War Master WMAPF012 German Messerschmitt Me 262A-2A Jet Fighter - Test Pilot Hans Fley, Schwabisch Hallm, Germany, 1945 (1:72 Scale)
"It was as if an angel is pushing you..."
- Adolf Galland, discussing his first flight in the Me 262 jet fighter
The jet-powered Me 262 Sturmvogel ("Stormbird") has long since gained its place in the annals of international aeronautical history. With its sleek aerodynamic design and high performance jet engines, the Me 262 radically changed the way in which air combat was waged.
The first design work on the Me 262 began in October 1938, with the first test flight, piloted by Fritz Wendel, occurring on April 18th, 1942. Tests continued well into 1942, although by this time the Me 262 was outfitted with two highly-efficient BMW turbojet engines. When he saw the aircraft for the first time in early 1943, Hitler insisted that the plane be designed as a low-level bomber instead of a fighter, which undermined the sleek aerodynamic properties of the jet aircraft. After much in-fighting among the Luftwaffe's upper echelons, the plane was eventually converted back into a high level interceptor, with series production beginning in the spring of 1944. The first jet fighter unit, commanded by Major Walter Nowotny, was formed in the summer of 1944 and was composed of many of the Luftwaffe's leading aces.
By war's end, 1,433 Me 262s had been produced, far too few a number to have much of an impact on the Allies strategic bombing campaign. In the end, the Allies' superiority in numbers overcame the tremendous technical achievements ushered in by the Me 262 program.
Pictured here is a 1:72 scale replica of a German Messerschmitt Me 262A-2A jet fighter that was flown by Test Pilot Hans Fley, Schwabisch Hallm during 1945.
Wingspan: 6.75 inches
Length: 5.75 inches
Release Date: January 2012
Historical Account: "Entering the Jet Age" - The first Me 262 test flights began on April 18th, 1941, with the Me 262 V1 example, bearing its Stammkennzeichen radio code letters of PC+UA, but since its intended BMW 003 turbojets were not ready for fitting, a conventional Junkers Jumo 210 engine was mounted in the V1 prototype's nose, driving a propeller, to test the Me 262 V1 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 BMW 003s were discovered to be subject to catastrophic failure due to the propwash entering the intakes during operation and they were permanently removed from the program in favor of the relatively reliable Junkers Jumo 004.
The V3 third prototype airframe, with the code PC+UC, became a true "jet" when it flew on 18 July 1942 in Leipheim near Gnzburg, Germany, piloted by Fritz Wendel. This was almost nine months ahead of the British Gloster Meteor's first flight on March 5th, 1943. The conventional gear producing a pronounced tail-down attitude on the ground of the Me 262 V3 caused its jet exhaust to deflect off the runway, with the wing's turbulence negating the effects of the elevators, and the first takeoff attempt was cut short.
On the second attempt, Wendel solved the problem by tapping the aircraft's brakes at takeoff speed, lifting the horizontal tail out of the wing's turbulence. The first four prototypes (V1-V4) were built with this configuration. Changing to a tricycle arrangement (initially a fixed undercarriage on the fifth prototype (V5), with fully retractable on V6 (with Stammkennzeichen code VI+AA) and subsequent aircraft) corrected this problem.
Test flights continued over the next year, but engine problems continued to plague the project, the Jumo 004 being only marginally more reliable than the BMW 003. Airframe modifications were complete by 1942 but, hampered by the lack of engines, serial production did not begin until 1944, and deliveries were low, with 28 Me 262s in June, 59 in July, but only 20 in August. This delay in engine availability was in part due to the shortage of strategic materials, especially metals and alloys able to handle the extreme temperatures produced by the jet engine.
Even when the engines were completed, they had an expected operational lifetime of approximately 50 continuous flight hours; most 004s lasted just 12 hours, even with adequate maintenance. A pilot familiar with the Me 262 and its engines could expect approximately 2025 hours of life from the 004s. Changing a 004 engine was intended to require three hours, but this typically took eight to nine due to poorly made parts and inadequate training of ground crews.
Due to their low compression ratios, early turbojet engines developed less thrust at low speed than contemporary aircraft propeller powered aircraft, and as a result, low-speed acceleration was relatively poor. This was particularly noticeable in the Me 262, since early jet engines (before the invention of afterburners) also responded slowly to throttle changes. The introduction of a primitive autothrottle late in the war helped only slightly. Conversely, the superior power of jet engines at higher speeds meant the Me 262 enjoyed a much greater rate of climb. Used tactically, this gave the jet fighter an even larger speed advantage in climb than in level flight at top speed.
With one engine out, the Me 262 still flew well, with speeds of 450500 km/h (280310 mph; 240270 kn), but pilots were warned never to fly slower than 300 km/h (190 mph; 160 kn) on one engine, as the asymmetrical thrust would cause serious problems.
Operationally, carrying 2,000 l (440 imp gal; 530 US gal) of fuel in two 900 l (200 imp gal; 240 US gal) tanks, one each fore and aft the cockpit, and a 200 l (44 imp gal; 53 US gal) tank beneath, the Me 262 had an endurance of 60 to 90 minutes. Fuel was usually brown coal-derived J2, with the option of diesel oil or a mixture of oil and high octane B4 aviation petrol. Consumption was double the usual for a twin-engine Luftwaffe aircraft, so a low-fuel warning came on when levels fell below 250 l (55 imp gal; 66 US gal).
Unit cost for an Me 262 airframe, less engines, armament, and electronics, was RM87,400. (By comparison, a new Volkswagen Type 1 was priced at RM990.) To build one airframe took around 6,400 man-hours.