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Old 12-03-2012, 11:13 PM
*Buzzsaw* *Buzzsaw* is offline
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Default Flying the 109: Pilot Accounts

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I thought I'd start a thread which includes Pilot accounts, both modern and historical, of what the flight characteristics of the various 109 models was.

I will begin in the next post with the account I already posted, by Dave Erdos, a modern Warbird pilot, of flying "White 14", the 109E based in Ontario Canada and follow that with another account by another pilot describing his experience also flying White 14, plus "Black 6".

The idea of this thread is to provide objective accounts, free from hyperbole, of the actual aircraft characteristics.

Hope to post further accounts of flying Spitfires, Hurricanes, etc.

Last edited by *Buzzsaw*; 12-03-2012 at 11:26 PM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:15 PM
*Buzzsaw* *Buzzsaw* is offline
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Salute All

Rob Erdos is a former Canadian Armed Forces military pilot, and now is a senior test pilot with the National Research Council's Flight Research Laboratory in Ottawa. (Canada's equivalent of NASA) He is also the manager of Warbirds at VINTAGE WINGS, a non profit society in Ottawa Canada which operates quite a number of Warbirds, including a Spitfire XVI, P-51D, Hurricane II and IV, KittyHawk III, (P-40N), Corsair ID, Lysander, F-86 Sabre, Harvard and Tiger Moth, as well as other vintage civilian aircraft. He also occasionally is invited to fly other Vintage Warbirds, including the only regularly flown 109E in the world, which is based in southern Ontario Canada, the aircraft is "White 14", recovered in Russia and rebuilt.

You may have seen videos of this aircraft, here is another one: (not being flown by Rob this time)

[video=youtube;jNUNJ5wdBZc]


Quote:
Flying the Messerschmitt Bf-109E - by Rob Erdos, Vintage Wings of Canada

“Achtung Spitfire”, I heard in a ridiculous German accent. I smiled. The voice was my own. My head swivelled within the tight confines of the Bf-109 cockpit, looking for the attacker. There it was, above and behind, waiting to pounce upon me from out of the sun! This particular “Spitfire” (pronounced Schpitfire)looked like an unassuming summer cumulus cloud, but I turned to meet the attack nonetheless. An intense and terrifying dogfight ensued, as the Bf-109 twisted and turned to pursue the advantage. The enemy was cunning, but within minutes a particular southern Ontario cumulus cloud had been reduced to wispy shreds, and I had gained a much better understanding of the renowned Messerschmitt Bf-109.

May 2008 found me at Niagara South airfield, the base of the Russell Aviation Group, operators of the pristine and lovely Bf-109E, registered C-FEML, and at that time the only “Emil” flying in the world. In addition to the Messerschmitt, Russell Aviation operates a Spitfire Mk IX and Hurricane XII. The air display season was fast approaching, and the Russell folks needed maintenance test flights performed on all of their aeroplanes. As a happy outcome of my work with Vintage Wings of Canada, I was already familiar with the British fighters. The Messerschmitt was new to me, but I understandably relished the opportunity to sample the flying qualities of the “other side” of the Battle of Britain. It’s a single-seater. You check yourself out. With the concurrence of the nice folks at Russell Group, I went to work.

The cockpit of the Bf-109 was a tight fit, even in comparison to the snug dimensions of the Spitfire cockpit. The seating position was semi-reclined, indicating either that Dr. Messerschmitt appreciated the importance of g-tolerance, or that he was trying hard to reduce my frontal area. As an outcome of both the reclined seating position and being tightly wrapped by the airframe, the forward field of view was nearly non-existent; a characteristic unfortunately common to this vintage of fighters. In stark comparison to the semi-random layout of British cockpits of this era, the Bf-109 instrument panel was arrayed in a thoughtful, almost modern manner. That was when my eyes caught upon the instruments: the airspeed indicator was labelled in kilometers per hour, oil pressure in “kilograms per square centimetre”, power was indicated in “ATA”. An apparently important instrument, devoid of other markings read, “Luftschraube Stellungsanzeige”. Hmm. This was getting interesting.

