Messerschmitt Me 262 Historical Overview - Page 1
The Me 262 was the first operational turbojet powered aircraft. In addition to being jet powered, it brought forth many advancements in aircraft design. Although sometimes viewed as a last ditch Nazi super-weapon, the Me 262 was under development before the start of WWII and did have some shortcomings. While never available in quantity, it was effectively used by the Luftwaffe in a variety of roles and proved itself a potent weapon.
Development began on the Me 262 in April 1939 which was code named Stormbird or Silver. A combination of excellent design and downright luck resulted in a very harmonious design while significantly stretching the known aeronautical boundaries. An example of this is the Me 262's wing. The characteristic swept design was the result of a need to place the center of gravity aft to compensate for heavier then expected engines. It was only later that the benefits of swept wings were realized.
The first test flights began April 18, 1941 with Me 262 V1 PC+UA. Since the planned BMW 003 turbojets were not ready at this time, a conventional Jumo 210 twelve cylinder mounted in the nose was used for power in order to test the airframe. Later when the BMW 003 engines were installed a test flight took place which resulted in both turbojets failing and the pilot bringing the plane in on the nose mounted engine alone.
PC+UC became the first fully jet propelled Me 262 on July 18, 1942. Fritz Wendel piloted this third prototype on the momentous occasion. The plane was powered by the new Jumo 004A-0 turbojets (at right).
The Jumo 004 would prove to be the source of the Me 262's greatest weakness. The turbojet was at this time still in it's infancy and many technological hurdles had to be overcome. This resulted in a lengthy period of development which led to continued delay in the development and production of the Me 262. One of the problems was that the materials necessary for proper heat proofing were extremely rare in war-torn Germany. Alternate materials had to be used which resulted in engines that were less than reliable. In some cases, a brand new engine would suffer catastrophic failure during initial run-up. Even engines that worked right had a very short operational life. Most would only last for 12 hours of operation. On many occasions, pilots were forced to land with one or both engines out.
Junkers Jumo 004 Specifications