Bf 108 Taifun
|Manufacturer||Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseIn 1934 the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke AG (BFW), under the brilliant aircraft designer and engineer Professor Willy Emil Messerschmitt, developed the revolutionary M 37, which was later given the designation of Bf 108 Taifun. A cantilever low-wing all-metal touring monoplane with a fully enclosed four-seat cabin, braced cruciform tail and a retractable undercarriage the new machine was a considerable advance on contemporary touring aircraft of the day. A prototype made its maiden flight in June 1934 powered by 250-h.p. Hirth HM8U engine, and this was followed by an order for six aircraft (designated Bf 108A) to participate in the 1934 Fourth Challenge de Tourisme International in Poland. A seventh Bf 108A was trialed with a 220-horsepower Argus As 17B engine but this proved unsatisfactory. While training for the contest one of the Bf 108A aircraft crashed, and pressure by the German team manager almost caused the type's withdrawal. However, four Bf 108 aircraft did eventually compete, heavily handicapped, since their all-metal construction made them considerably heavier than the wood and fabric competition.
ww2dbaseIn 1935 the Bf 108B, which would become the main production version, appeared with a 240-hp Argus As 10c 8-cylinder inverted-Vee air-cooled piston engine, modified fin and rudder, removal of upper external tailplane bracing and the substitution of a tail wheel for the rear skid of its predecessor. Most early production aircraft were built at Augsburg in the BFW factory (hence the Bf of the designation) which became Messerschmitt AG in July 1938. Manufacture of the Bf 108 would then be moved to the modern Bayerische Flugzeugwerke aircraft factory built in open farmland, between 1936 and 1938, outside the ancient Bavarian town of Regensburg (famous for its beautiful medieval centre, cathedral, and 800-year-old arched stone bridge over the Danube River). In reality the Bayerische Flugzeugwerke was no more than a cover for the State Air Ministry who had provided the finance for its building and who had an agreement with Professor Messerschmitt allowing him to purchase all the shares in the new factory, which he did in 1939, when most of the facility went over to the mass-production of the Bf 109 fighter (q.v.).
ww2dbaseThe high performance of the Bf 108 led to a number of record-breaking flights and some contest successes. A German women pilot, the glamourous Elly Beinhorn (1907-2007), made a return flight from Berlin to Istanbul, Turkey in one day during 1935 using a Bf 108A named "Taifun" (typhoon), a name which was adopted subsequently for the type. Bf 108 aircraft also competed in aviation rallies held during the 1936 Olympic Games, and in the following year Elly Beinhorn was in the news once again when she flew from Berlin to Capetown, South Africa and back.
ww2dbaseThe obvious sterling qualities of the Bf 108 were not overlooked by the Luftwaffe, and the Bf 108B was ordered into military service as a general communications aircraft and by the Luftdienst (Air Service) for tasks such as supply and target towing. Others were exported to various countries and two former German embassy aircraft were even impressed into British Royal Air Force (RAF) service during the war under the name Aldon. One of these (DK280) suffered a collapsed undercarriage on landing in 1942 and later crashed after an engine failure in 1944. A few other examples would later enter RAF service for a short time after the end of the war.
ww2dbaseMore than 500 Bf 108 aircraft had been built at Regensburg by 1942 when another move was made, this time to the Société Nationale de Constructions Aéronautiques du Nord (SNCAN) factory at Les Mureaux, France, near Paris. Before the liberation, 170 Bf 108 aircraft would be built at Les Mureaux and after the war SNCAN continued to build the aircraft as the three-seat Nord 1000 Pingouin (Penguin) series utilising scavenged Bf 108 airframe parts until stocks of the German Argus engines were exhausted. The Pingouin was followed by the similar Nord 1001 with a 233-hp Renault 6Q-10 piston engine, and the Nord 1002 with the six-cylinder Renault 6Q-11 and a four-seat cabin.
ww2dbaseAlthough several further variants of the design (such as the Bf 108C) were proposed, only one other variant was built before the end of the war. This was the Me 208, which apart from a retractable tricycle landing gear was otherwise very similar in appearance to its predecessor. Of the two Me 208 prototypes, built by Nord during 1943-44, one was destroyed in an air raid. However, the design lived on after the war, developed as the Nord 1101 Noralpha for the civilian market, or Ramier I military version, both powered by a 233-hp Renault 6Q-10 engine. The Nord 1101 was longer than the earlier Nord 1000 with a full four-seat cabin, longer wings with pronounced dihedral and a tall retractable tricycle undercarriage. A second military model, the Ramier II had a six-cylinder Renault 6Q-11 inline engine. The majority of the 200 aircraft of this type built were Ramiers for the Armée de l’Air although civil Noralphas were also constructed largely as trainers and communications aircraft for the French government. Later, under the designation N 1104 Noralpha, one aircraft was employed to flight-test a 240-hp Potez 6DØ engine and two Ramier Is were converted for similar tests with the Turbom?ca Astazou turboshaft engine under the designation N1110 Nord-Astazou in 1959.
ww2dbaseProduction in France eventually reached 285 machines (adding to the 885 machines built in Germany and France during the war) with the majority of post-war aircraft, as mentioned above, serving as communications and liaison aircraft with the French military. A few original Bf 108 aircraft and a number of Nord-built examples still remain in flying condition.
David Mondey: The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II (Chancellor Press, 1996)
Rod Simpson: Airlife's World Aircraft (Airlife Publishing Ltd, 2001)
World Aircraft Information Files, Files 901 /15 & 902/10 (Aerospace Publishing Periodical)
Martin Middlebrook: The Schweinfurt-Regensburg Mission (Pen and Sword Aviation, 2012)
Last Major Revision: Jun 2018
|Machinery||One Argus As 10c 8-cylinder inverted-Vee piston engine rated at 240hp|
|Wing Area||16.40 m²|
|Weight, Empty||880 kg|
|Weight, Loaded||1,355 kg|
|Speed, Maximum||300 km/h|
|Speed, Cruising||260 km/h|
|Service Ceiling||6,000 m|
|Range, Normal||1,000 km|
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Captain Henry P. Jim Crowe, Guadalcanal, 13 Jan 1943