Returning to the cockpit with my German-English dictionary and a calculator, I took note of the controls. The small control stick fell comfortably to hand, although full displacement seemed to use most of the space in the cockpit. The pedals, oddly situated more ahead than below me in the reclining cockpit, incorporated a metal strap for negative ‘g’ restraint. The throttle was a small stub mounted on the left cockpit sidewall. A larger throttle would have hit my thigh as I advanced it. I scowled at the tailwheel locking mechanism mounted beneath the canopy rail directly under my left elbow. I had already knocked that lever several times, but I mustn’t do it again. Performing a take-off or landing with the tailwheel unlocked was guaranteed to have an unpleasant outcome. Wearing a parachute and helmet, I tried to close the heavy side-hinged canopy, finding that it rested atop my helmet with about two inches to spare before closing. I am 5 feet 9 inches tall. The helmet was reluctantly left behind. Have I mentioned that the cockpit was tight?


Notable in their absence were any further engine controls. Mixture was automatic. The propeller control was truly unusual, consisting of a rocker switch mounted on the inside of the throttle lever. The switch manually controlled the pitch of the propeller, via an electric motor mounted on the engine crankcase, and indicated on a clock-like instrument. (Aha! I think I know what “Luftschraube Stellungsanzeige” must mean!) I could hardly believe the implications of this installation: the Bf-109E had only a controllable pitch propeller. It did not have a propeller governor! I would have thought automated propeller speed control essential for an aeroplane with a 400 knot speed range. Indeed, such systems were fitted to later Bf-109 variants. I noticed that this particular aeroplane incorporated a small electrical switch on the floor, marked “Prop: Auto/Manual”, but it was wired to the Manual position. I was later told that this aeroplane never flew operationally with the system operative. The lack of propeller governing aroused my suspicions about the workload associated with dogfighting in the aeroplane.

The most innovative and interesting feature in the cockpit were two large concentric wheels situated on the left sidewall, aft of the throttle. The outer wheel actuated the flaps and inner wheel controlled the pitch trim by changing the incidence of the horizontal stabilizer. Since the flaps inevitably affect the pitch trim, the pilot could ostensibly maintain trim during flap deployment by actuating both wheels simultaneously. An ingenious mechanism within the wing allowed the ailerons to droop for further lift as the flaps reached full extension. The wings incorporated roughly half-span leading edge slats. These actuated independently under the influence of aerodynamic and inertial forces. In all, this was a very complicated wing, and one designed to squeeze as much lift as possible from each square foot of area. That’s good because another thing became evident about the Bf-109’s wing: there wasn’t much of it. The wing loading of the Bf-109E was almost 50% higher than the Spitfire. This too would be factor in air combat performance, and I would need to keep it in mind if I were ever attacked by a cumulus cloud.

Once my preparations were complete and all requisite German-English translations were made, it was time to go flying. Starting the rare Daimler-Benz DB601 engine was relatively straight forward, although the staccato note of the powerplant initially took me by surprise. I have always found something reassuring in the deep sonorous thrum of the Merlin; a sound akin to standing behind a dozen self-satisfied tenors. The Daimler engine, by comparison, struck me as clattering and harsh, more like a barrel full of hammers rolling down a staircase. I flashed a look of concern at the Russell Group’s Chief Engineer, Gerry Bettridge. His cheerful grin seemed to confirm that this cacophony was not unusual.

Taxiing is the Messerchmitt’s opportunity to get you alone and to whisper a warning in your ear. There is a grotesquely high download on the tailwheel in the Bf-109; a situation made evident by the requirement for full rudder, hard braking, forward stick and a blast of power to effect a turn. Try that in a Spitfire and the propeller will chew dirt! While odd, it at least gave reassurance that even aggressive braking would be unlikely to result in a nose-over. Unfortunately it also meant that the center of gravity was very far aft of the main wheels. That is not a good thing. Recalling my misadventures in once trying to steer a shopping cart backwards down a hill, I made a mental note that the tail might try to pass me during the landing.

The geometry of the undercarriage is perhaps the most unusual feature of the Bf-109. A digression is in order to appreciate how its characteristics would manifest themselves during take-off or landing. Some sources claim that between 15-25% of the Bf-109s ever built were damaged or destroyed during take-off or landing accidents. I find this a remarkable figure for a combat aeroplane – especially one that served on the losing side of the war! Most contemporary histories of the Bf-109 attribute this to the narrow undercarriage track, however this misses the point. (The Spitfire’s undercarriage is just as narrow, and it doesn’t have any of the Bf-109’s quirks. It has its own quirks – but that’s another story.) Dr. Messerschmitt faced a challenge in the design of his first fighter. In the interest of simplifying transport and repair of the aeroplane, it was designed with the undercarriage attached to the fuselage, such that the wings could be completely removed with the aeroplane resting on its wheels. The undercarriage struts were attached to a complicated forging at the firewall aft of the engine mount. The narrow width of the fuselage structure necessitated installing the undercarriage legs splayed outwards. This feature became the aeroplane’s Achilles heel.

