Me 262A-1a

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At Freeman Field - Courtesy Mr. Lynn Ware

at Freeman, 29 September 1945.  Col Watson at the controls.

At Freeman Field - Courtesy Mr. Lynn Ware

at Newark, 24 August 1945
Taken at Newark AAF in Aug. 1945. From AFHRA reel A2105.
Courtesy of Richard Corey
Taken at Newark AAF in Aug. 1945. From AFHRA reel A2105.
Courtesy of Richard Corey
Taken at Newark AAF in Aug. 1945. From AFHRA reel A2105.
Courtesy of Richard Corey
Taken at Newark AAF in Aug. 1945. From AFHRA reel A2105.
Courtesy of Richard Corey
Taken at Newark AAF in Aug. 1945. From AFHRA reel A2105.
Courtesy of Richard Corey
Source Disposition
Received Newark 08/01/1945, enroute to Freeman Field
War Prizes
pg 208

It was flown from Newark to Freeman Field on 28 September 1945 and was flown by Col Watson at Freeman Field during a display for the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences there on the following day.  On 16 May 1946, it was still at Freeman Field on re-work after a series of test flights

War Prizes
pg 208
by 19 June it was on the strength of Wright Field and was in use as a mobile display exhibit
Based on my research (photographic evaluation and comparison)I can confirm that the Me 262 aircraft is none other than "Black L", WNr.110836, of 2./KG 51.  This aircraft was flown by Hptm. Rudolf Abrahamczik, Kommandeur of I./KG 51, and was surrendered to US forces at 1440 hours.on May 8, 1945 at München-Riem after a flight from Saaz (Zatec) north of Prague to escape Russian captivity.  The aircraft was originally assigned to 2./KG 51, transferred to JV 44 in mid April 1945, and sent back to KG 51 in late April where it finally became part of the ad hoc Me 262 unit "Gefechtsverband Hogeback".  Post-war color images taken in the US confirm that it wore a late-war camouflage scheme of 81 Braunviolett and 82 Hellgrün over 76 Lichtblau.
David E. Brown

Fighter, initially named 'Doris' and then 'Jabo Bait'.  Aircraft of Lt William V. Haynes.  Brought to the USA aboard the HMS Reaper.  Became 'FE-110" after its arrival in the US.

Recorded at Wright Field from 1 August 1945 although on that date it was still enroute from Newark after shipment aboard HMS Reaper.  Previously '777' with 'Watson's Whizzers'.  It was flown from Newark to Freeman Field on 28 September 1945 and was flown by Col Watson at Freeman Field during a display for the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences there on the following day.  On 16 May 1946, it was still at Freeman Field on re-work after a series of test flights; by 19 June it was on the strength of Wright Field and was in use as a mobile display exhibit.  No further record.  It is possibly the aircraft which was displayed as a static exhibit at Bolling AFB, Washington, DC, for some years after the war.  The Bolling Field aircraft has been reported as W Nr 113367, although this is not confirmed.

source: "War Prizes" by Phil Butler, pg 208


T  A  K  E  O  F  F
The Ferry Mission to France

All of the project pilots (except Strobell) were given brief orientation flights in the two seater on the 9th of June.  Most of the records pertaining to the equipment found on the field had been destroyed or otherwise lost.  Since so little was known about the history of the engines and similarly critical components, this was the only formal flight training they dared to undertake. 

Aside from what they had managed to pick up while operating the ground trainer or practicing blind cockpit drills, the pilots were basically on their own.  Most of the men would have to experience their first solo flights in the Me 262 on the extended cross-country flight to France.

The ferry operation to get the planes out of Germany took place on the 10th of June.  The planes were lined up on the taxiway in a single file, and final check conducted early that morning.  Captain Hillis had prepared an operations plan which called for the first takeoff at around 0930 hours that morning.

For safety reasons, each takeoff time was delayed by roughly 10 minutes.  The separation was to provide the ground crews adequate time to clear the runway at the destination in the event of any mishap.   This was a legitimate precaution:  none of the men had any real experience with landing the jet, and the landing gear itself was known to be somewhat failure-prone.

As the team consisted of only eight American pilots, two cockpits would have gone unfilled without the aid of the Germans. 

