Rare German Fighters Pay Visit to Warbirds

The Messerschmitt Bf 109 was one of the most-produced aircraft in the history of aviation. During World War II, more than 30,000 of the Luftwaffe’s iconic fighter were built. Despite those staggering numbers, few remain in flying condition. Two beautiful flying examples of the 109 were on display Wednesday afternoon at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2022 for Warbirds in Review and a discussion with a few of the pilots and restorers of the aircraft, along with German historian Kurt Braatz, who joined via video conference.

Bruce “Doc” Winter’s Bf 109G-6 and the Erickson Aircraft Collection’s Bf 109G-10 were the topic of discussion, with plenty of interest from attendees as the bleachers were filled to capacity and the crowd swelled into Warbird Alley and Fightertown.

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Doc’s 109 is a recently completed restoration that first flew about a month ago. The aircraft was recovered from a lake in Estonia after a Luftwaffe pilot crash-landed onto its frozen surface in 1944. It took the team at Midwest Aero Restorations about 10 years to finish the airplane.

“There’s 33,000 [109s], but there are very few actual restorations left in the world,” Doc said. “This was recovered from a lake in Estonia. It was the former Eastern Front for the Germans as they were retreating. The pilot was returning to his base in 1944 and was hit and mortally wounded the airplane. … He set it down on the lake, jumped out, and ran west. It sank as the spring thaw came.”

The airplane was recovered in 1990, taken to Moscow, and changed hands about five times until Doc acquired it from a gentleman in Munich in 2012. From there, Midwest Aero Restorations spent the following decade restoring the airplane, which uses an authentic, rebuilt Daimler-Benz 605 engine, into airworthy condition.

“[Midwest Aero Restorations] produces the most beautiful Mustangs in the entire world,” Doc said. “To transition and try to translate as a mechanical engineer into a totally different language, totally different tooling — it was a rough and challenging ballgame for them. They did it really well.”

Meanwhile, the Erickson 109 was born as a license-built Spanish Hispano Buchon, and it was flown by the Spanish military until the movie Battle of Britain was filmed in the late 1960s. The movie production company acquired many 109s to produce the film, with pilot Connie Edwards purchasing a large number of those airframes, transporting them to Texas, and storing them. In the early 1990s, Jack Erickson reached a deal to purchase an airplane and put it on static display. In 2015, the decision was made to make it airworthy. Twenty months later, it was flying. To make the aircraft look closer to an original 109, the Merlin engine [installed for use in Battle of Britain] was swapped out and replaced with an Allison.

As far as flying characteristics for the 109, Doc pointed out that he doesn’t have a ton of time on it yet, but he was impressed by what he’s experienced so far.

“You’re not going to build a fighter for 10 years, ’35-’45, and 33,000 if they’re just an animal. They’ve got to be a good airplane, takeoff, landing, and up in flight. And it is,” he explained. “The little experience I’ve had, I’ve had great people to talk to me how to fly it. I fly it in really nice conditions, and if you’re staying on it, it’s just fun. It tracks nicely; it sets down in a three-point just beautifully. It flies around the pattern like it lives there. I find it to be quite enjoyable.”

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