Messerschmitt 109 F – the first flight

On March 6, 1941, without any preparation, Tudor Greceanu and his colleagues (Radu Dumitrescu, Vintilă Brătianu, Ion Mucenica, Gheorghe Lungulescu, Tiberiu Vinca, Ion Panait and Ion Mălăcescu) fly for the first time a Messerschmitt 109 F. The following is our translation into English of the excerpt of Greceanu’s book where the author describes this experience[1].

Accompanied by Nicu Polizu and Beby Greceanu, I got near the plane I was supposed to fly and gave the foreman the signal to cut the engine. He got off and I took his place in the cockpit, while Beby Greceanu got up on one wing and Nicu Polizu on the other. They then started giving me all the instructions I needed to get to know the devices, levers and wheels and of their respective positions for takeoff, flight and landing…. I had the impression that I was doing the craziest thing in my life. I remembered the level of consummate knowledge required by Marin Ghica to allow us to fly.

Beby helped me attach the parachute, gave me the belts and when there was no pretext for delaying the flight, they both got off and I signalled the mechanics to crank. As in an absurd dream, after the fuel injection I coupled the airscrew and the engine started immediately. It was still warm, so there was no excuse for delay; I released the brakes, locked the cockpit and moved rapidly to takeoff point, on the eastern side of the training centre. I faced the aircraft upwind and gradually pushed the throttle to full.

Such was the powerful thrust that at first I had the impression that I hit my head against the back armour.

Then I noticed that the aircraft had a very strong tendency to swerve left; I recalled what Polizu said and pushed heavily to the right; the plane lifted its tail and its swerving left was easier to control so I pushed the rudder less heavily.

I have no idea when it took off. When I reached 10 m, while in level flight, I retracted the landing gear, flaps and radiators and switched on automatic pitch. Speed? 350. Fantastic!…. I pulled up and reached 1000 m in no time.

I then looked at the controls and at the cockpit that were so new to me, and suddenly I had this strange feeling that I already knew them perfectly well and this gave me utter tranquillity. When I reached 2000 m I started to get acquainted with the fighter plane.

3200 revolutions, boast 1.5, pitch to 10. Speed? …. Fantastic…. 550 km/h.

Turns, climbs, dives, rolls at low speed ….. controls testing. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I looked at the rapid variations of the air speed indicator and of the altimeter.

After a half an hour flight in which I flew over the airfield several times, I reached a state of euphoria that bordered on pathology.

I had the impression that this plane had always been a part of my life, as if it were a living being, a real friend that understood my state of spirit, tried to comfort me, subordinated his strength and his outstanding qualities to my will, accepted me with joy and was willing to cooperate, asking me to understand his needs and bearing with me whenever I acted clumsily.

It suddenly dawned on me – beyond reason – that this was my airplane. We were one body, one unique existence that pulsated in my heart and in his 1500 horsepower engine.

I felt exceedingly well, overflowed with joy and reluctant to starting landing, as that meant a painful separation. Future flights would not raise any question to me. I was fully confident that nothing wrong could happen to me while on this plane. My state of well being and confidence were such as if I had five or six hundred flight hours on a Messerschmitt 109 F…I did not worry at all for the landing.

Landing!?…. I had to land after all! The wheels came out, direction, flaps, stabilizer, radiators, airscrew pitch. The airfield came nearer …. Down!…. support engine, short landing and taxiing to the 56 Squadron hangar.

I unfastened my belt while taxiing, so as soon as I cut the engine I opened the cockpit and got off the airplane.

Three other pilots were waiting for me: “ How was it???….” they asked me.

“It is the best airplane I ever flew!…. Be very careful when taking off, as it tends to swerve left, but other than that it’s the perfect plane.”

And then the others took off…. No accident! The personnel on the runway were enthusiastic and applauded each landing as if they were watching a successful theatrical performance played by some gifted actors on an improvised stage.

 

 


[1] Pages 62 – 63 of his “Drumul celor puţini. Amintirile unui aviator” (The Road of the Few. Memoirs of a Fighter Pilot)

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