Imagine that you have a bicycle wheel in your hands. Roll the wheel with the axle parallel to the ground. It goes straight. Now roll the wheel such that the axle is not parallel to the ground. The wheel turns. Let’s return to the Bf-109. Both of the tires are mounted “crooked”, rolling with a camber angle of about 25°. Consequently both wheels want to turn inwards under the aeroplane. When the aeroplane is rolling with an equal download on both wheels, symmetry prevails; both wheels fight to a stand-off, and the aeroplane rolls straight. Now imagine that something causes the download on the wheels to momentarily become unequal. In that case the rolling friction of the tires becomes uneven and the turning tendency of the “heavy” tire asserts itself. What might do this? Well, crosswinds. Or torque from engine power. However, the most dangerous culprit is turning. With the aeroplane’s centre of gravity situated high above the tires, a swerve will set loose large centrifugal forces that cause the aeroplane to try to roll over the tires. This is true of any aeroplane, but in this scenario the unusual camber of the Bf-109’s tires creates strong directional instability, requiring a different type of control strategy for take-offs and landings. Tight heading control or aggressive tracking of the runway centerline can set off abrupt directional divergence. Better for the pilot to relax, merely dampen heading changes, and accept small heading errors. Funny, I didn’t feel relaxed.

These thoughts ran through my mind as I taxied for take-off at the Niagara South airfield. “Don’t fight with the aeroplane. Accept any heading you get and roll straight”, I told myself as I took position for take-off. The Daimler engine responded by growling at me, as I applied a final stab of power to turn onto the runway centerline. Okay, pause. I checked that the flaps were set to 20°, set the trim to one degree UP, set the propeller pitch to “11:30” on the weird clock indicator, and then locked the tailwheel. Then I checked the tailwheel lock. Then I double checked. Looking straight ahead I took note of the 3-point attitude: completely blind, save for two small strips of horizon visible at the edges of the windscreen. Mentally noting the 3-point attitude wasn’t enough. I would need to quickly re-establish this view when it came time to land, so I took out my secret weapon. Using a black grease pencil I drew the meagre horizon line on the inside of the windscreen.

I opened the throttle slowly. Directional control authority quickly felt quite positive, although I recalled my commitment to use it judiciously. A fairly strong push on the stick was required to gently lift the tail as the airspeed passed 60 km/hr; an act that was further destabilizing, however things were quickly improving as the airspeed increased. With a gentle skip, the Bf-109 became airborne around 110 km/hr. I retracted the undercarriage and immediately turned into a climbing orbit overhead the airfield while I confirmed that the engine indications were stable.

Power was set at 1.15 ATA (atmospheres of manifold pressure) at the recommended climb speed of 250 km/hr. Propeller speed was sensitive to airspeed changes, so a slight pitch reduction was required to stabilize at 2300 RPM. The Daimler engine sounded much smoother in flight. My initial impressions of the aeroplane were mixed. The field of view was poor, necessitating continuous clearing turns in the climb. The greenhouse canopy structure seemed to be slightly obtrusive no matter where I looked. Control response in the climb was satisfyingly light and crisp, with good harmony between pitch and roll control forces. Directional stability was clearly inadequate. Every roll input required conscious pedal coordination. The absence of rudder trim proved a considerable annoyance during the protracted climb. In the interest of “calibrating” my aileron-rudder coordination, I tried a few aggressive roll reversals in the climb and received an unpleasant surprise. The application of full aileron caused the aeroplane to shudder and buffet in a manner that, to my overactive imagination, seemed like I was receiving machine gun fire. I rolled level and breathed. Subsequent investigation showed that the onset of buffet occurred at large aileron displacements, and was associated with a very slight lightening of the aileron control forces and a distinct high-frequency “hammering” in the stick. I had seen that before. Aileron stall! It was becoming clear to me. Dr. Messerschmitt kindly provided me with powerful mechanical leverage to actuate the ailerons against the aerodynamic forces, and that explained why the stick forces were so pleasantly light. That is certainly not the case in the Spitfire, where the ailerons stiffen terribly at high speeds. In the Bf-109 I unfortunately had enough leverage under some conditions to deflect the aileron to the point of airflow separation. The results were a bit disappointing. In spite of the light control feel, the roll rate achievable in the Bf-109 was no better than the Spitfire.

