Higher and Faster: Memoir of a Pioneering Air Force Test Pilot

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Because the engines were slow to arrive, Messerschmitt moved the engines from the wing roots to underwing pods, allowing them to be changed more readily if needed; this would turn out to be important, both for availability and maintenance. By that time, problems with engine development had slowed production of the aircraft considerably. One particularly acute problem arose with the lack of an alloy with a melting point high enough to endure the high temperatures involved, a problem that by the end of the war had not been adequately resolved.

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He initially designed the wing using NACA airfoils modified with an elliptical nose section. The configuration of a high-speed, light-payload Schnellbomber "fast bomber" was intended to penetrate enemy airspace during the expected Allied invasion of France. His edict resulted in the development of and concentration on the Sturmvogel variant. It is debatable to what extent Hitler's interference extended the delay in bringing the Schwalbe into operation; [20] [21] it appears engine vibration issues were at least as costly, if not more so.

Hitler rejected arguments the aircraft would be more effective as a fighter against the Allied bombers destroying large parts of Germany, and wanted it as a bomber for revenge attacks. According to Speer, Hitler felt its superior speed compared to other fighters of the era meant it could not be attacked, and so preferred it for high altitude straight flying. The Me is often referred to as a " swept wing " design as the production aircraft had a small, but significant leading edge sweep of The engines proved heavier than originally expected, and the sweep was added primarily to position the center of lift properly relative to the center of mass.

Its retracting conventional tail wheel gear similar to other contemporary piston powered propeller aircraft , a feature shared with the first four Me V-series airframes, caused its jet exhaust to deflect off the runway, with the wing's turbulence negating the effects of the elevators , and the first takeoff attempt was cut short.

On the second attempt, Wendel solved the problem by tapping the aircraft's brakes at takeoff speed, lifting the horizontal tail out of the wing's turbulence. Test flights continued over the next year, but engine problems continued to plague the project, the Jumo being only marginally more reliable than the lower-thrust 7. Airframe modifications were complete by but, hampered by the lack of engines, serial production did not begin until , and deliveries were low, with 28 Me s in June, 59 in July, but only 20 in August.

By Summer , the Jumo A engine had passed several hour tests, with a time between overhauls of 50 hours being achieved. Consequently, the B engine was designed to use a minimum amount of strategic materials.

Higher and Faster: Memoir of a Pioneering Air Force Test Pilot

All high heat-resistant metal parts, including the combustion chamber, were changed to mild steel SAE and were protected only against oxidation by aluminum coating. The total engine represented a design compromise to minimize the use of strategic materials and to simplify manufacture. If it passed the test, the engine was refitted for a further 10 hours of usage, but 35 hours marked the absolute limit for the turbine wheel. Frank Whittle concludes in his final assessment over the two engines: "it was in the quality of high temperature materials that the difference between German and British engines was most marked" [35].

Operationally, carrying 2, litres imperial gallons; US gallons of fuel in two litre imperial-gallon; US-gallon tanks, one each fore and aft of the cockpit; and a litre imperial-gallon; US-gallon ventral fuselage tank beneath, [Note 3] the Me would have a total flight endurance of 60 to 90 minutes. Fuel was usually J2 derived from brown coal , with the option of diesel or a mixture of oil and high octane B4 aviation petrol.

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Unit cost for an Me airframe, less engines, armament, and electronics, was RM 87, Major Walter Nowotny was assigned as commander after the death of Thierfelder in July , and the unit redesignated Kommando Nowotny. Essentially a trials and development unit, it mounted the world's first jet fighter operations. Trials continued slowly, with initial operational missions against the Allies in August , and the unit made claims for 19 Allied aircraft in exchange of six Me s lost.

Air Force One Simulator Project - "Tex" Johnston" World Famous Test Pilot

He claimed two PDs destroyed before suffering engine failure at high altitude. The Kommando was then withdrawn for further flight training and a revision of combat tactics to optimise the 's strengths.

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The was shot down by a Bofors gun of B. Others were lost to ground fire on 17 and 18 December when the same airfield was attacked at intervals by a total of 18 Me s and the guns of and Squadrons RAF Regiment damaged several, causing at least two to crash within a few miles of the airfield. In February , a B.

