Aeroplane - June 2009
AN ARTICLE IN the May 27, 1942, issue of the German periodical Flugsport included the following: “With its Bv 141 design,
Blohm und Voss Flugzeugwerke has developed for the Luftwaffe a completely new type of aeroplane, both in terms of its construction and form. During its fi rst sorties on the Eastern Front, the aircraft has recorded overwhelming successes. The world’s fi rst asymmetric aircraft is a creation of the company’s chief designer, Dr-Ing Vogt. Mass production has already been under way for quite some time at the fi rm’s factories located in eastern Germany.”
Every sentence contains a gross untruth: the “successes on the Eastern Front” were no more than propaganda; the machine itself was not the world’s fi rst asymmetric aircraft, and fi nally, the design never entered mass production. The report also concealed that, in Richard Vogt, the project possessed arguably the most imaginative German aircraft designer of the era.
By 1942 Vogt had already devised almost 200 aircraft projects for Blohm und Voss, some half a dozen of which were radical asymmetric designs.
The specifi cation Plans for the development of future aircraft were discussed at the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) LC II bureau conference of
Asymmetric aircraftAsymmetric aircraft
AS SHOCKING AND innovative as it may have seemed at the time, asymmetric aircraft design was nothing new when Dr Vogt employed it on the Ha 141. Indeed the fi rst aircraft to fl y, the early powered Wright aircraft, were asymmetric, having the pilot offset to one side to counterbalance the heavier engine alongside and a few inches extra wingspan on one side.
Germany also had a historical precedent for asymmetric design. As early as 1918 Hans Burkhard, Gothaer Waggonfabrik’s designer, had built the 77ft-span Gotha G VI heavy bomber (seen ABOVE), its fuselage being offset to port with a conventionally-mounted engine in the nose driving a tractor propeller, plus a nacelle mounted to starboard containing another engine with a pusher propeller and a gunner. The sole prototype, which reportedly fl ew well except for rear fuselage buffeting, never fl ew operationally but proved the concept of being able to provide a completely free fi eld of fi re for the machine’s defensive weapons.
Engendering a double-take each time it
is seen afresh, this photograph of the
Bv 141 V5 shows just what a radical departure Dr Richard Vogt’s asymmetric
concept was from the conventional design wisdom of the time — ironically,
the asymmetric principle was an ingenious way of balancing out the physical forces on the aircraft to provide
an inherently stable machine for the
AEROPLANE JUNE 2009