Messerschmitt Bf 109 A-D

One of the M 17s, W.Nr. 24, D-612, was flown by Carl Croneiß during the Internationaler Flugwettbewerb held in Schleißheim between September 12 and 14, 1925. The aircraft won the maximum flight ceiling and speed events and came in fifth in the relay race, which earned Messerschmitt 6 750 marks in prize money.
Messerschmitt scored another success when his M 17 W Nr. 26, D-612 was entered in the light aircraft competition held from May 31 to June 14, 1925. Flown by E. von Cont the aircraft came in first in the overall flight performance category.
The success of Messerschmitt’s designs did not go unnoticed. Among those who took interest in the work of the young engineer was Theo Croneiß, the founder of Nordbayerischer Verkehrsflug GmbH Fürth, who was looking for a light passenger aircraft for his company. The four-seat machine was to be based on the M 17 design. With the maximum unit price set at 25 000 marks the aircraft would cost a third of similar planes in use at that time.
The new aircraft, designated M 18a, would be an all-metal design powered by a seven cylinder Siemens-Halske Sh 11 engine developing 80 HP. The first prototype was flight tested by Theo Croneiß himself on June 15, 1926. Following the completion of the flight test program the machine received its registration – D-947. Soon to follow was the M 18b - a modified version of the aircraft designed to carry five passengers.


A highly airbrushed propaganda photograph featuring the Messerschmitt Bf 109 A, W.Nr. 809, D-IUDE. The aircraft, which first flew on January 8, 1937, featured the FuG VII radio installation.  [Kagero's Arc hive]

At around that time the assets of the bankrupt Udet-Flugzeugbau GmbH were taken over by the newly established Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (BFW). Soon the new company would expand and acquire grounds and production buildings of the former Rumpler-Werke AG in Augsburg. Since the Reich’s Ministry of Economy (Reichswirtschaftsministerium) regulations did not allow subsidizing two aviation companies based in Bavaria, the concerns were merged. The new entity, Flugzeugwerke AG Augsburg, would soon launch the production of aircraft designed by none other than Willy Messerschmitt. The official contract was signed by Messerschmitt on September 8, 1927.
The first aircraft to be built by the new company was an all-metal BFW M 20, which was designed to carry ten passengers and two crew. Deutsche Luft Hansa Berlin ordered two prototypes of the new aircraft. The first one, M 20 W.Nr. 371, was ready by February 26, 1928 and took off for its first flight on the same day. The flight went well until a skin panel separated from one of the wings, just aft of the leading edge section. Hans Hackmack, who was at the controls during the ill-fated flight, misjudged the situation, panicked and tried to bail out of the aircraft that flew at just eighty meters above the ground. Hackmack was killed on impact with the ground and the aircraft was completely destroyed.
Following the crash of the first prototype the Deutsche Luft Hansa order was cancelled. Nonetheless, the BFW finished work on the second machine and flight tested it on August 3, 1928. Flown by Theo Croneiß himself the aircraft performed so well that Deutsche Luft Hansa decided to order two BFW M 20as powered by 700 HP BMW VI powerplants. A year later the company submitted an order for two more aircraft, this time the modified M 20b version.
In 1928 the BFW Augsburg was to be floated. Willy Messerschmitt feared that he might lose his independence as a designer should an external investor become a majority shareholder. He therefore began to look for a potential business partner. Messerschmitt eventually managed to convince the Stromeyer-Raulino family from Bramberg to invest 330 000 marks in the company’s stock, while he himself came up with 70 000 marks, the proceeds from the sale of his old company’s assets to the BFW AG.

In the late 1920s the BFW built a number of prototype designs, including the M 21 trainer, twin engine M 22 and a light sports trainer M 23. The 1930s began on a sour note: on October 6, 1930 one of the M 20bs, W.Nr. 443, D-1930, crashed on approach to Dresden during a scheduled Berlin –Vienna flight. Eight people perished in the crash. Several months later, on April 4, 1931, another M 20b (W.Nr. 442, D-1928) crashed during a Muskau – Görlitz flight, killing the pilot and radio operator. Four of the eight Reichswehr officers traveling onboard the ill-fated plane suffered minor injuries.
The incidents resulted in the cancellation of Deutsche Luft Hansa order for two more M 20b2 aircraft and brought about an open conflict between Willy Messerschmitt and Luft Hansa’s director general, Erhard Milch. After Milch had become the secretary of state at the Reich’s Aviation Ministry, the animosity between the two men flared up again and would continue until the war’s end in 1945.
In the meantime the BFW lost ten more aircraft orders, which sealed the struggling company’s fate. On June 1, 1931 the BFW management officially filed for bankruptcy at Augsburg court.