Both Hofmann and Baur were retained to ferry aircraft, with Hofmann taking the two-seater trainer (later known as Willie) and Baur flying a standard fighter model (later known as Jabo Bait). 

Earlier in the week, each of the Americans had been given responsibility for a specific jet, and this was carried over when the flight assignments were made (it also was to take on a greater significance in Melun, when new markings were applied to each machine).

Lieutenant Roy W. Brown recalled his first jet flight on that day:

The aircraft lined up for the ferry flight to Melun.  Taken at Lechfeld on 10 June 1945.




Another view of the lineup at Lechfeld.




"Connie ... My Sharp Article" in the lineup at Lechfeld.  Credit: Brown


The Me 262 was smooth, quiet, and very responsive to the controls compared to the P-47 I had been flying for about a year.   I had also flown a P-40 in the States, and the Me 262 was even better than that.  

The plane was easy -- and a pleasure -- to fly.  Because of its high speed, I found myself going through my maps quickly to keep pace with the distance covered over the ground.

I glanced at the engines periodically. The engine tail pipe had a moveable cone, reducing the cross-sectional area of the exhaust gases when the engine was advanced to full power. The cone automatically moved rearwards as the RPM increased and would be extended at full power.

Another feature was the moveable leading edge of the wing. This moved forward automatically when the air speed dropped below a set speed forming a slot through which the air could flow to the top of the wing. This helped maintain improved air flow over the wing, reducing stall and landing speeds. After take-off the leading edge slid back automatically as the air speed increased.

The weather was good that day and the field at Melun was easily visible.

Bob Strobell reported a similar experience, except for one diversion: he had extended the cockpit vent by means of the small lever provided, but once at speed, he could not retract the vent.  A steady rush of icy air blasted his face for the entire trip, and it was not until he slowed for landing that we was able to retract it.

Bob Anspach echoed the sentiments of the others:

I was amazed at how quick it was and immediately noticed the smoothness of handling, compared to the P-47.  The control reaction was seemingly instant, and the rate of acceleration on takeoff was quite impressive.  It seemed that the plane just wanted to fly.  When I reduced the throttles for landing, I remember thinking "won't this thing ever slow down?"  It was truly love at first flight.

Ken Holt agreed:

When I cut power on final approach there was no drop in speed.  That sure took some getting used to!

By nightfall, the entire team had completed their ferry flight to Melun without incident.  Ten of Germany's most advanced jets were safely under guard at the French airfield at Melun, never to return to their homeland.  This was to be an intermediate stop along the way to a port at Cherbourg.

To this day, this mission remains a largely overlooked feat of incredible airmanship.  Except for Watson, Strobell and the two test pilots, this constituted the first extended flight that any of the men had ever made in a German plane, and their first solo in a jet aircraft of any kind.  Watson's pride in his team was justified, and in a dispatch to USSTAF headquarters that evening, he recommended that the team be transferred intact to the stateside flight test effort at Wright Field.

© 1998-2001 Sabre Design Group. All rights reserved. 

Messerschmitt Me 262

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) was the first operational jet powered fighter. It was mass-produced in World War II and saw action from late 1944 in bomber/reconnaissance and fighter/interceptor roles. German pilots nicknamed it the Turbo, while to the Allies it was the Stormbird, or in radio code, "blow job", in reference to its jet engines. Although the Me 262 had a negligible impact on the course of the war—shooting down an estimated 150 Allied aircraft for the loss of 100 Me 262s, the majority of aircraft grounded for lack of fuel—the jet was both well-known and highly influential on post-war aircraft development.


Although often viewed as a last ditch superweapon, the Me 262 was already being developed as project P.1065 before the start of WWII. Plans were first drawn up in April 1939, and the original design was very similar to the plane that would eventually enter service.

During development, when an increase of the weight of the still unfinished jet engines was anticipated in March 1940, Messerschmitt used this as an opportunity to turn the Me 262 into a swept-wing fighter by sweeping back the outer wings. In 1942, the leading edges of the inner wings were extended, too, to turn the Me 262 into a true swept-wing aircraft. Swept wings had been proposed as early as 1935 by Adolph Busemann, and Willy Messerschmitt had researched the topic from 1940. In April 1941, he actually proposed to fit a 35° swept wing (Pfeilflügel II) to the Me 262. Though this suggestion wasn't implemented, he continued this line of thought with the projected HG II and HG III high-speed derivatives of the Me 262 in 1944, which were designed with a 35° and 45° wing sweep respectively.

