Messerschmitt Bf 109 A-D

The ground personnel from 2./JG 71 replenish machine gun ammunition in this Messerschmitt Bf 109 D-1. The photograph was taken in August 1939.  [Kagero's Arc hive]


In those dire circumstances Willy Messerschmitt decided to return to his old company Messerschmitt-Flugzeugbau GmbH and continue the design work.
Not long thereafter several German aeronautical companies (including Messerschmitt-Flugzeugbau GmbH) received invitations to deliver six aircraft that would represent the country [The official name of the event was FAI – Challenge internationale des avions de tourisme.] during the 1932 edition of an international aviation event, known in Germany as Europa-Rundflug [The winner of the 1929 and the 1930 editions of the vent was a German pilot Fritz Morzik.]. Messerschmitt’s contribution was a super modern design designated M 29 – a low-wing aircraft with a fully enclosed cockpit, whose graceful lines resembled those of a modern fighter. On April 13, 1932 the machine was test flown by Erwin Aichele. The tests revealed superb flight characteristics of Messerschmitt’s new design: it had a top speed of 250 kph, a time to climb to 1 000 m of just 3 minutes and the operating ceiling of 6 000 m. Unfortunately, the aircraft suffered two accidents on August 8 and 9, 1932, which effectively ended its chances of entering the competition. The event’s top prize went to a Polish pilot Franciszek Żwirko flying the RWD-6 aircraft.
Messerschmitt continued work on other designs, although several of them (M 30, M 31, M 32, M 33 and M 34) did not proceed beyond the drawing board [The M 31 prototype was in fact built as W.Nr. 607 and flight tested in early August 1932 by Erwin Aichele.]. In the meantime Peter Rakan Kokothaki took over as the president of the BFW AG, which was still under bankruptcy protection. Kokothaki worked closely with the company’s administrator to find ways of ending the concern’s financial problems. As a result an agreement was reached with the company’s key creditors, which was officially sanctioned by the ruling of Augsburg district court dated April 27, 1933. Based on the court’s decision the company was cleared to re-start its operations on May 1, 1933. During the same period of time Messerschmitt designed another light trainer/aerobatic aircraft, the M 35. Fifteen examples of this low-wing, cantilevered design were built. The aircraft was a two-seater of mixed construction and featured a tapered wing.

After the Nazi’s rise to power in 1933 Germany saw a gradual process of restoration of its independence, which until then had been severely curtailed by the Treaty of Versailles. One of the first priorities of the newly established government was the rebuilding of Germany’s armed forces, which had been previously limited to 100 000 members of the Reichswehr. The air force, armored units and the submarine fleet were abolished altogether. In September 1933 the Reich’s Aviation Ministry (Reichsluftfahrtministerium – RLM) submitted a requirement for six prototypes of a four-seat “liaison” aircraft (known in the German nomenclature as Reiseflugzeug. The order was placed with Bayerischen Flugzeugwerke and the new aircraft was to be ready for the 1934 edition of the Challenge event. Similar orders went to Fieseler (Fi 97) and Klemm (Kl 36). The companies were given only nine months to design, build and flight test the new aircraft.
Willy Messerschmitt personally coordinated the work on the new design, supported by Robert Luser as the project director, Richard Bauer as the design office chief and the head of flight test department, Hubert Bauer. The new aircraft was a cantilevered low-wing design with retractable landing gear. The single-spar wing featured all-metal skin, automatic leading edge slats and fowler flaps. The wing sections could be folded by removing a bolt in the wing’s center box. The gear retracted outwards into the wing bays, activated by a manual worm drive gearbox. The aircraft featured a conventional, fixed tail wheel.
The first prototype of the Bf 108 A V-1 (D-IBUM) was flight tested in June 1934 (at that time the aircraft was equipped with a wooden wing). Within the next month the remaining five aircraft were ready, with the last example making its first flight on July 28, 1934. Shortly after the German pilots had begun their workups in preparation for the upcoming competition, a tragedy struck. One of the Bf 108 A V-1s hit a tree during a slow flight practice and crashed, killing its pilot Freiherr Wolf von Dungern [Hitchcock Thomas H., Typhoon, Boylston 1979, p. 2]. In the aftermath of the accident manager of the German team, Theo Osterkamp, demanded that the Bf 108 be withdrawn from the competition. The RLM representative Maj. Fritz Loeb ignored Osterkamp’s pleas and four Bf 108s did took part in the event (Bf 108 A V-3, W.Nr. 697, D-IZAN, Bf 108 A V-4, W.Nr. 698, D-IGAK, Bf 108 A V-5, W.Nr. 699, D-IMUT and Bf 108 A V-6, W.Nr. 700, D-IJES [Ebert Hans J., Kaiser Johann B., Peters Klaus, Willy Messerschmitt – Pionier der Luftfahrt und des Leichtbaues, Bonn 1992, p. 100.]).