Messerschmitt Bf 110 vol. I


Altitude: 300 meters. We were slowly approaching the airfield and we could now see the clear outline of the runway. “If we can make it to the runway, I can belly in..” said Knacke, and added a moment later, “Bundrock, take a look at this, but move slowly!”
I slowly leaned forward and watched as Knacke moved the stick around as though stirring coffee in a cup. “For God’s sake, what are you doing?” I cried out. “The stick doesn’t work at all. I’m flying with just the elevators and landing flaps,” he replied calmly. At that moment he really impressed me. We had actually made it back to the airfield on one stalling engine. In expectation of the rough landing, I got free of the parachute and stored it between the radio cases and just as we touched down I pulled on the emergency canopy release.
At that moment there was a loud bang, the noise of our impact, grinding and flying dirt until the plane finally came to a stop. An unpleasant hissing finally broke the incredible silence that followed. Knacke shouted “Run!”
I noticed that the starboard engine was on fire and the flames were getting bigger and brighter and people were running towards us. Cars and fire trucks were speeding in our direction. Knacke jumped out and over the nose, while I headed for the tail and we both ran as fast as we could to get away from the burning plane. It could have exploded at any minute.
It didn’t blow up, though, since the firefighters were able to get a layer of foam onto it in the nick of time. With our heads down, we set out on the long walk back to the mess hall. Neither of us said a word.

Early Development
During WWI the German military used a number of frontline “multi-purpose” warplanes, the most notable of which was probably the Hannover CL II. They were two-seaters designed for escort and reconnaissance roles in the Schutzstaffeln (air cover/escort) squadrons. It became obvious during combat missions that the planes also performed well in an attack role and in March 1918 all thirty-eight Schutzstaffeln squadrons were converted to Schlachtstaffeln (attack) squadrons. These aircraft had the lowest loss rates of all two-seat planes used in Germany.
Impetus for re-newed development of this type of warplane (Kampfflugzeug) came in the early thirties during the planning for the new Luftwaffe. The Rüstungsflugzeug II (tactical bomber) was to be a single engine, two seat multi-purpose aircraft which could be used in the fighter, reconnaissance or light bomber roles. After Adolf Hitler came to power on 30 January 1933, the planning to create a new German air force forged ahead. On 27 April 1933 the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM, or Reich Aviation Ministry) was created and WWI flying ace Hermann Göring appointed as Oberbefehlshaber or supreme commander.
Another former WWI fighter pilot and member of the board of directors at Lufthansa, Erhard Milch, was appointed Secretary of State in the new ministry. Milch was put in charge of C-Amt (section C) overseeing the technical development of combat aircraft.
In early 1934 the Luftwaffe released a study of the most probable developments in aerial combat tactics introducing a new concept for a twin engine, multi-seat strategic fighter embodying long range and a heavy armament of fixed and traverse-mounted cannon instead of bombs. The cannon were to cover the airspace ahead of and behind the aircraft with some limited coverage to the sides. According to the study, this “strategic fighter” was to operate ahead of the bomber formation to secure the airspace and ensure a safe route to the target area and could also be employed on both reconnaissance and bombing missions. The concept was questioned not only by those officers in the Luftwaffe who felt that such deep penetration tactics would lead to high losses, but also by aeronautics engineers who claimed that the planes would be heavier, slower and less maneuverable than the bombers that they were meant to defend. In spite of the objections, this so-called Zerstörer (destroyer) class of aircraft was much liked by Hermann Göring, who ordered work be started on designs for construction.
Shortly thereafter two guests from the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke showed up at the Reich Aviation Ministry. One was Willi Messerschmitt, the owner, the other Robert Lusser who was the head of the design department. Together they presented their concept for a new airplane, designated Projektnummer 1035. It was to be a destroyer class aircraft, which could also perform the roles of high-altitude reconnaissance plane or bomber. Each version had a slightly different fuselage.
In June, 1934 the RLM announced the specifications for the Kampfzerstörer (bomber/destroyer) through its technical development department which sent invitations to bid to AGO, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, Dornier, Focke-Wulf, Heinkel and Henschel. The three or four-seat plane was to be powered by two Junkers Jumo 210 engines to achieve a cruising speed of 330 km/h at 6000 meters and a top speed of 400 km/h at that altitude. Armament was to consist of two forward-firing 20 mm cannon and a twin 7.92 mm machine gun installation. The minimum range was set at 2000 km and the maximum service ceiling at 10,000 meters. The aircraft was to reach 6,000 meters within 15 minutes. Variants were to be submitted for high-altitude reconnaissance duties and both versions were to be capable of operating at night. The design should have docile handling qualities and be easy to bring out of a corkscrew, while being capable of pulling into sharp turns without falling off a wing.