So, I get a text from my buddy Jim B. a few weeks ago “Want to go see the 262 at Arlington next month?” What do you say to a question like that? Hell yea! A few weeks later Jim and I take a short ride to the Arlington Airport, North of Seattle, where the Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum (FHCAM) is assembling their Messerschmitt Me-262 for initial flight tests.
Flight Tests !?!?!?!?!??
Yup, you read that right. Not only was the airframe restored as close as possible to it’s original state, the engines are actual Jumo-004’s modified with existing technology for better reliability and longevity. Initial flight tests are scheduled for later this year. The aircraft will then be put on display at the museums beautiful facility at Paine Field in Everette, Washington.
Messerschmitt Me-262A, Wk.Nr. 500453:
Due, in large part, to the effects of the Allied bombing campaign, German aircraft production in the final months of the war was often conducted in crude, improvised locations such as tunnels and forrests. As a product of its time, the FHCAM 262 went through final assembly in a forrest factory near Regensburg in March 1945. After being moved to Memmingen, the aircraft was test flown by a Messerschmitt factory pilot and transferred to Eger for modification into an unarmed photo-reconnaissance variant (Me-262A-1a/U3). This involved the removal of all nose armament and the installation of a pair of R6-50/30 vertical cameras. In addition, large, teardrop, fairings were required on each side of the nose to accommodate the camera gear. Due to the difficulty in replicating the recon version, the airframe was restored as a fighter variant (A-1), complete with nose armament. The paint scheme is identical to the livery worn by aircraft of the squadron 500453 was assigned to during its brief time in Luftwaffe service.
In May of 1945, the aircraft was found at Lechfeld Airfield and came under the control of the U.S. Army’s 54th Air Disarmament Squadron. The aircraft was turned over to a flight team headed by Lt. Colonel Harold Watson of “Watson’s Whizzers.” Under “Operation Lusty” Watson’s Whizzers identified German aircraft deemed of an advanced or novel design and flew/delivered them to Cherbourg, France for loading aboard HMS Reaper and ultimately, the United States. Prior to flight, all national insignia were hastily pained over.
After receiving foreign equipment number FE-4012, the aircraft was test flown at Patterson and Wright Fields for a total of 8 flights totaling 4 hours and 40 minutes. Testing was discontinued following four engine changes and two single-engine landings.
After its official evaluation the aircraft briefly fell into the hands of Howard Hughes before being picked up by legendary aircraft collector Ed Maloney of Planes of Fame Air Museum in 1955.
500453 was displayed in the museum’s collection, at times in a rather dire state, until 2000 when it was acquired by Paul Allen. Restoration of the airframe and engines has involved multiple companies beginning in England with JME Aviation Limited and continuing in the United States at GossHawk Unlimited Inc. (Arizona), Aero Turbine (engines: California), and Morgan Aircraft Limited (Washington State).
Following final assembly and testing, the aircraft will be disassembled and moved to eastern Washington (Moses Lake) for flight testing. Well-known warbird- and race-pilot Steve Hinton, who as a young boy “played” on 50043 while it was displayed at Planes of Fame, will be the test pilot. The aircraft will then join the amazing collection of flyable WWII aircraft on display the FHCAM facility at Paine Field, Everett, Washington.
As a Wing Nut I’ve been fascinated by the Me-262 for many a year. As a modeler, I’ve built two 1/72 scale Me-262’s and intend to build more in both 48th and 32nd.
Since the Schwalbe was introduced at the very end of hostilities, the aircraft wore many (many) schemes that utilized various forms of mottling, applied to both the fuselage and wings (as with 500453). This makes the 262 a very fascinating subject for scale modelers. With that in mind, I’m always looking for details that I’ve missed or have only recently been discovered and the restoration of 500453 uncovered multiple details that I found, well,….. fascinating 🙂
The riveting and panel work in some areas is rough verging on crude.
Detailed inspection of the airframe revealed a degree of roughness that was surprising. In particular, the fillets between the horizontal and vertical stabilizers have rough surfaces.
Doped Fabric Panel Seals:
I found this particularly fascinating (sorry). Large panel joins are covered with doped fabric rib tapes with pinked edges. These tapes are found in multiple places along the nose and empennage: a detail I will be replicating on future 262 models.
Riedel Starter Motors:
The depth of restoration undertaken on 500453 is evident when you see the restored and functional Reidel engine starter motors. One of these motors had just been tested before this unveiling and was reported to be surprisingly loud “like a lawnmower with no muffler”. Multiple requests to run one of them, just briefly, were hesitantly turned down: close, so close 🙁
For me, as for many, this is a big and very welcome surprise. Internal engine components that were prone to failure due to bad metallurgy such as fan blades were replicated using state of the art methods and materials. Interestingly, engine accessories such as pumps and regulators began to fail once the engine was functional. These failures required many hours of restoration work on the engine accessories alone.
If you want to hear what a Jumo 004 sounds like, check out the link to a video of a restored FHCAM engine below:
The newly manufactured wooden nose wheel well door replicates the original door also manufactured of wood.
Main Gear and Wheel Well Details:
Well, I hope you enjoyed the pics! I certainly enjoyed the experience of having amazing access to such a historically significant aircraft. If you’re in the Seattle area be sure to drop by the FHCAM facility and see the rest of their amazing collection of rare and beautifully restored warbirds.
For more information check out the FHCAM website here.
More Me-262 Pics Below ↓