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The final appearance of s over Volkel was in when yet another fell to 's guns. By January , Jagdgeschwader 7 JG 7 had been formed as a pure jet fighter wing, partly based at Parchim [46] although it was several weeks before it was operational. In the meantime, a bomber unit—I Gruppe , Kampfgeschwader 54 KG J 54 —redesignated as such on 1 October [47] through being re-equipped with, and trained to use the Me A-2a fighter-bomber for use in a ground-attack role.

However, the unit lost 12 jets in action in two weeks for minimal returns. Galland was able to draw into the unit many of the most experienced and decorated Luftwaffe fighter pilots from other units grounded by lack of fuel. During March, Me fighter units were able, for the first time, to mount large-scale attacks on Allied bomber formations. On 18 March , thirty-seven Me s of JG 7 intercepted a force of 1, bombers and escorting fighters. They shot down 12 bombers and one fighter for the loss of three Me s.

In the last days of the war, Me s from JG 7 and other units were committed in ground assault missions, in an attempt to support German troops fighting Red Army forces. To support this attack, on 24 April, JG 7 dispatched thirty-one Me s on a strafing mission in the Cottbus - Bautzen area. Luftwaffe pilots claimed six lorries and seven Soviet aircraft, but three German jets were lost. They succeeded in strafing 65 Soviet lorries, after which the Me s intercepted low flying IL-2 Sturmoviks searching for German tanks.

The jet pilots claimed six Sturmoviks for the loss of three Messerschmitts. During operations between 28 April and 1 May Soviet fighters and ground fire downed at least ten more Me s from JG 7. And on the 8th of May, at around p. Fritz Stehle of 2. He claimed a Yakovlev Yak-9 , but the plane shot down was probably a P Airacobra. Soviet records show that they lost two Airacobras, one of them probably downed by Stehle, who would thus have scored the last Luftwaffe air victory of the war.

Serving with Staffel Nachtjagdgeschwader 11 , near Berlin, these few aircraft alongside several single-seat examples accounted for most of the 13 Mosquitoes lost over Berlin in the first three months of As the two-seat trainer was largely unavailable, many pilots made their first jet flight in a single-seater without an instructor. Despite its deficiencies, the Me clearly marked the beginning of the end of piston-engined aircraft as effective fighting machines. The Me 's top ace [Note 5] was probably Hauptmann Franz Schall with 17 kills, including six four-engine bombers and ten P Mustang fighters, although fighter ace Oberleutnant Kurt Welter claimed 25 Mosquitos and two four-engine bombers shot down by night and two further Mosquitos by day.

Most of Welter's claimed night kills were achieved by eye, even though Welter had tested a prototype Me fitted with FuG Neptun radar. The Me was so fast that German pilots needed new tactics to attack Allied bombers. Even from astern, the closing speed was too great to use the short-ranged quartet of MK cannon to maximum effect. Therefore, a roller-coaster attack was devised. When they were about 1. Target acquisition was difficult because the jets closed into firing range quickly and remained in firing position only briefly, using their standard attack profile, which proved more effective.


You whack in at your bomber. It was never meant to be a dogfighter, it was meant to be a destroyer of bombers The great problem with it was it did not have dive brakes. For example, if you want to fight and destroy a B, you come in on a dive. Now, in two seconds, you can't sight. You can fire randomly and hope for the best.

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If you want to sight and fire, you need to double that time to four seconds. And with dive brakes, you could have done that. Eventually, German pilots developed new combat tactics to counter Allied bombers' defences. Me s, equipped with up to 24 unguided folding-fin R4M rockets —12 in each of two underwing racks, outboard of the engine nacelle—approached from the side of a bomber formation, where their silhouettes were widest, and while still out of range of the bombers' machine guns, fired a salvo of rockets with strongly brisant Hexogen -filled warheads, exactly the same explosive in the shells fired by the Me A's quartet of MK cannon.

The much more massive BR 21 large-calibre rockets, used from their tubular launchers in undernose locations for an Me A's use one either side of the nosewheel well were only as fast as the MK 's shells. Though this broadside-attack tactic was effective, it came too late to have a real effect on the war, and only small numbers of Me s were equipped with the rocket packs.

Some nicknamed this tactic the Luftwaffe's Wolf Pack , as the fighters often made runs in groups of two or three, fired their rockets, then returned to base. On 1 September , USAAF General Carl Spaatz expressed the fear that if greater numbers of German jets appeared, they could inflict losses heavy enough to force cancellation of the Allied bombing offensive by daylight.

