Messerschmitt Me 209 V-1

The world's fastest piston engined airplane was this Messerschmitt Me 209 V1 which set the absolute world speed record of 469.22 mph on April 26, 1939. Aircraft was flown by Flugkapitan Fritz Wendel, (shown below being congratulated by designer Willy Messerschmitt). Power was a specially designed Daimler-Benz DB 601 ARJ twelve cylinder inverted liquid cooled engine of 1,800 hp which could be boosted to 2,300 hp for short bursts. Aircraft was completed in June 1938 and first flew August 1, 1938.

Just a few weeks prior to Wendel's flight, on March 30, 1939, 22-year old Hans Dieterle flew a Heinkel He 100 V8 at a speed of 463.92 mph to break the then existing absolute speed record set June 2, 1933 by Italian pilot Francesco Angello in a Macchi-Castoldi MC-72. Angello's record was 440.7 mph. He flew a tandem engine, open cockpit, externally braced wing, twin float seaplane. Dieterle's record lasted less than a month. The record set by Wendel in the Me 209 V1 would last for 30 years. It was broken on August 16, 1969 by American Darryl G. Greenamyer in a highly modified 3,100 hp F8F-2 Bearcat "Conquest 1", at an average speed of 483.041 mph. Some parts of the Me 209 V1 still exist today, stored in the Polish Air Museum at Krakow.

The ME-209 Speed Record stood for over 30 years until August 16 1969 when an American named Darryl G Greenamyer broke it by flying 483.041 mph in a highly modified F8F-2 Bearcat.

The Me 209 was intended from the outset as a record breaker but the basic fuselage was used in the otherwise totally different Me 209 V4 in the effort to build a Bf 109 successor. The snake was added as a bit of propaganda.

In the years between 1935, when Germany first revealed formation of the Luftwaffe, and the outbreak of World War II, Adolf Hitler was most anxious to impress upon the world the capability of the fighter aircraft that equipped his new air force. This resulted in design of the Messerschmitt Me 209 to be used to establish a new absolute world speed record. With only superficial resemblance to the Bf lO9, the Me 209 was tailored around a specially-built Daimler-Benz DB 601ARJ engine with a take-off rating of 1342 kW (1 800 hp), which could be boosted to a peak of 1715 kW (2,300 hp) for very short periods. This capability proved sufficient for the Me 209 to set a new record, Flugkapitan Fritz Wendel flying the first specially-prepared proto type on 26 April 1939 at an average speed of 755.136 km/h (469.22 mph).

At this point the German propaganda ministry stepped in, details for ratification submitted to the FAI identifying the record breaking aircraft as the Messerschmitt Me 109R in an attempt to convince other nations that the record had been gained by a variant of the Luftwaffe's new fighter. Nevertheless, the record stood for just over 30 years, but although attempts were made by the Messerschmitt company to develop a new fighter based on the ME-209 design, Me 209A prototypes flying later in the war, the programme was abandoned.