I levelled off above the airfield and went to work. My test card began with an investigation of the slow flight and stall characteristics, in order to prepare myself early for the eventual landing.

The power was reduced to just above idle, and the aeroplane decelerated for a clean stall. I was fascinated to watch as the leading edge slats automatically extended themselves into the airflow. The effect was smooth and transparent, however I noted that the rate of deceleration increased as the slats extended. I made note of this effect, intending further investigation during air combat scenarios. The clean stall occurred at 125 km/hr indicated airspeed, preceded by a 3-5 knot band of mild buffeting. That’s 68 knots. I wasn’t sure if I was impressed or skeptical. The stall was marked by a mild pitch and right roll break; cues so mild that they were hardly inhibiting. I continued to explore increasing angles of attack until I was happily flying along with full aft stick. No sweat. In the clean configuration, the Bf-109 retained its lateral control effectiveness without any tendency to depart - even tolerating mild sideslips at full aft stick.

Next I investigated the stall characteristics in the landing configuration. The undercarriage and flaps were extended, the power reduced to idle, and a gradual deceleration was performed. Roll control response became sluggish once the ailerons drooped with full flap selection, and it exhibited considerably more adverse yaw. Again a mild buffet preceded a gentle pitch break, this time at 88 km/hr. 88 km/hr!? That’s 47 knots indicated airspeed. Now I was definitely skeptical. There was simply no way that this modest wing area was holding this mass of aeroplane aloft at 47 knots. I recalled the location of the pitot-static probe, mounted close under the left wing, and knew with certainty that it was lying. Nevertheless, the low-airspeed and stalling characteristics of the Bf-109 were extremely benign and forgiving; a highly desirable characteristic in a fighter.

While the undercarriage and flaps were extended, I took the opportunity to do a few landings – in the clear air at 6000 feet above the airfield. I did a simulated final turn to parallel the runway and flared to the 3-point attitude, with the objective of “landing” my altimeter exactly at the 6000 foot mark. The final turn in a fighter typically involves a gradual turning deceleration to the runway. I found that controlling speed and descent gradient during the turn were hardly demanding, however the forward field of view was gradually disappearing. No surprise there. Elevator response was suitably precise to capture the 3-point attitude without difficulty. Overshoot from the pseudo-landing was easy – at least for a high-performance fighter. The Bf-109E is powerful, however propeller effects were easily managed. Chalk up one advantage of having low directional stability.

Now that I felt I could land it, I was eager to pursue my curiosity about the Bf-109’s qualities as a fighter. I set cruise power setting (1.0 ATA manifold pressure, 2300 RPM), stabilizing at 415 km/hr at 5500 feet. That equates to a modest 225 knots indicated airspeed, but it wasn’t my engine. The aeroplane felt comfortable in cruise, exhibiting weak but positive speed stability, as evidenced by the gentle, progressive elevator forces required to maintain off-trim speeds. A gentle sustained sideslip gave evidence of both weak directional stability and weak lateral stability, at least by modern standards. The rudder forces seemed very light. The sideslip also induced a gentle nose-down pitch response, indicative of possible elevator blanking. All this talk about weak stability doesn’t imply criticism of its qualities as a fighter. The flip side of low stability is often high agility. Nevertheless this wouldn’t be my first choice of an aeroplane for instrument flying.

The next order of business was to become familiar with manoeuvring the machine. I performed a wing-over and was immediately reminded of the benefits of propeller speed governing. Lacking such amenities, the propeller speed on the Bf-109 decayed terribly as the speed reduced, reaching as low as 1600 RPM at the top of the manoeuvre. The result was a slightly laboured sound from the engine, as it struggled with high torque at low speed. The effect was not unlike taking your foot off your car’s clutch from a standstill in fifth gear. Ouch. Not good for the engine, and not good for performance. I noted that the peak of the wing-over had been about 1700 feet above my starting altitude. I repeated the manoeuvre, this time maintaining a constant propeller speed using the rocker switch on the throttle. The engine sounded happier, if the growling Daimler could be described as “happy”, and this time the top of the manoeuvre managed to achieve 2300 feet of altitude gain. Clearly any pilot wishing to obtain maximum performance from the Bf-109E would need to carefully regulate propeller speed. Unfortunately, this draws the pilot’s attention into the cockpit, rather than allowing him to focus outside where the dangers lurk. I was left wondering whether the young lads who flew the Bf-109E in combat really applied that degree of finesse, or whether the circumstances of combat necessitated cruder engine handling.