The first test flights began in April 1941, but since the BMW 003 turbojets were not ready for fitting, a conventional Junkers Jumo 210 engine was mounted in the nose, driving a propeller, to test the airframe. When the BMW 003 engines were finally installed the Jumo was retained for safety which proved wise as both 003s failed during the first flight and the pilot had to land using the nose mounted engine alone.

The third prototype airframe became a true jet plane when it flew on July 18, 1942 in Leipheim near Günzburg, Germany, piloted by Fritz Wendel. The 003 engines which were proving unreliable were replaced by the newly available Junkers Jumo 004.

Test flights continued over the next year but the engines continued to be unreliable. Although airframe modifications were completed by 1942, production never began until 1944 when the production engines — which due to the shortage of strategic materials like tungsten had to be completely redesigned to employ alloys of inferior temperature resistance — finally started to work.

Jet engines have less thrust at low speed than piston or turboprop engines. Acceleration is relatively poor and for the Me 262 it was worse because all early jet engines responded only slowly to throttle changes. Conversely, the higher power of jet engines at higher speeds meant the Me 262 enjoyed a much higher climb speed. Used tactically, this gave the jet fighter an even greater speed advantage than level flight at top speed.

Operationally, the Me 262 had an endurance of 60 to 90 minutes.

Combat overview

Despite its deficiencies, the plane was clearly pointing to the end of the propeller aircraft as a fighting machine. Once airborne it quickly accelerated to speeds well over 800 km/h, over 150 km/h faster than anything else in the air.

Many accounts from Allied bomber crews cited that they were horrified by the speed of the Me 262. Allied accounts also state some level of amazement and awe: The idea of an extremely fast propeller-less aircraft was difficult to imagine at the time, let alone experience. While Allied intelligence was aware of the German jet development, not all combat units were informed about the existence of the Me 262, contributing to the Allied amazement.

Anti-bomber tactics

The standard approach against bomber formations, which were travelling along at cruise speed, called for the Me 262 to approach the bombers from the rear at a higher altiude, diving in below the bombers to get additional speed before zooming up again to their level and opening fire with its four 30 mm cannon at 600 m range.

Reportedly, Allied bomber gunner were finding that their electric gun turrets had problems tracking the jets. However, due to the jets' straight line approach, traverse rates were actually not as important as target acquisition itself, which was difficult because the jets closed into firing range very quickly and had to remain in firing position only very briefly using their standard attack profile.

In September 1, 1944, General Spaatz expressed the fear that if greater numbers of German jets were fielded, they could inflict losses to the USAAF bombers heavy enough to cause cancellation of the Allied daylight bombing offensive.

Counter-jet tactics

Tactics against the Me 262 developed quickly to find ways of defeating it despite its insurmountable speed. Allied bomber escort fighters (specifically P-51s) would fly high above the bombers to gain extra speed in a dive down to protect the bombers, thus reduce the speed advantage of the Me262. The Me262 was less maneuverable than the P-51 and trained allied pilots could catch up to a turning Me262; but the only reliable way of dealing with the jets was to attack them in the take-off and landing phase of their flight, and on the ground. Accordingly, Luftwaffe air fields that were recognized as jet bases were frequently bombed by medium bombers, and Allied fighters patrolled over the fields to attack jets that were trying to land on their bases. The Luftwaffe countered these moves by installing Flak alleys along the approach lines in order to protect the Me 262s from the ground, and providing top cover with conventional fighters during the take-off and landing phase.

The US Army demanded production far ahead of schedule for the P-80 to provide a allied jet fighter that could match the Me262, but had to ground the P-80 after one of the four US jets deployed to Europe was wrecked in a fatal accident. Other Allied fighters who encountered the Me 262 included the British Hawker Tempest Mk.V and the Soviet Lavochkin La-7. The Tempest was the first Allied plane to shoot down a Me262, and won number of victories over these jet fighters, while the Lavochkin was the only Soviet fighter to encounter a German jet, with La-7 ace Ivan Nikitovich Kozhedub fighting and downing one Me262 jet on February 15, 1945 over eastern Germany. Kozhedub apparently later said that his success was mainly due to the Me262 pilot attempting to out-turn his more maneuverable plane.

