In the closing days of World War II, the Germans were running out of war materiel. But they had some very advanced technology they wanted to use. So, they came up with some interesting things like the He-162. The People’s Fighter, it was a jet with a goodly portion built from wood.
The RAF Museum in London has a wonderful assortment of aircraft from all over the world - spanning the entire history of flight - and the Second World War is well represented. Among the craft you will see in one hall is this little fellow. The He-162. The Germans wanted to capitalize on their jet technology (like in the Me-262, one of which is also displayed in this museum) but with a design that would be easier and cheaper to build. Especially since everything was in short supply in 1945.
The high command asked the aircraft industry for bids and this is the one they chose. The design called for 1/3 of the craft - by weight - to be made from wood. You know: the stuff that comes from trees. The bulk of that is inside the plane, the ribs of the fuselage and so on.
It was said that the first flight of an He-162 took place less than 70 days from the start of its design. In February 1945, units were shipped to the Luftwaffe and a few of them saw combat. Records suggest they may have scored two victories. In all, about 300 or so were built.
But the planes exhibited “unpleasant flying characteristics,” according to the museum signage. When it was flying properly, it could manage 520 MPH with its single 1,760lb thrust BMW 003 turboject engine. It packed two 20 MM cannon just in case it did get something in its sights and an ejector seat, in case it got in someone else’s. The seat is missing from this example, however.
And even though they were not known as the most pilot-friendly craft ever built, this example flew 26 sorties and had a cumulative flight time of almost 12 hours before it was captured and brought to England. If you are ever in England, I’d highly recommend a visit to this museum. This is just one of the many unusual aircraft they have on display.
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Steve Lehto has been practicing law for 23 years, almost exclusively in consumer protection and Michigan lemon law. He wrote The Lemon Law Bible and Chrysler’s Turbine Car: The Rise and Fall of Detroit’s Coolest Creation.
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Schematic: “He-162” by Kaboldy - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:He-1…