Once familiar with coordination of propeller pitch with speed changes, the Bf-109 and I performed some gentle aerobatics together – strictly for technical investigation, you understand. Loops were enlightening. The low directional stability could result in comically large heading variations unless careful rudder coordination was applied. I was reminded of a long-ago instructor of mine, who remarked upon seeing my aerobatics, “Nice loop. Now do one to the right.” It was easily mastered with practice. Multiple manoeuvres seemed to result in a notable decay in speed, particularly whenever the leading edge slats deployed; a stark contrast to the Spitfire, whose elliptical wings retain energy nicely under sustained ‘g’. The Messerschmitt was paying the price for its high wing loading.

It was at this point that I was pounced upon by that dastardly cumulus. “Fine”, I thought, “let’s see what this aeroplane can do”. I climbed steeply and turned to bring the guns to bear upon the target. Field of view through the greenhouse canopy was again a hindrance as I looked over my shoulder to gauge the turn. The cumulus turned and dove steeply to flee (bear with me for a moment…). A deflection shot would be required to engage from long range, however the limited field of view down over the nose would make this difficult. The Bf-109 built speed rapidly in a dive, however the necessity to attend to propeller speed proved a distraction as I closed quickly upon the target. Pulling out of the dive, I discovered that the Bf-109’s elevators became distressingly heavy at high speed. I had read wartime accounts of Spitfire pilots taking Bf-109s into steep high-speed dives, knowing that the Bf-109 would be unable to pull out. This was a convincing demonstration, requiring a two-handed pull to achieve a 3.5 ‘g’ recovery at 450 km/hour. I flashed past my adversary like it was standing still. With a gallant salute, I disengaged. After less than an hour, the fuel gauges were telling me that it was time to return to Niagara South.

The circuit procedures were familiar from my rehearsals at altitude, but this time it was for keeps. A standard overhead break was performed, but delayed until well past the upwind end of the runway. Extension of the flaps required about 30 quarter-turns of the flap wheel; a time-consuming process. The downwind leg was entered at 200 km/hour, decreasing to 150 km/hour as the undercarriage and flaps were extended. The numbers on the airspeed indicator seemed high, and I had to keep telling myself that they were “only kilometers”. From abeam the touchdown point on downwind, a continuous decelerating turn was performed to the flare. With virtually no forward field of view, a straight-in final approach leg was definitely to be avoided. I entered the flare at 125 km/hour, maintaining a trickle of power. I can’t claim to have been completely at ease, but within seconds the wheels began to gently rumble across the grass. The Bf-109 was home from another mission.
Note his comments about the rollrate of the 109E not being any better than the Spitfire are based on his own experience in flying later model Spitfires with metal ailerons, the Spit I had fabric ailerons, thus not as good a rollrate.

His comments about taxing, taking off and landing in the 109E are particularly relevant. The game 109E has none of these characteristics, in fact it is just as prone as the Spitfire and Hurricane to tipping over on its nose, not accurate at all. Neither are the directional issues apparent in the game aircraft. Other characteristics which are absent or muted are the precessional, yaw and trim effects at high throttle/low speed, as well as the sideslip characteristics at various other speeds.

Another video of the same plane, this one in HD:

[video=youtube;0cLmBZWDyBM]
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:25 PM
*Buzzsaw* *Buzzsaw* is offline
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The following is an account by Charlie Brown, (no not that one), an active RAF pilot who began his involvement with Warbirds flying Spitfires with Historic Flying Ltd. at Audley End in Britain. He was subsequently asked to become a display pilot for "Black Six", the 109G2 which flew for many years. He then became the Warbirds pilot who was assigned all the post restoration flight testing for "White 14", the 109E which the previous report by Rob Erdos described.

Brown describes the various characteristics of both White 14 and Black 6, and the differences he noted between them. One again, note that neither of these two aircraft were equipped with weapons, ammunition, ammunition storage elements, pilot armour, or original radios. Both would be approx. 250 kgs less than historical.

This description is from the book "MESSERSCHMIDT BF109, OWNERS WORKSHOP MANUAL", which contains a great deal of very useful information regarding all marks of 109's. The book describes the details of the restoration of Black 6 to allow it to fly, and then after its unfortunate accident, the further restoration of it to display condition. There is also a great deal of historical and techical information. I am currently in the process of acquiring one, and would highly recommend those who are enthusiasts consider a purchase as well.








I was fortunate enough to be able to examine and take pictures of a 109F4 which is located at the Canadian Museum of Flight.

