|STANDARD DATA:Seats 1. Gross wt. 6,090. Empty wt. 4,180. Fuel capacity 106. Engine 1,200-hp Mercedes-Benz inverted 12-cylinder.
PERFORMANCE: Top mph 390. Cruise mph 310. Initial climb rate 3,320. Range 440. Ceiling 37,000.
The Messerschmitt 109 was Germany’s primary frontline fighter throughout World War II. Designed between 1933 and 1935, the first production models began reaching Luftwaffe units in mid-1937. By the outbreak of the war, there were only 235 in service, but within a short time production was drastically accelerated. By the war’s end, around 35,000 of the type had been manufactured, making it the most numerous fighter of the conflict.
Performance and maneuverability were outstanding and proved generally superior against all types of opposing fighters in the European Theater, with the probable exception of the Spitfire. Some later models, particularly the 109G, suffered performance problems due to design changes, and in the later stages of the war, Allied fighters succeeded in effectively dealing with the type. After the war, Czechs undertook production of the design, and 109s served in the Czechoslovakian Air Force until 1952. The Israel Defense Force also made good use of the Czech-made 109s during the late 1940s. Few of the original 35,000 survive today, and anyone showing up at a fly-in these days in a Messerschmitt can count on gathering a crowd.