The Bf 109 aka ME-109 landing gear myth research thread.
For decades I can recall reading that a third of all Bf 109s were lost due to landing and takeoff accidents. The design of the landing gear is frequently mentioned as a contributing cause. More specifically the wheel angle on the narrow, outward retracting gear being unlike the Spitfires vertical orientation greatly contributed to causing crashes. I am sure my first reading of this started with books I owned before they were “lost” by Movers in 1993. This 33.3% statistical claim is surprisingly similar to the claim that in the amount of man hours it took to build a Spitfire, three 109s could be built. Both statistical claims have shall we say, questionable parentage. I would like to investigate the family tree of the landing gear claim. Below I have listed a few sources referring to this specific claim or claims of landing gear design significantly contributing to 109 accidents and loses. I will continue to add to the list as I find new examples Please help me determine the origin of these claims by listing where you saw them, who made them, and the date they made them. PLEASE DO NOT POST REFERENCES OR OPINIONS DISPUTING THESE CLAIMS. If you find a published dispute of these claims, provide the source, name, date and quote of the claim they are disputing. I only want a list of where seen, who said what, and date so I can find the earliest date to determine origin of the claim of 11,000 Bf 109s lost in landing and takeoff accidents. Once that is found we all can figure out how these claims got started and why?
2003 August, Flight Journal, “The Best WWII Fighter” by Corky Meyer
“....11,000 of the 33,000 built were destroyed during takeoff and landing accidents...”
“Chief aerodynamicist for the the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter, Josef Hubert ....told me that Willy Messerschmitt had adamantly refused to compromise the Bf 109’s performance by adding the drag-producing wing-surface bumps and fairings that would have been necessary to accommodate the wheels with the proper geometry. This would have reduced its accident rate to within expected military-fighter ranges and made it a world standard!”
2000 Winter, Flight Journal Special Edition WWII Fighters, “The Bf 109s real enemy was itself!” by Corky Meyer
Meyer sites a letter in 1980 written by Colonel Johannes “Macki” Steinhoff -
“He sent me a long letter relating that I should be sure of the absolute vertical alignment of the tailwheel ais; he also wrote that its inherently weak brakes sould be in excellent condition because in WWII, the Luftwaffe lost 11,000 out of 33,000 Bf 109s to takeoff and landing accidents. Steinhoff directly attributed this terrible record to the bad geometry of the plane’s very unstable, splayed-out, narrow landing-gear configuration. In his letter, he said twice that if a German mechanic who really knew the Bf 109 wasn’t handy, I should not get into the cockpit.”
1999 December, Flight Journal, “Combat Warrior, The Historical View” by Captain Eric Brown
“But the Bf 109’s deficiencies almost equal its fabulous assets. The Luftwaffe lost 11,000 of these thoroughbred fighting machines in takeoff and landing accidents, most of them at the end of the War when they needed them most.”
“I felt certain, too, that the landing gear’s being slightly splayed outward aggravated the ground-looping tendency and contributed to the excessive tire wear and bursts. The Spitfire had a similar, narrow-track landing gear, but it was not splayed out like that of the Bf 109, and the Spitfire didn’t show any ground-looping propensities.”
Brown goes on to explain that high accident rates in 1939 resulted in a tailwheel lock being added to later models.
More to come when you or I find it. I hope we can find out who originally made the claim in question.
no way no how 30% loss for t/o or landings due too the landing gear. landing accidents most often was the result
of running out of fuel, or mechanical problems. nose overs on landing was either rough fields or over zealous use
of brakes. takeoff nose overs were mostly letting the tail get off the ground BEFORE the rudder became effective.
locking they tailwheel worked very well, as long as the wheel was kept on the ground until the rudder was usable.
the biggest headache of the splayed landing gear was ground handling while taxing.
A civil society is based on respect and adherence of rules for civil discourse.
P-40K-5 did you read the thread starting post?
Originally Posted by P-40K-5
If you did, do you understand the following?
"PLEASE DO NOT POST REFERENCES OR OPINIONS DISPUTING THESE CLAIMS. If you find a published dispute of these claims, provide the source, name, date and quote of the claim they are disputing. I only want a list of where seen, who said what, and date so I can find the earliest date to determine origin of the claim of 11,000 Bf 109s lost in landing and takeoff accidents. Once that is found we all can figure out how these claims got started and why?"
I remember you posting that English is not your first language but I think you are sufficiently fluent to understand the purpose, methodology, and procedures of this thread. Please do not make any more posts similar to the one you just made. This thread is not for disputing this claim, it is only for identifying the origin of the claim. I know you love the Bf 109 but please restrain yourself from further comment disputing the claim. Please help me by researching in your library any publishing history of the claim. There are going to be quotes posted to this thread that are going to get your self-described bluntness infused "blood" boiling, take a cold shower when this happens. Please do not attempt to "boil alive" any people posting these quotes. Whether you intentionally or unintentionally did it, you just behaved disrespectfully to me by not adhering to the "rules" I established for this thread. Thank you for your future cooperation.