In reference to some of the comments re. the 109G's cockpit, the F model had many similarities. You for example, can see the Breech cover for the 20mm cannon center low. This 109F4 was missing a number of elements, including the Revi Gunsight.


Last edited by *Buzzsaw*; 12-04-2012 at 12:02 AM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:41 PM
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The follow is another excerpt from "MESSERSCHMIDT BF109, OWNERS WORKSHOP MANUAL", and is an account by Dave Southwood, ex-RAF pilot and display pilot for "Black Six" during the time it was flying.

Black 6 was a 109G2 "Trop" model which was restored to near flawless condition, flew for many years as a display aircraft during the '90s. It crashed in the late '90s and was then restored again, but retired to permanent non-flying display status.





(CONTINUED NEXT POST)

Last edited by *Buzzsaw*; 12-03-2012 at 11:51 PM.
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Old 12-03-2012, 11:43 PM
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(Continuation of the previous post)


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Old 12-04-2012, 12:19 AM
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And here, also from "MESSERSCHMIDT BF109, OWNERS WORKSHOP MANUAL", is an account by Dave Southwood of the differences, as he saw it, between the Warbird Spitfires and 109s he flew. Note: He did not fly all varieties of these aircraft, and as he says, he did not fly any of the display aircraft he was entrusted with to the limits of their potential performance.

There is material on the first and last pages, before and after the account by Dave Southwood, which are not relevant to his account.





Note that Southwood's comments about the Spitfire being unstable in pitch at "aft C.G." are in reference to later models with the additional fuselage tank loaded with fuel and would not apply to early models or aircraft at combat loading.

Last edited by *Buzzsaw*; 12-04-2012 at 12:26 AM.
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:54 PM
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Great pilots notes Buzzsaw alhough i have read most of them

I found Mark Hanna aboult flying 109 Buchon

http://www.eaf51.org/newweb/Document...%20109_ENG.pdf
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:59 PM
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And another one:

“The Flying Gun” by Skip Holm

Flight Characteristics



The Me-109 carries its own atmosphere. People have told me that it appears ominous, sinister, and imposing, but then say that is because it definitely has the fighter look, further stating there is no doubt as to what it would have been used for. And its reputation precedes it, for any knowledge at all within the aviation world has some reference to the Messerschmitt ‘109’ fighter. I am reminded of a comment by Paul Koskela, where he says, “All Germans are Messerschmitts!”



As you walk up to the ‘109’ one is at first struck by the small size of the aircraft, particularly if parked next to a contemporary American fighter. A further look and some explanation of the engineering anomalies present a whole new understanding of this small fighter. Engineering features, such as leading edge slats, slotted flaps, hydraulic speed brakes, hydro-electric auto cooling, trimable stabilator, longitudianal auto-trim with flap extension, zero line gun angle, enclosed cockpit, and single keel structure were revolutionary in their day. Matter of fact, they all have been slowly adapted into US fighters, from the F-86 to the newest F-22.



While new and unusual innovations sound nice for next generation fighters, this grouping of engineering technologies into one airframe, considered risky in most environments, worked exceedingly well, making the Me-109 one of the most notable fighter aircraft in history.



There have been numerous reports written about the good news and bad news of operating a ‘109’. And most of these reports reside in discussions about the landing pattern, because that creates the most interest for anybody thinking about flying this machine. I have heard stories about the 10,000+ landing pattern accidents associated with Luftwaffe flight operations, and these numbers appear possible. I did not know much about the Me-109 when I started flying it, and that naivety probably contributed to making the aircraft easier to fly. Being smart about a subject isn’t always the answer!



Mark Hanna of the Old Flying Machine Company: “To my eye, the aircraft looks dangerous, both to the enemy and to its own pilots. The aircrafts difficult reputation is well known and right from the outset you are aware that it is an aeroplane that needs to be treated with a great deal of respect. Talk to people about the ‘109’ and all you hear about is how you are going to wrap it up on take-off or landing ! “



I have found out some things about flying this great fighter. It is difficult to fly, but also easy to fly -- both of these opposites can occur on the same task, on different days or simultaneously. The little fighter has a mind of its own. If it were a dog or a horse, we would call a trainer to retrain it, to get rid of its bad habits.



For all the folks that have compared the ‘109’ to any other fighter, they are at first struck by the small size of the aircraft, the type of landing gear, the stance of the aircraft, the warlike cockpit structure, and the small tail feathers. Undeniably, they also note the fact that this was the formidable war machine of the Luftwaffe, and ultimately gather around the tail, noticing and talking about the number of kills exhibited on the tail.



