|Blohm und Voss Bv 141.|
German aircraft designers are famous for doing crazy things towards the end of World War II. It wasn't just jets, either, but rocket planes and push/pull arrangements and the like.
|How many planes were designed to have a horizontal stabilizer only on one side? This may be the only one.|
When you delve into the Luftwaffe archives, there are some truly freaky designs there that have never been repeated. However, the German designers weren't just acting under desperation when they came up with radically different designs: they were doing the same thing throughout the conflict, and even before the war.
|The gondola offered excellent vision in almost all directions.|
Case in point: the German Blohm und Voss Bv 141. It was a response to a 1937 Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) specification for a single-engine reconnaissance plane for the Luftwaffe. While the RLM had other designers in mind, Blohm & Voss decided to participate. It came up with a radically new look and one of the most unique airplanes of the war.
Chief Designer Dr. Richard Vogt incorporated a perspex-glazed crew gondola onto an asymmetrical frame. The starboard body housed the crew, while the port side housed the engine. This had the advantage of giving the crew a wide field of vision.
The BV 141 flew, and flew well. Weight was balanced so that there was no tendency to roll. Rear machine guns were included for protection, and there were 2 forward-firing 7.92 MG 17 machine guns. The plane also could carry four 50 kg bombs under its wings. Cruising speed at normal operating altitude of 15,000 feet was 227 mph with a range of about 600 nautical miles.
|Nice color view of the craft in flight. This also gives a good view of the asymmetric rear stabilizer|
Ernst Udet, RLM Director-General of Equipment, liked the design, but ultimately the RLM went with the Focke-Wulf Fw 189 Uhu (owl), which was kind of underhanded because the specification had been for a single-engine plane.
Three prototypes and five evaluation versions of the Bv 141A were built and flown, then 12 BV 141Bs with a more powerful engine were delivered, for a total of 20 of the aircraft ordered and delivered. Some undoubtedly saw use in their intended role. The Uhu, though, was doing well, and the BV 141 engine was needed for other projects, so Luftwaffe interest lapsed.
|Rare footage of a BV 141 taking off.|
The Bv 141 was shelved in April 1940, but the 12 Bv 141B models only came out in 1942, with most arriving after June of that year - so there was some lingering interest in the plane. Almost all copies were destroyed before capture by their units as was customary in the Luftwaffe, with one damaged version reportedly brought back to England for examination. No known copies remain in existence.
|Several German Blohm und Voss Bv 141s, January 1942 (Scholz, Federal Archive).|