The Pop-Tart Whisperer
Very good thread. Will check my sources as many of my books came from my father's collection which he started in the 60's. Should be interesting.
and if we can keep sarcasm to a minimum.
Bf109F evaluation report Us army Airforce
RAF report on handling of Bf109E
Last edited by Snautzer01; 07-06-2011 at 08:56 AM.
Taken from LEMB
The distance between the wheels is 2.1m for the Bf109 and 1.68m for the Spit. Both required different techniques because of propeller rotation, the spit also has two different procedures as the earlier Merlins turned in different rotation to the later Griffin. The Bf109 wheels were canted at the same angle of the legs which made it very easy to ground loop and very loose on hard runways, why most German pilots preferred landing on grass. The Spit wheels are canted out 4.5 degrees from the angle of the leg which makes the wheel close to vertical on touchdown hence a little more controllable than the Bf109 even though a narrower track and the Spit has a much larger wing area.
and Also LEMB
We've been asked "Why was the Bf 109 so prone to swing on take-off?". (Nov 10th 1999)
The Bf 109 take-off swing was a very well known and notorious phenomenon. Already the external looks of the aircraft’s landing gear indicate that it is very easy to suspect it to be the culprit for the whole event. However, this is not the case. The swing is mainly caused by the the propeller slipstream which does not move backwards in a straight line along the fuselage but in a spiral path which is caused by the angle of the propeller blades to the aircraft’s center line. When this spiral airflow hits the tail, it tends to turn the rudder (seen from the back where the starboard and port sides of the aircraft are defined) to the right and the nose to the left. The swing can be compensated with an appropriate use of opposite rudder. If the tail is lifted too soon during the take-off, the propeller’s gyroscopic forces contribute to the left swing.
The narrow landing gear track creates the conditions for the swing: the brakes turn (prevent the swing) less effectively than with a wider track gear. The Bf 109 gear track is undeniably narrow ( Bf 109 E 1,97 m, 109 G 2,06 m, 109 K 2,1 m), but, for example, the Spitfire’s track is only 1,68 m. However, this is only a half of the case.
The other and decisevily important factor is the aircraft’s relatively rearward center of gravity. If the swing is allowed to develop, the rearward c.g. increases the swing and not even the highly regarded Messerschmitt brakes could no longer rectify the situation. If the pilot at this stage closes the throttle, it increases the swing still and the inevitable will happen: the landing gear collapses. In reality the process is also very quick. In addition it must be said that although the take-off swing is well-known and notorious, almost as many accidents took place during landings when the aircraft was allowed to swing.
The Bf 109 landing gear has been blamed for the swing without a cause. The real reason has been between the stick and the seat. The whole swing problem was a mere instructional mistake. The pilots should have been made to adopt one golden rule: the Messerschmitt Bf 109 must be steered to go absolutely straight during the ground run in take-off and landing and any tendency to swing must be corrected immediately with a well-timed use of the brakes and/or the rudder.
In short the aircraft had a bit of tendency to swing unless caught early, and the cause was the lack of directional stabilitiy of the aircraft. This was continously improved through the war by introducing :
- larger mainwheel tires
- larger tailwheel tires for better traction on ground
- change of main wheel mounting angle to near-vertical (-> kidney bulges originate to the change of angle, not tire size!, that why they're so shaped!)
- enlarged tail
- tall tailwheel
Last edited by Snautzer01; 07-06-2011 at 09:13 AM.
The Pop-Tart Whisperer
I think Lightnmust is looking more into how the myth began - not evidence to the contrary.
Something such as this, although no figures are given.....
"Fighters of the Luftwaffe" by Joachim Dressel and Manfred Griehl 1993
"At Rechlin the Bf 109V-1 suffered a broken undercarriage as a result of damag to the telescopic leg connections to the fuselage. This problem affected the Bf 109 right through to the end of the war, and led to high losses, especially later with inexperienced pilots."
I measured the gear on a MKIX and 109e7 and IIRC the difference was 6" wider on the 109 (its posted somewhere on the site but I can't find it) also find attached is a very recent flight test on a 109 and Spit in which he desribes the gear problem in 109
Bounding Clouds - Flying the Messerschmitt Bf-109 > Vintage Wings of Canada
Flying the Spitfire - with Mike Potter > Vintage Wings of Canada
Intersting thread. I'll see what I can dig up.
Der Crew Chief
If I recall the problem was not really in the track but in the toe out configuration. I might be wrong, but I believe that 109 and the Spit had a similiar size in wheel track but the 109 had a more toe out condition. I believe pbfoot went and actually confirmed this by measuring a Spit and 109 at the museum he volunteers at.
Best explanation I have seen
Axis History Forum • View topic - The Me 109....
Using Veolcette motorcycle suspension as an example to explain how Me-109 suspension worked. Now that's an act of genius.
Already noted in previous posts.
Originally Posted by DerAdlerIstGelandet
cant find anything that can confirm the 11000 claim, but several sources mentioning increases in losses due to the torque increase on the G model?
also mentions of Israeli Jumo engined 109 clones being lethal on the ground!
Der Crew Chief
Excuse me for missing that. I guess trying to read over every post here on this forum is not possible...
Originally Posted by Milosh