Quote from Me-109 observer: “It's getting dangerously close to going flying now!”



Climbing on board, you are struck by the difficulty of getting onboard, getting into the cockpit, and determining an operational sense of a German designed cockpit. The first impression of the stock Buchon cockpit in Harold’s ‘109’ is bewilderment due to the handles, wheels, switches, and color-coded lines and switches, but after some time spent understanding the layout, the cockpit becomes straight forward. The cockpit is small, about the size of a Spitfire or A-4 fighter. A cockpit check, left to right, starts with co-located elevator trim and flap trim wheels on the lower left. The flap wheel is turned to get the flaps from zero to fully down at 40º. Both the flap and trim wheel can be cranked together. Next is the trim indication window and the mixture control, both low on the left side. Directly above this is the tailwheel, lock canopy jettison handle, and throttle quadrant. The throttle quadrant consists of the propeller lever, and a huge throttle handle. The hood jettison lever consists of two very strong springs in the rear part of the canopy, causing the rear section to come loose and therefore the whole main part of the hood becomes unhinged and can be pushed clear away into the airflow. Forward and down, forward of the right knee, is a T shaped handle that is an on-off handle for both fuel and hydraulics. The standard instrument panel is directly forward, with vertical select magnetos on the left, starter and booster coil slightly right of center and engine instruments, and instruments directly ahead.



For takeoff, the manual states that take-off flaps is 20 degrees. I once took off with flaps up and that was not a pleasant situation. I believe in the 20 flap check list item. Some people say the stick must be held hard forward to get the tail up. I don’t like that technique, as you lose all the tail on the ground directional stability, and if you have a cross wind, the tail on the ground is advisable. I also find it advisable to let the airplane fly itself off, and to consciously not hurry the take-off. If the aircraft is pulled off too soon, the book says the left wing will not lift, but I have found that the downwind wing may not lift, and on applying aileron the wing lifts and falls again, with the ailerons snatching a little. If no attempt is made to pull the airplane off quickly, the take-off run is short, and the initial climb is good. Additionally, I always use lots of aileron into the wind on both takeoff, landing, and roll-out. I hold aileron into the wind until I am sure that the aircraft is in control, for if you see one slat come out asymmetrically, the wing may soon follow, and if a wing ever comes up on takeoff or landing, the excitement is just starting.



Generalleutnant Werner Funck, Inspector of Fighters, in 1939, said, “The 109 had a big drawback, which I didn't like from the start. It was that rackety - I always said rackety - undercarriage; that negative, against-the-rules-of-statistics undercarriage that allowed the machine to swing away.”



“The throttle can be opened very quickly without fear of choking the engine”. I read this in a report, but I have seen no reason to do this in the landing pattern, for the consequence if you are on the ground, is an instant swing to the left. From experience, I know that there is not sufficient rudder to hold that throttle action, so I do not do that. My technique on takeoff is to ride right rudder as I advance power. If I need more left rudder, I simply add power and do not switch rudder application on takeoff. Because the vertical is small, the rudder is the dominant directional control and a real direction response takes a while when switching from one rudder to the other. During this rudder switch, the aircraft can be doing a wild Hi-acka maneuver – not a desired experience. “Acceleration is good, and there is little tendency to swing or bucket”. I again read this from a report, prior to flying, but I did not really know what swing or bucket was. I am even now torn as to whether I want to know. I grew up on a farm and both swing and bucket were opposites, one good and one bad, so I’m again suspicious that we are in ‘109’ country. I just know when the power handle is pushed up, the puppy moves out. The takeoff takes only a few moments, all exciting, and after takeoff, the aircraft is wonderful. The gear and flaps can be raised while the nose is rotated to about 45 degrees of climb. This climb can be maintained for some time, which accounts for the high rate to climb that we see in the data.



