For decades I can recall reading that a third of all Bf 109s were lost due to landing and takeoff accidents. The design of the landing gear is frequently mentioned as a contributing cause. More specifically the wheel angle on the narrow, outward retracting gear being unlike the Spitfires vertical orientation greatly contributed to causing crashes. I am sure my first reading of this started with books I owned before they were “lost” by Movers in 1993. This 33.3% statistical claim is surprisingly similar to the claim that in the amount of man hours it took to build a Spitfire, three 109s could be built. Both statistical claims have shall we say, questionable parentage. I would like to investigate the family tree of the landing gear claim. Below I have listed a few sources referring to this specific claim or claims of landing gear design significantly contributing to 109 accidents and loses. I will continue to add to the list as I find new examples Please help me determine the origin of these claims by listing where you saw them, who made them, and the date they made them. PLEASE DO NOT POST REFERENCES OR OPINIONS DISPUTING THESE CLAIMS. If you find a published dispute of these claims, provide the source, name, date and quote of the claim they are disputing. I only want a list of where seen, who said what, and date so I can find the earliest date to determine origin of the claim of 11,000 Bf 109s lost in landing and takeoff accidents. Once that is found we all can figure out how these claims got started and why?
2003 August, Flight Journal, “The Best WWII Fighter” by Corky Meyer
“....11,000 of the 33,000 built were destroyed during takeoff and landing accidents...”
“Chief aerodynamicist for the the Messerschmitt Me 163 rocket fighter, Josef Hubert ....told me that Willy Messerschmitt had adamantly refused to compromise the Bf 109’s performance by adding the drag-producing wing-surface bumps and fairings that would have been necessary to accommodate the wheels with the proper geometry. This would have reduced its accident rate to within expected military-fighter ranges and made it a world standard!”
2000 Winter, Flight Journal Special Edition WWII Fighters, “The Bf 109s real enemy was itself!” by Corky Meyer
Meyer sites a letter in 1980 written by Colonel Johannes “Macki” Steinhoff -
“He sent me a long letter relating that I should be sure of the absolute vertical alignment of the tailwheel ais; he also wrote that its inherently weak brakes sould be in excellent condition because in WWII, the Luftwaffe lost 11,000 out of 33,000 Bf 109s to takeoff and landing accidents. Steinhoff directly attributed this terrible record to the bad geometry of the plane’s very unstable, splayed-out, narrow landing-gear configuration. In his letter, he said twice that if a German mechanic who really knew the Bf 109 wasn’t handy, I should not get into the cockpit.”
1999 December, Flight Journal, “Combat Warrior, The Historical View” by Captain Eric Brown
“But the Bf 109’s deficiencies almost equal its fabulous assets. The Luftwaffe lost 11,000 of these thoroughbred fighting machines in takeoff and landing accidents, most of them at the end of the War when they needed them most.”
“I felt certain, too, that the landing gear’s being slightly splayed outward aggravated the ground-looping tendency and contributed to the excessive tire wear and bursts. The Spitfire had a similar, narrow-track landing gear, but it was not splayed out like that of the Bf 109, and the Spitfire didn’t show any ground-looping propensities.”
Brown goes on to explain that high accident rates in 1939 resulted in a tailwheel lock being added to later models.
More to come when you or I find it. I hope we can find out who originally made the claim in question.