Aeroplane Aviation Archive — Issue 33 The World’s Fastest Aircraft

(Jacob Rumans) #1

Messerschmitt Me 262 A-1a
Max speed: 559mph (900km/h)
Length: 34ft 9in (10.60m)
Wingspan: 41ft 6in (12.60m)
Height: 11ft 6in (3.50m)
Empty weight: 8,366lb (3,795kg)
Loaded weight: 14,272lb (6,473kg)
Max T/O weight: 15,720lb (7,130kg)
Powerplant: 2 x Junkers Jumo 004
B-1 turbojets
Range: 652nm (1,050km)
Service ceiling: 37,565ft (11,450m)
Rate of climb: 3,900ft/min (1.2km/min)


t felt as though angels were pushing’.
So said Luftwa e ace Adolf Galland on
 ying the the world’s  rst operational
jet  ghter. Sleek, fast and powerful, the
Messerschmitt Me 262 changed air warfare
and dictated the future of  ghter aircraft
design. With its swept wings and shark-like
appearance, it represented an aviation
marvel. But the revolutionary Me 262
could never meet its potential. Blighted
by unreliable engines, a lack of fuel and
metals, the Me 262 was curtailed by its
leaders. Although small numbers of the
Me 262 terri ed the Allies, it was too little,
too late to save the Third Reich.
The Messerschmitt Me 262 was born
from German turbojet engine development
in the mid-1930s, conceived by engineer
Hans-Joachim Pabst von Ohain. By 1938, a
Messerschmitt design team had drawn up
concepts for an interceptor  ghter with two jet
engines as ‘Project 1065’. The new  ghter had

Messerschmitt Me 262

turbojets in nacelles under the middle of the
wings. The wings were slightly swept to ensure
a centre of gravity and were unusually thin for
high-speed performance.
Airframe development outpaced work
on the turbojets, so the  rst prototype took
to the skies with a single piston engine for
preliminary  ights. As the aircraft’s future
looked promising, the German Air Ministry
(RLM – Reichsluftfahrtministerium) ordered
more prototypes. Finally, Me 262 V1 was  tted
with two BMW 003 turbojets as well as the
standard prop in the nose as the engines were
still unreliable, a wise move as both jets failed
on its maiden  ight.
The Jumo 004 was a more promising turbojet,
and on 18 July 1942 the Me 262 became a
true jet when it took to the air in the hands of
test pilot Fritz Wendel. However, the future of
the Me 262 was threatened by a number of
in uential  gures (including Hermann Göring)
who favoured the advancement of proven

piston aircraft. But by 1943 – after Adolf Galland
had  own the Me 262 and sang its praises – the
RLM placed an order for 100 jet  ghters. Even
then, the Me 262 was plagued by bureaucratic
obstacles when Hitler demanded that the
 ghter be converted into a ‘Jabo’ (bomber).
For Erhard Milch, the German Field Marshal
who oversaw the development of the Luftwa e,
the idea of robbing the Me 262 of its superior
speed was unacceptable. So, with the Führer
believing that the Me 262 was in production as
a bomber, work continued on its development
in the  ghter role. On learning that his order
has been ignored, Hitler was furious and
Messerschmitt engineers feverishly converted
the  ghters to carry two 550lb (250kg) bombs.
The ‘Jabo’ version achieved little in France and

Below: Willy Messerschmitt’s revolutionary masterpiece. The menacing shark-like shape of the Me 262
terrorised Allied bomber crews in the latter stages of World War 2.
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