of 90 kW (120 hp). The cowling for this engine gave the plane a more slender, aerodynamic nose. The other change was in the extension of the fuselage from 6.6 to 7.3 meters, which was tested on this model.
  • Fw 44C
    This model was used extensively by the Luftwaffe at advanced training schools throughout the Second World War. The Fw 44C, was powered by the Siemens Sh 14a engine, which offered the best overall performance.
  • Fw 44D
    The D model was same as the Fw as 44 C, but with different exhaust manifold. The plane got a small luggage compartment made of fabric, which was attached to the rear cockpit. From 1934 onwards, improvements were taken into series production. Due to the high demand for this model, it was temporarily produced in other plants (Bücker Flugzeugbau – 85, AGO – 121, and an additional 515 planes under license). The Luftwaffe ordered some 1,600 examples of this model.
  • Fw 44E
    Basically identical with to the D model, it was equipped with an Argus As 8 engine. It was built in limited number, only 20, in 1934.
  • Fw 44F
    An upgrade of the D model. With some luggage compartment modifications, and the replacement of the rear pad with a landing wheel.
  • Fw 44H
    Only one plane of this model was produced in 1936, and was used only for testing. This model was equipped with a six-cylinder engine (118hp).
  • Fw44J
    The J model was mainly intended for export and was equipped with the 160 hp Siemens Sh 14a-4 seven-cylinder radial engine. This model was demonstrated in Sweden in late 1935, and in February 1936. The testing resulted in a license agreement between the Swedish aviation administration and Focke-Wulf on September 29, 1936. Two test aircraft were ordered, receiving the Swedish designation P2.

Operators

  • Germany
    The Luftwaffe used the Fw 44 until the end of the World War II, mainly as a trainer aircraft in the Flugzeugführerschulen. The Germans used more than 1,600 planes. Many famous German aerobatic pilots flew the Fw 44 aircraft, including Gerd Achgelis, Adolf Galland, Emil Kopf, Ernst Udet and perhaps most famously Hanna Reitsch, who flew on almost all aircraft models.
  • China
    China purchased around twenty Fw 44’s which were all used during the Second Sino-Japanese War where all were lost in action. Some of them were modified for combat missions.
  • Bulgaria
    In November 1936, the first six Fw 44 J were delivered and in May 1939 ten more followed. By February 1940 twenty more planes were delivered to Bulgaria, making a total of 46 J models. After the war surviving planes were handed over to Yugoslavia.
  • Sweden
    In late 1936, 14 aircraft were ordered from Focke-Wulf. ASJA, AB Svenska Järnvägsverkstädernas Aeroplanavdelning, and the Swedish Railway Workshops Aircraft Department placed an order for 20 more aircraft in June 1937, while the Central Verkstaden at Västeras (CVV) placed an order for 37 more aircraft in 1939. Another 12 were ordered from Focke-Wulf in 1940, however, these were produced by Flugzeugwerke CKD at Prague, Czechoslovakia.
    These were used for elementary and aerobatic training. Other training units flew this plane, and after withdrawn from basic training in 1946-1947, it was used for liaison, observation, glider-tug, and other ancillary roles. After being withdrawn from use, many came ended up on the civil registries in Sweden and Germany.
  • Turkey
    8 planes were ordered and delivered in 1939.
  • Finland
    As the Fw 44 was suitable for operation in polar regions, Finland required the aircraft for basic pilot training. In April 1940, a contract was signed between Finland and Focke-Wulf, for delivery of 30 Fw 44 J models.
  • Norway
    Norway placed an order for ten Fw 44 Js, which were delivered in April 1940.
  • Austria
    From 1936 onwards Austria’s Federal Army used the Fw 44 as a basic school training aircraft, with some ten aircraft were purchased from Focke-Wulf. The Fw 44 was also produced under license. Some 40 Fw 44J models were produced by Hirtenberger Patronenfabrik, (Wiener Neustadt).
  • Argentina
    Argentina ordered fifteen Fw 44 Js in January 1937, and built another 60 under license.
  • Brazil
    Built a production facility to produce the plane in some numbers.
  • Chile
    In September 1937, Chile signed an agreement to buy 15 Fw 44 J models.
  • Yugoslavia
    Some war trophy aircraft were taken from the Bulgarians as war reparations and used after the war as trainers.

Fw 44 Specifications

Wingspan  29 ft 6 in / 9 m
Length  23 ft 11 in / 7.3 m
Height  8 ft 10 in / 2.7 m
Wing Area  215 ft² / 20 m²
Engine  1x 150hp (112-kW) Simens Sh 14a 7- cylinder radial piston engine
Max Take-Off Weight 1,727 lb / 785 kg
Empty Weight 1,243 lb / 565 kg
Loaded Weight  1,694 lb / 770 kg
Climb Rate  56 ft/s  /  17 m/s
Maximum Speed  115 mph / 185 kmh
Range  419 mi / 675 km
Maximum Service Ceiling  12,795ft / 3,900 m
Crew  2 (student and instructor)

Gallery

Fw 44 Stieglitz in Flight - 2008
Fw 44 Stieglitz in Flight – 2008
Fw 44 Trainer with Swastika
Fw 44 Trainer with Swastika
Fw 44 Taxiing
Fw 44 Taxiing
Fw 44 - 1977 Helsinki
Fw 44 – 1977 Helsinki
Focke Wulf FW-44 J
Focke Wulf FW-44 J

 

Sources

Mondey, D. (2002). The Hamlyn concise guide to Axis aircraft of World War II. Edison, N.J: Chartwell Books., Nešić, D. (2007). Naoružanje drugog svetskog rata, Namacka-ratno vazduhoplovstva knjiga 2. Beograd., Wilson, J. (2007). Propaganda Posters of the Luftwaffe., Wermacht History. (n.d.). Focke-Wulf Fw 44., Avia Deja Vu. (n.d.). Focke-Wulf FW.44 Steiglitz., Valka. (2012). Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Stieglitz., Focke-Wulf Fw 44. (2017, June 5). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia., Siteunseen Ltd. (2015). Focke-Wulf Fw 44 Military Trainer Aircraft. Images: Fw 44 in Flight 2008 by Markus Kress / CC BY-SA 3.0, Fw 44 Taxiing by bomberpilotCC BY-SA 2.0, Fw 44 Trainer with Swastika by Siteseen Ltd, Fw 44 Engine by VollwertBITCC BY-SA 3.0, Fw 44 – 1977 Helsinki by fsll2CC BY-NC 2.0

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