ME 262 PROJECT & THE U.S. NAVY

Status Report No. 1: 04 August 1999.

In December 1998, a Messerschmitt Me 262 owned by the U.S. Navy was transported to Paine Field in Everett, Washington from Fort Worth, Texas to be restored to non-flyable condition for static display at the National Museum of Naval Aviation at Pensacola, Florida.  The goal is that the Navy's Me 262 will be finished and ready for hand-over at the end of this year.  U.S. Navy interest in its Me 262 requires periodic reports on the progress of the project.  This first report primarily will provide background and status on the Navy's Me 262.

At the end of World War Two, Allied intelligence agents and pilots -- supported at the highest level -- followed closely behind ground troops invading Germany.  Their job was to capture enemy equipment for examination of the secrets behind development and operation of certain "wonder weapons" which had given some late-war advantage to Germany's plan for world domination.  Some of the world's most advanced fighter types of aircraft were the jets flown by the Luftwaffe, and of these, the Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe (Swallow) and Sturmvogel (Stormbird) topped the list of aircraft that the U.S. Army and Navy wished to examine.  The Schwalbe was the fighter version, and the Sturmvogel, the attack. 

Editor's note: this is largely a retrospective distinction, as the Germans did did not distinguish between the A-1a and A-2a variants in this manner.  Schwalbe was the most commonly applied "official" name, whereas the more warlike Sturmvogel was the name actually approved by the German propaganda machine.  Both names were applied uniformly to all Me 262 types during the war.

The jet era had begun in 1944 when the German Luftwaffe was the first country in the world to field a jet fighter for use in combat.  For that reason alone, the Navy's Me 262 is an important piece of history.  It is a valuable artifact and must be preserved for future study and interest.

The Me 262 might have changed the course of the war or lengthened it, if not for the fact that the useful life of the engines was measured in only a dozen or so hours.  Compare that to today's engines which run for tens of thousands of hours and continue to be reliable.  The jet engine was such a new concept that its reliability was affected by a lack of refined metals, and production was slowed by the bombing and chaos preceding the coming defeat of Germany.  Nevertheless, the Me 262 struck fear in the hearts of U.S. Army Air Forces bomber crews.  The sight of a 540 mph fighter slicing through bomber formations when U.S. escort fighters could not match its speed left observers in awe.  Certainly Germany lost the war because it was outnumbered, but its aviation technology inspired design staffs in America and elsewhere after the war to enter the jet age in deadly earnest.

Among the many Me 262s captured was "White 35," a two-seat trainer version of the Me 262, and White 35 was one of several German jets handed over to the U.S. Navy for post-war inspection.  White 35, serial number 110639, is an Me 262B-1a two-seat trainer.  The Navy applied BuAer No. 121448 to it (and it was eventually repainted as "Red 13").  The Navy tested its prizes, and from tests made recommendations to manufacturers to design the best Navy fighters and be a step ahead of design staffs in countries such as Russia.  When tests were completed, the former White 35 was retained on outdoor display at NAS Willow Grove, which led to extreme deterioration of the airframe.

In the early 1990s, Stephen L. Snyder -- a warbird enthusiast and flier -- dreamed of flying an Me 262.  An F-86 was among the aircraft Snyder privately owned and flew.  He discussed his idea with other civilian pilots and owners of warbirds.  Over time he received verbal support from possible buyers when he suggested that flyable Me 262s could be built and sold to private buyers.

When several buyers made down-payments for Me 262 reproductions, Snyder formed Classic Fighter Industries, Inc. to build them.  To build exact reproductions of the Me 262 is impractical.  The original Jumo 004 engines will be replaced by GE J-85s and cockpit instruments and radios will also be modern.  Snyder promised to duplicate as closely as possible the original Me 262.  The initial problem was in how to start.  Snyder had to have production plans of the Me 262 or a real Me 262 which his plane makers could use as a template.  Production plans were unavailable.  The only Me 262 not already in a museum was Red 13 on outdoor display at NAS Willow Grove.  Through negotiations with the U.S. Navy, Stephen Snyder was allowed to use the Navy's Me 262 was a template from which others would be built, in return for Snyder's team restoring Red 13 to static display condition.

The Me 262 Project was begun in Fort Worth, Texas in 1993 but the team there ran into problems and in 1998, Stephen Snyder transferred the project to Paine Field in Everett, Washington.  The Me 262 Project is presently managed by Bob Hammer.

Stephen Snyder was killed in the crash of his F-86 in June, 1999, and his family has reconfirmed their desirer to continue the Project to completion.

The land and ocean areas around western Washington state are home to a large part of the U.S. Navy's forces and people.  To name just a few, the Bremerton Navy Shipyard, Whidbey NAS, Bangor Submarine Base, Everett Home Port and the Thirteenth Naval District all call western Washington their home.  Now the U.S. Navy is represented by the Me 262 Project here also.  Local Navy interest in the project has grown since late 1998 when Red 13 arrived.

As of July, the Navy's Me 262 -- no longer known as Red 13 -- is being aggressively worked on.  The skin laps on the fuselage have been taped and the fuselage is ready to be primed.  The cockpit was missing all instrumentation when it was received from Willow Grove NAS, so an original Me 262 instrument panel has been purchased and replica instruments will be made.  The landing gear has been assembled.  There are some missing parts which are presently being fabricated.  The horizontal stabilizer has been reassembled with a new upper skin and it has been taped for priming.  A new wing will be mated to the fuselage in the next few weeks.  New slats, elevators, and inboard flaps are presently in the works.

Prepared by:
Paul A. Ludwig
Volunteer
The Me 262 Project

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