by Martin Waligorski
Say Hello to Marge
I believe this month’s subject will come as no surprise. With our growing collection of World War II aircraft walkarounds, sooner or later we would have to cover the arguably best fighter of them all, the Me 262. You knew it, didn’t you? So, here it is!
Of over 1500 Me 262s produced there are only 8 survivors today, or 10 if you count the two more that were assembled after the war in Czechoslovakia as Avia S-92. Our subject is the preserved machine at the Planes of Fame museum at Chino, California. The museum’s machine is a Me 262A-1a, a ”pure” fighter version. It has been one of the machines captured in Germany by Air Technical Intelligence Group (TAIC) crews under Col. Watson. It’s werk nummer is remains unknown to the author, but it is stated that this particular machine was originally produced as a reconnaissance variant, and later flew with Kommando Braunegg carrying a white number ’25’ in service.
Shortly after its capture, a ferry pilot painted his girlfirend’s name, Marge, on the nose and it was used for the aircraft ever since. Together with other TAIC findings, the aircraft was shipped to the United States aboard the H.M.S. Reaper and then sent to Freeman Field in Indiana. It was used for extensive flight tests, carrying the U.S. evaluation serial of FE/T-2-4012. The adjacent image shows Colonel Harold E. ”Hal” Watson in a post-war test flight in the United States. Obviously it is a composite photo; in fact, the close up portion appears to be extracted from the main image.
In late 1947, Marge was sent to Hughes Aircraft Company, overhauled and returned for further tests at Wright Field. Later it served at Glendale Aeronautical School where it was used to instruct future jet mechanics. In 1954-55, it was relegated to the scrap heap, but was luckily saved by Ed Maloney, the founder of Planes of Fame Museum at Chino.
The photographs have been taking during my visit to Chino in spring 1999.
Me 262A-1a/U3 in detail
Most of the aircraft museums in the world feature tightly-packed hangars, and so even Chino. During my visit I found the 262 standing in the corner between the Heinkel He 162 to the left and the P-39 Airacobra to the right.
The first impression is how strikingly elegant design it is, and how modern it looks today despite almost sixty years that passed since it’s conception. A combination of ground-breaking technology and timeless design is a rare occurrence in history; to me, the Me 262 embodies the German engineering genius at it’s greatest.
One of the distinctive features of the 262 was it’s nose undercarriage, shown here.
The Hier aufbocken stencil means ”jack up here”.
The result provides a good detail view of the leg, retraction strut, the wheel – and the characteristic tire thread pattern that nowadays would be an expected feature of all scale models of the Me 262.
Port engine nacelle. Visible are the two footsteps for wing access. Worn off spring load mechanisms allow the footstep covers to stay in the recessed position; normally these would lie flush with the skin of the nacelle.
Of note is also loose fit of the removable engine covers.
Rear part of the nacelle. Two rows of vents are not very noticeable from this angle.
A peek into the blast tube of the Jumo 004. The prominent element is the ”Zwiebel” – an onion-shaped coaxial jet efflux regulator.
An interesting feature is that the nacelle skin is not fixed to the engine itself. Rather, it’s fit around the rear part of the engine is left to it’s own devices.
Air intake of the port engine. the central cone housed the engine strarter – in itself a small piston engine, which in turn was started by hand using a prominent pull handle. Note the two circular holes at the sides of the cone. These were simply exhaust outlets for the piston engine.
In Luftwaffe, the yellow triangle symbols were used to denote types of fuel/liquid used and in this particular case are believed to refer to the engine oil and fuel for the starter. One of the filler cap covers is missing.
The aircraft’s canopy sits just too high for any good photo to be taken, but here is what’s on offer in this essay. Note the access step. The canopy frame is painted in RLM 66 Schwartzgrau rather than in camouflage color, a typical factory finish of the late-war Messerchmitt production.
Messerchmitt Me 262 carried what was arguably the heaviest armament of any first-line World War II fighter, consisting of four 30mm MK 108 cannon, with entire firepower concentrated in the nose.
Spent cartridges were ejected through four rectangular openings at the lower side of the fuselage. Two of them are visible here.
Another photo that only modellers would appreciate… Detailed view of the aileron balance actuator on the underside of the wing.
This article was originally published in IPMS Stockholm Magazine in September 2000.