FACTS

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Name Michael Herr. // Born 1958. // Job Aircraft structural engineer. // Flying since 1976. // Types include Me 108, Do 27, Piper J3 (land & sea), BO209 Monsun, conventional single engine aircraft. // Licenses PPL (A), flight instructor, aerobatics and night flight license. // Display types Me 108. // Total flying hours more than 1,700; more than 5,400 landings. // Special experience Degree in aerospace engineering, test pilot training at the National Test Pilot School in Mojave, USA // Other Former flight test engineer for Tornado aircraft, RANGER jet trainer and head of flight test for EUROFIGHTER at the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) in Manching. Head of flight testing for EUROCOPTER Germany in Donauwörth. Head of quality and the customer center //

INTERVIEW

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What type of aircraft do you fly at the moment at the Messerschmitt Museum of Flight? The Me 108 "Taifun". // What makes flying classic planes so special for you? Each of these rarities has special features unique to its own time. Being able to experience them in “live” is really something special. It is also great knowing that we are helping keep some outstanding achievements of German aviation construction alive and in the air. // When you fly the aircraft today, do you appreciate the pioneering spirit of the pilots, technicians and engineers who blazed a trail all those years ago? Absolutely. The Me 108 is an ingenious machine. Its ground-breaking design never fails to amaze me. // What do you feel when you fly the aircraft today? It makes me very proud. I also feel a great sense of responsibility having been given the opportunity to pilot a “flying monument to the aviation industry” (quote from Professor Madelung). // What are the differences between preparing to fly modern aircraft and these classic planes? What do you have to pay particular attention to? Our preparation is defined by the special characteristics of these vintage aircraft (e.g. tail wheel, systems, human-machine interface, flight characteristics, performance, etc.) and by our own stringent safety standards. // How do you familiarize yourself with the vintage technology? What’s different? We have to read as many historical documents and reports as possible, talk to mechanics and pilots from these periods and network with other people who work with these types of aircraft. // How do you gain the right experience? What information can you use from older pilots and documentation? The best way to gain experience is by flying classic aircraft. Learning to fly taildraggers – and maintaining this skill – is becoming increasingly difficult today because modern aircraft are equipped with nose wheels. It’s also almost impossible to charter taildraggers nowadays. That’s why I fly my own Pipe J3 Cub – it’s a classic plane that was used to train two-thirds of United States Air Force pilots in the Second World War. // There are a number of people and organizations that fly these machines worldwide. Do you talk to each other and help each other out? Keeping these vintage machines airworthy can only be done with the support of a global network of like-minded individuals. We exchange hardware and expertise throughout this community – although there is definitely a certain amount of competition too. // Have you had any dangerous moments when flying? Isn’t this “old” technology prone to failure? It all comes down to calculating and minimizing risk. We do this by ensuring an extremely high, uncompromising standard of technical support and deploying a stringent, safety-oriented flight management system based on the same principles used to test experimental aircraft. So yes, I have been in emergency situations before. However, our systems ensure that we are always well prepared. // How often do you train for flying these vintage planes? How many hours do the machines spend in the air each year? We want to put as little strain as possible on the aircraft (to ensure they last as long as possible) but we also need to fly a maximum number of hours to maintain pilots’ skills. Finding the right balance can be tricky. The Me 108 spends around 30 hours a year in the air. // Could you ever imagine giving up this kind of “pure” flying? Never! For a pilot like me, this kind of “hands-on” flying is very much a question of love it or leave it. Once you catch the bug, though, you never want to stop. // How do you prepare for an air show? Which shows are a MUST for you? We have to look at the requirements set down by the organizers and/or authorities as well as conditions on site and see whether these align with the requirements of our machines. Conditions can vary significantly from one event to another. The next show is always the most important. I don’t have preferences when it comes to the size or type of event. However, as we can’t do any aerobatics with the Me 108, I believe that it really comes into its own at smaller events where its unique engine sound, silhouette and dynamic speed can be appreciated. // In your career as a pilot at the Messerschmitt Museum of Flight, what experience has impressed you most and had the most lasting effect on you? No contest: My flight with Chuck Yeager (the first pilot to break the sound barrier). Test pilots and astronauts have been my idols since I was eleven years old. They had a huge influence on my career. To have one of my heroes sitting next to me in the Me 108 cockpit was incredible. Even today, it still seems to be an almost surreal experience. It’s certainly a flight I’ll never forget. // Interviewer: Volker Radon.

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Michael Herr and Chuck Yeager in the Me 108
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Messerschmitt Museum of Flight

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