The scientific tourist #71 — the Me-262

Since last Monday’s image was of the Me-262‘s jet engine, I thought it would be appropriate to use this week’s slot for the aircraft itself — the world’s first operational turbojet fighter aircraft:


I took this picture of the Me-262 in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany. But a fair number of these craft survived the war, evidenced by the fact that you’ll see one in essentially any air & space museum of any size (at least in the U.S. and Europe).

But for its builders, the Me-262 was a definite case of too little, too late. The craft was essentially designed by 1939, but its engines weren’t available in any quantity until 1944 — by then, the course of World War II was essentially set. Allied bombing had sufficiently disrupted German industry that many Me-262s were built in forest clearings from parts shipped in from machine shops and small factories in highway tunnels and other improvised underground sites.

By the end of the war, 1,400 of the fighters had produced — but only 200 were fielded due to shortages of fuel and pilots. After the war, allied nations carted off as many of the flyable planes as they could grab for evaluation and experimentation. Sadly, after the tests were done, most Me-262s were either chopped up for scrap, or left to rust and rot. A sad fate for an aircraft that paved the way for much subsequent development of jet aircraft, both military and civilian.

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