Flight Journal

Flying the Bf 109

Two pilots give their reports

- By Mark Hanna and Capt. Eric Brown

Two pilots give their reports

The Bf 109 is, without a doubt, the most satisfying and challengin­g aircraft I have ever flown. So how does it fly and how does it compare with other WW II fighters? To my eye, the aircraft looks dangerous, both to the enemy and to its own pilots. Its “difficult” reputation is well-known, and right from the outset, you are aware that it needs to be treated with a great deal of respect. As you walk up to the 109, you are at first struck by its small size, particular­ly if it is parked next to a contempora­ry American fighter. Closer examinatio­n reveals a crazy-looking, knock-kneed undercarri­age, a very heavily framed, sideways-opening canopy with almost no forward view in the three-point attitude,

a long rear fuselage and tiny tail surfaces. A walk around reveals ingenious split radiator flaps and ailerons with a lot of movement and rather odd-looking external mass balances. It also has independen­tly operating leading-edge slats. These devices should glide open and shut on the ground with the pressure of a single finger. Other unusual features include the horizontal stabilizer that doubles as the elevator trimmer and the complete absence of a rudder trim system. Overall, the finish is a strange mix of the innovative and archaic.

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