Hauptmann Gunther Schack, 174 victories: “In March 1941, as a Gefreiter, I joined Jagdgeschwader Molders, JG 51, stationed at St. Over, France. By then I had only taken off with the ‘109’ straight into wind, and never from a concrete runway. On April 4th, during a cross-wind take-off on the concrete runway, the ‘109’ swung so much to the left that I feared it would crash into some other machines parked along the edge of the field. I closed the throttle and my first crash began. The machine swung left even more, the left undercarriage leg broke, and the ‘109’ dropped on its left wing. This happened to me twice - the second time on April 10th - and my future as a fighter pilot seemed sealed.... “



Once airborne and cleaned-up, the aircraft is a delight. A classic! And real fighter, ready to rock and roll! And the speed it loves to roll around is 250 mph and below. The roll rate is very good and very positive at 250 mph. Above 250 mph the ailerons get heavy and at 300 they are very similar to a P-51. Any speed after that results in the ailerons getting fairly solid and you need two hands on the stick for any meaningful roll rates. Most of my flights have been in formation with P-51s and the Me-109 is more maneuverable than the P-51 in most conditions. The Me-109 performs very well against the P-51 for takeoff, climb, and moderate cruise, but once the P-51 starts a dive or adds power in a level condition, the P-51 outperforms the Me-109 easily.



Pitch control is also delightful and very positive at 250 mph and below. As pitch and accompanying G is increased, the leading edge slats start to deploy. I have not found either aircraft to have any problems with asymmetrical slat deployment, as we see in other aircraft such as an A-4 for instance. The aircraft reacts very well to heavy maneuvering, and there is never any discomfort in pulling Gs, as wing separation and accompanying wing drop is mild, is easily noticed and dealt with by lightening up on the G. Pitch force tends to get heavy at speeds above 300 mph, but is still easily managed with a little 2-hand pull or left hand re-trimming.



I find the best description of the Me-109 is to call it a “Flying Gun”. It almost completely epitomizes the fighter pilot desires and engineering requirements for its designated mission as a 1940s era close-in self-defense fighter.



Dash-1 books state that stalling speeds ‘on the glide’ are 75 mph flaps up, and 61 mph flaps down. I have not been able to get stalling speeds that low, and feel that anything below 80 mph in the pattern is quite uncomfortable. Lowering the flaps causes the ailerons to get heavier and less effective, and causes a marked nose-down pitching moment.



Once back in the pattern, an overhead pitch-out approach is my preference. The aircraft is clean, so needs to be slowed down considerably prior to getting the flaps cranked down and the gear lowered. The pattern cockpit work is high, due to the trim/flap wheel requirements. Pulling both the trim and flap wheels at the same time works well in lowering flaps and re-trimming at the same time. Longitudinally, the airplane is markedly stable, even though the elevator is heavier and more responsive than most single-seat fighters. At all times, it is important to remember that the rudder is sluggish for small movements. Normal approach speed is 90 mph. At speeds above 100 mph, the pilot has the impression of diving, and below 80 mph one of sinking. At 90 mph and on final, the power is back almost to idle, and the glide path looks steep. The view looks good until getting close to the runway, then the entire runway is blanked out, with the runway edges being the guides for landing. The most obvious point to remember on the rotation-to-landing is to look out both sides of the canopy, for this will keep the aircraft straight for the touchdown. If the touchdown is not perfectly aligned to the runway, some immediate directional correction is needed, for any delay will only exacerbate the condition and give the pilot more excitement.



Major Gunther Rall, 275 victories: “The ‘109’? That was a dream, the non-plus-ultra. Just like the F-14 of today. Of course, everyone wanted to fly it as soon as possible. I was very proud when I converted to it.”

Hauptmann Gunther Schack, 174 victories: “In March 1941, as a Gefreiter, I joined Jagdgeschwader Molders, JG 51, stationed at St. Over, France. By then I had only taken off with the ‘109’ straight into wind, and never from a concrete runway. On April 4th, during a cross-wind take-off on the concrete runway, the ‘109’ swung so much to the left that I feared it would crash into some other machines parked along the edge of the field. I closed the throttle and my first crash began. The machine swung left even more, the left undercarriage leg broke, and the ‘109’ dropped on its left wing. This happened to me twice - the second time on April 10th - and my future as a fighter pilot seemed sealed.... In all, I was shot down 15 times.... On one occasion I saw the right wing of my ‘109’ flying right alongside me! During an attack on a bomber formation, I was hit by an enemy fighter, right in one of the main spar attachment lugs. Luckily, I was over 2,000 metres high, but even then I only succeeded in getting out of the crazily-spinning machine close to the ground. I crashed against the tailplane, and for the next two weeks I could only walk, bent in two....'
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Old 12-04-2012, 06:16 PM
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SlipBall SlipBall is offline
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Fun filled fact thread
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Old 12-04-2012, 07:42 PM
NZtyphoon NZtyphoon is offline
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Yep, good stuff; I haven't read The Flying Gun, but I have the owner's manual, which is full of interesting technical information.
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