Messerschmitt Bf 109E7Trop 2.JG27 Black 4 being painted by a Luftwaffe artist North Africa 1941-01

Messerschmitt Bf 109E7Trop 2.JG27 Black 4 being painted by a Luftwaffe artist North Africa 1941 01

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E Emil

On the ground the Bf 109 was tricky to handle but in the air it was lethal. Allied designers made their aircraft easy for any novice pilot to handle and as a result where able to throw new pilots into combat at a much faster rate and during the 'Battle of Britain' this is one of many factors that help win the Battle. As pilot loses mounted the Luftwaffe faced more accidents which also took it's toll on materials and resources.

The Bf 109's small rudder was relatively ineffective at controlling the strong swing created by the powerful slipstream of the propeller during the early portion of the takeoff roll, and this sideways drift created disproportionate loads on the wheel opposite to the swing. If the forces imposed were large enough, the pivot point broke and the landing gear leg would collapse outward into its bay. Experienced pilots reported that the swing was easy to control, but some of the less-experienced pilots lost fighters on takeoff.

Because of the large ground angle caused by the long legs, forward visibility while on the ground was very poor, a problem exacerbated by the sideways-opening canopy. This meant that pilots had to taxi in a sinuous fashion which also imposed stresses on the splayed undercarriage legs. Ground accidents were a problem with rookie pilots, especially during the later stages of the war when pilots received less training before being sent to operational units. At least 10% of all Bf 109s were lost in takeoff and landing accidents, 1,500 of which occurred between 1939 and 1941. The installation of a fixed "tall" tailwheel on some of the late G-10s and 14s and the K-series helped alleviate the problem to a large extent.

From the inception of the design, priority was given to easy access to the powerplant, fuselage weapons and other systems while the aircraft was operating from forward airfields. To this end, the entire engine cowling was made up of large, easily removable panels which were secured by large toggle latches. A large panel under the wing centre section could be removed to gain access to the L-shaped main fuel tank, which was sited partly under the cockpit floor and partly behind the rear cockpit bulkhead. Other, smaller panels gave easy access to the cooling system and electrical equipment. The engine was held in two large, forged, magnesium alloy Y-shaped legs which were cantilevered from the firewall. Each of the legs was secured by two quick-release screw fittings on the firewall. All of the main pipe connections were colour-coded and grouped in one place, where possible, and electrical equipment plugged into junction boxes mounted on the firewall. The entire powerplant could be removed or replaced as a unit in a matter of minutes.

This webpage was updated 27th October 2015

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