Me 262 interior

Me 262 interior

Willy Messerschmitt regarded the Me 262 as it went into production only as an interim type. His interest in high-speed flight that had led him to initiate work on swept wings starting in 1940 is evident from the advanced developments he had on his drawing board in 1944. While the Me 262 HG I (Hochgeschwindigkeit - high speed) that was actually flight-tested in 1944 had only small changes compared to combat aircraft, most notably a low-profiled canopy to reduce drag, the HG II and HG III designs were far more radical. The projected HG II variant combined the low-drag canopy with a 35° wing sweep and a butterfly tail. The HG III aircraft had a conventional tail, but a 45° wing sweep and the jet turbines embedded in the wing root.

Messerschmitt also conducted a series of carefully controlled flight tests with the series production Me 262. In these dive tests, it was established that the Me 262 was out of control in a dive at Mach 0.86, and that higher Mach numbers would lead to a nose-down trim that could not be countered by the pilot. The resulting steepening of the dive would lead to even higher speeds and disintegration of the airframe due to excessive negative g loads.

The HG series of Me 262 derivatives was estimated to be capable of reaching transsonic Mach numbers in level flight, with the top speed of the HG III being projected as Mach 0.96 at 6 km altitude. Despite the necessity to gain experience in high-speed flight for the HG II and III designs, Messerschmitt undertook no attempts to exceed the Mach 0.86 limit for the Me 262.

After the war, the Royal Aircraft Establishment — at that time one of the leading institutions in high-speed research — re-tested the Me 262 to help with the British attempts at breaking the sound barrier. The RAE achieved speeds of up to Mach 0.84 and confirmed the results from the Messerschmitt dive tests as accurate. No attempts were made to exceed the Mach limit established by Messerschmitt.

After Willy Messerschmitt's death, the former Me 262 pilot Hans Guido Mutke claimed to be the first person to break the sound barrier on April 9, 1945 in a Me 262. This claim is only based on Mutke's memory of the airspeed indicator reading and is disputed.


Initially only bomber units were equipped with the Me 262 (at Hitler's insistence) despite the aircraft being designed as a fighter. Due to the characteristics of jet engines, dog fighting at low speeds had to be avoided. Good pilots made only small turns, never allowing speed to drop too much, attacking bomber formations on long, zooming passes.

In the end, the overwhelming numbers of allied planes meant that the jets had no overall effect on the war. On March 18, 1945, 37 Me 262s intercepted a force of 1,221 bombers and 632 escorting fighters. They managed to shoot down 12 bombers and one fighter for the loss of three Me 262s. Although a four to one ratio was exactly what the Luftwaffe was dreaming about, it represented only one per cent of the attacking force — more were lost to mechanical problems.

Two-seater "B" variants of the Me 262 had been produced as night-fighters, complete with on-board radar and "deerhorn" antennae. Whether these ever saw combat is debated. In either case, few veteran night-fighter pilots expressed much enthusiasm for the idea of adding a second crewmember.

Although the British Gloster Meteor jet had entered service in August 1944, the two aircraft never engaged in combat; the Meteor was initially restricted to the skies over Britain (where it engaged incoming V-1 flying bombs), whilst its later use over Europe did not result in any combat. The first jet-jet dogfights would thus not take place until the Korean War.

After the end of the war the Me 262 as well as other advanced German technology was quickly swept up by both the Soviets and the Americans. Many Me 262s were found in working condition by both sides and were confiscated. These aircraft were extensively studied, aiding development of early US and Soviet jet fighters. The F-86 Sabre and the Sukhoi Su-9 (1946) were directly influenced by the Me 262.

The Czechoslovakian aircraft industry continued to produce single-seater and two-seater variants of the Me 262 after WWII. These were kept flying as late as 1957. One of them is on display at the Prague Aero museum.

In January, 2003, the American Me 262 Project (formerly known as Classic Fighter Industries, Inc.) successfully flight tested a near-exact replica of the Me 262 B-1c two-place variant, powered by GE J-85 engines. Flight testing of the first newly-manufactured Me 262 A-1c (single seat) variant was scheduled for early June, 2005.

Jim West