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The Me was difficult to counter because its high speed and rate of climb made it hard to intercept. However, as with other turbojet engines at the time, the Me 's engines did not provide sufficient thrust at low air speeds and throttle response was slow, meaning in certain circumstances such as takeoff and landing, the aircraft became a vulnerable target.

Another disadvantage that pioneering jet aircraft of the World War II era shared, was the high risk of compressor stall and if throttle movements were too rapid, the engine s could suffer a flameout. The coarse opening of the throttle would cause fuel surging and lead to excessive jet pipe temperatures. Pilots were instructed to operate the throttle gently and avoid quick changes. German engineers introduced an automatic throttle regulator later in the war but it only partly alleviated the problem. The plane had, by contemporary standards, a high wing loading Due to poor throttle response, the engines' tendency for airflow disruption that could cause the compressor to stall was ubiquitous.

The high speed of the Me also presented problems when engaging enemy aircraft, the high-speed convergence allowing Me pilots little time to line up their targets or acquire the appropriate amount of deflection. This problem faces any aircraft that approaches another from behind at much higher speed, as the slower aircraft in front can always pull a tighter turn, forcing the faster aircraft to overshoot. Johannes Steinhoff , Luftwaffe fighter ace. Luftwaffe pilots eventually learned how to handle the Me 's higher speed and the Me soon proved a formidable air superiority fighter, with pilots such as Franz Schall managing to shoot down seventeen enemy fighters in the Me , ten of them American P Mustangs.

Other notable Me aces included Georg-Peter Eder , with twelve enemy fighters to his credit including nine Ps , Erich Rudorffer also with twelve enemy fighters to his credit, Walther Dahl with eleven including three Lavochkin La-7s and six Ps and Heinz-Helmut Baudach with six including one Spitfire and two Ps amongst many others.

Pilots soon learned that the Me was quite maneuverable despite its high wing loading and lack of low-speed thrust, especially if attention was drawn to its effective maneuvering speeds. The controls were light and effective right up to the maximum permissible speed and perfectly harmonised. Too fast to catch for the escorting Allied fighters, the Me s were almost impossible to head off. Combating the Allied fighters could be effectively done the same way as the U. Allied pilots soon found that the only reliable way to destroy the jets, as with the even faster Me B Komet rocket fighters, was to attack them on the ground or during takeoff or landing.

Luftwaffe airfields identified as jet bases were frequently bombed by medium bombers , and Allied fighters patrolled over the fields to attack jets trying to land. The Luftwaffe countered by installing extensive flak alleys of anti-aircraft guns along the approach lines to protect the Me s from the ground—and by providing top cover during the jets' takeoff and landing with the most advanced Luftwaffe single-engined fighters, the Focke-Wulf Fw D and just becoming available in Focke-Wulf Ta H.

As the Me A's pioneering Junkers Jumo axial-flow jet engines needed careful nursing by their pilots, these jet aircraft were particularly vulnerable during takeoff and landing. Chuck Yeager of the th Fighter Group was one of the first American pilots to shoot down an Me , which he caught during its landing approach. On 7 October , Lt. Urban Drew of the th Fighter Group shot down two Me s that were taking off, while on the same day Lt.

Hubert Zemke , who had transferred to the Mustang equipped th Fighter Group , shot down what he thought was a Bf , only to have his gun camera film reveal that it may have been an Me Hubert Lange, a Me pilot, said: "the Messerschmitt Me 's most dangerous opponent was the British Hawker Tempest—extremely fast at low altitudes, highly manoeuvrable and heavily armed.

They did not intercept the jet, but instead flew towards the Me and Ar base at Hopsten air base. Adolf Busemann had proposed swept wings as early as ; Messerschmitt researched the topic from Interest in high-speed flight, which led him to initiate work on swept wings starting in , is evident from the advanced developments Messerschmitt had on his drawing board in While the Me V9 Hochgeschwindigkeit I HG I flight-tested in had only small changes compared to combat aircraft, most notably a low-profile canopy —tried as the Rennkabine literally "racing cabin" on the ninth Me prototype for a short time—to reduce drag, the HG II and HG III designs were far more radical.

Messerschmitt also conducted a series of flight tests with the series production Me The resulting steepening of the dive would lead to even higher speeds and the airframe would disintegrate from excessive negative g loads.

The HG series of Me derivatives was believed [ by whom?