Bolkow aircraft history, performance and specifications
The Messerschmitt story begins with Professor Willi Messerschmitt
joining the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke in 1927 and forming a design
team. He promoted a concept he called "light weight construction" in
which many typically separate load-bearing parts were merged into a
single re-enforced firewall, thereby saving weight and improving
performance. The first true test of the concept was in the Bf 108
Taifun sports-plane, which would soon be setting all sorts of
records. Based on this performance the company was invited to submit
a design for the Luftwaffe's 1935 fighter contest, winning it with
the Bf 109 based on the same construction methods.†
From this point on Messerschmitt became a favourite of the Nazi
party, as much for his designs as his political abilities and the
factory location in southern Germany away from the "clumping" of
aviation firms on the northern coast. Messerschmitt AG was
incorporated as a separate company on July 11, 1938, with Willy
Messerschmitt as chairman and managing director. The renaming of
Bayerische Flugzeugwerke to Messerschmitt AG on that date, resulted
in all future types being designated Me instead of Bf. Existing
types, such as 109 and 110, retained their earlier designation in
official documents, although sometimes the newer designations were
used as well. In practise, due the RLM naming system, all
Messerschmitt aircraft from 108 to 163 are designated with Bf
prefix, all afterwards as Me.
During the war Messerschmitt became a major design supplier, their
Bf 109 and Bf 110 forming the vast majority of fighter strength for
the first half of the war. Several other designs were also ordered,
including the enormous Me 321 Gigant transport glider, and its
six-engined follow on, the Me 323. However for the second half of
the war, Messerschmitt turned almost entirely to jet-powered
designs, producing the first operational jet fighter, the Me 262
Schwalbe. They also produced the DFS-designed Me 163 Komet, the
first, and only, rocket-powered design to enter service.
Messerschmitt had its share of poor designs as well; the Me 210,
designed as a follow-on to the 110, was a disaster that almost led
to the forced dissolution of the company. The design problems were
eventually addressed in the Me 410 Hornisse, but only small numbers
were built before all attention turned to the 262. Late in the war,
Messerschmitt also worked on a heavy "Amerikabomber" design, the Me
264, which flew in prototype form but was too late to see combat.
After WW2 the company was not allowed to produce aircraft. One
alternative the company came up with was the three wheeled
motorcycle/bubble car or Kabinenroller (cabinscooter) KR175 / KR200.
According to an urban legend, it was made with old aeroplane parts.
This was not true, but as it was designed by an aircraft engineer,
Fritz Fend, it is probably no coincidence it looks somewhat like an
aeroplane. A well known appearance of this car is in Terry Gilliam's
Brazil, to great effect.
Return to aviation
In 1968 Messerschmitt AG merged with Bölkow, and one year later the
aviation department of Blohm + Voss was added. The company then
changed their name to Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm. In 1989 it was
taken over by Daimler Benz Aerospace AG.