Which planes are you currently working on at the Messerschmitt Museum, and in what function? What is your role at the museum? I am a project manager and consultant on a wide range of projects. At the moment, I am working on a project to restore the cockpit of the Me 108. The Messerschmitt Foundation wants the cockpit to be restored to its original condition yet also contain all the 21st Century technical equipment required for CVFR and daytime flight. We are also incorporating a modern, glass cockpit that can be hidden from view behind two hatches when the plane is on the ground. The original cockpit design from the 1930s included two storage compartments for maps. We widened these to ensure that the plane looks exactly as it did back in the day on the ground. In the air, however, it can be flown using the latest avionics. We have had to convert to measuring in knots and feet because instruments such as the airspeed indicator and altimeter are metric. This mix of old and new in the cockpit is a matter of necessity as there is no guarantee that we’ll be able to source the original instruments in the future. There are a number of technical highlights in this project, including the modern airborne collision avoidance system to warn pilots of other aircraft in the immediate proximity (this is after all a camouflaged plane!) and an engine monitoring system to keep a watchful eye on the valuable Argus AS 10 C engine. // What brought you to the Messerschmitt Museum of Flight? My friendship with Hans Becker. He told me that he was working as a mechanic and pilot on the Me 108 at the Messerschmitt Museum of Flight at Manching airfield. When I came to visit him here I was immediately hooked and applied to be part of the team. Hans had an immense wealth of experience and I was able to learn a great deal from him. He unfortunately passed away in October 2013. // What makes working on the Messerschmitt aircraft so special for you? It gives me a unique insight into the technology from the 1920s to the 1950s. I also get to experience first-hand the planes that my grandfather flew. After all, he was the one who first got me interested in flying. My grandfather was fighter pilot with the JG 54/9 unit from 1942 on. He flew the Me 109 and the FW 190 and was a test pilot for the Me 262 at AGO Flugzeugwerke in Oschersleben until the end of war. The work I do here at the museum has a very personal significance for me. // Does working on these planes give you a sense of the pioneering spirit of the age and an understanding of the engineering feats achieved from the 1920s to the 1950s? Yes, it does. Working with this technology enables you to grasp – literally – just how special these engineering achievements were. I am particularly fascinated by the vision of the engineers at the time. Many systems they developed are still fit for purpose today, almost 80 years later. // How do you feel when you work on these machines today? I feel very proud to be part of this team. From my technical colleagues, I am learning about aspects of aviation in a level of detail that just wasn’t possible during my training as a pilot. The museum lets me look beyond my day-to-day experiences as a captain of one of the world’s most modern passenger aircraft and gives me a unique insight into the way aircraft have developed. Even searching for spare parts in one of our warehouses can be a journey back through time. // How does working with the technology of original and replica aircraft at the Messerschmitt Museum compare with today’s modern machines? The Me 108 cockpit restoration project is a perfect example of how engineers back in the day used simple methods to develop technologies that really stand the test of time. It’s incredible to think that we can connect an airspeed indicator from the 1930s to a test device today and, after replacing a few seals, it will function almost perfectly. The biggest difference for me is that there are hardly any spare parts left today. If we do find one, we have to put in a huge amount of effort to bring it up to scratch so that it can pass the numerous tests required for certification in line with today’s regulations. We have to complete numerous procedures and often don’t find out until the very end whether all the effort we put in was worth it. Many parts don’t make it past the corrosion and crack tests. // What details are particularly important when working on historical aircraft? Almost every detail is crucial – regardless of how insignificant it may seem. The individual aircraft types vary significantly. This means that often a small detail in the big puzzle of spare parts is the key to restoration success. Our team collaborates with a number of different specialists here – and we are grateful for any help we receive. We are often approached by technology enthusiasts at air shows who want to pass on heirlooms to the team. These documents and spare parts are a great help to us. We access a wide range of databases, for example, to find documentation that was lost in 1945 and subsequent years. Mr. Oliver Jordan in Berlin, for example, has been a great help to us. We’ve benefited hugely from his expert knowledge. // What questions are you asked most on flying days? We are asked a wide range of questions by many different people – from real expert enthusiasts to complete aviation novices. As technicians and pilots, we try to give the best possible answers to every question. Many visitors, for example, want to know if the engines in the Me 262 are original. We are also frequently asked if the instruments in the other machines are original. We also end up asking lots of questions ourselves as many of visitors we talk to turn out to be experts in certain areas. This is can often be a great help. The public flying days are always extremely interesting and informative for the whole team. // Is there any documentation left covering the technology in these “old” machines? Yes, definitely. As I mentioned earlier, we are keen to receive any donations of documentation. We are extremely grateful for these as many documents are privately owned. We also use a lot of online resources and work very closely with the Hafner aviation archive, an organization that frequently provides us with their kind support. // Are there many differences between the checklists used today and those used in the past? Definitely. The term checklist didn’t really become part of German aviation until the Americans introduced it after World War II. Checklists made their way into almost every area of aviation. Documentation at the time was very detailed. However, checklists weren’t really used consistently at all. Accidents were frequent in the days before checklists. This is a constant reminder to today’s crew and technicians that checklists have to be systematically followed in all areas of aviation and engineering and should not just be brushed off as an irritating task. // Do you prefer working with jets or piston engines? As a pilot on large jet airplanes, I am naturally drawn to the technology of the old propeller aircraft. I particularly like watching my colleagues work on our DB605.
Thank you for talking to us! The interview was carried out by Volker Radon.
Messerschmitt Museum of Flight