ME 262 PROJECT & THE U.S. NAVY
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
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.
Paul A. Ludwig
The Me 262 Project