2 Messer­schmitt Bf 109 – 34,852

(in­cludes small post­war pro­duc­tion)

Flight Journal - - THE MOST PRODUCED -

Willi’s lit­tle knock-kneed war­rior is ab­so­lutely the stuff of which leg­ends are made. Its first flight was in mid-1935, just short of a year be­fore the Spit­fire’s, mak­ing it the ear­li­est de­sign to fight un­til the last day of WW II. And as with the Spit, it went through dozens of de­sign re­fine­ments but was never to­tally re­designed. Its land­ing gear was never changed to tame its aw­ful take­off and land­ing char­ac­ter­is­tics. The au­to­matic lead­ing-edge slats re­mained to give it oth­er­worldly abil­i­ties in the world of the semi-stalled turn—a com­bat plus. The long, tiny tail with a ton of weight on the tail­wheel still re­minded the pi­lot that he had best keep it in line when on the ground or he’d join the ranks of those Ger­man pi­lots who were con­sid­ered Amer­i­can aces be­cause they de­stroyed so many 109s on the ground.

Al­though the Bf 109 used very early sheet­metal tech­nol­ogy, it was Tinker­toy-easy to build com­pared to its chief ri­val, the Spit­fire. In fact, when the air­plane is care­fully pe­rused, it’s seen as a study in Ger­man ex­ac­ti­tude and pre­ci­sion ap­plied to a hy­per-ba­sic de­sign. Com­pared to the fol­low-on FW 190, it could even be con­sid­ered crude. But it was easy to build, so by the time WW II was well on its way, the pro­cesses in­volved in build­ing the mighty mite were so well un­der­stood and mas­tered that, if need be, they could have been built in back bed­rooms and sta­bles.

Above: The Bf 109 was pro­duced from 1936 un­til the last day of the war. (Photo cour­tesy of EN-Archive) Be­low: The Re­ich fine-tuned its abil­ity to build sub­com­po­nents in out­ly­ing fac­to­ries and as­sem­ble them quickly in larger, more vul­ner­a­ble fa­cil­i­ties. (Photo cour­tesy of EN-Archive)

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