At the age of 15, “Willy” Messerschmitt, who would eventually become a near-legend during WW II, started his apprenticeship with a group of “free-flight” enthusiasts in his hometown of Bamberg, in Bavaria. It was 1913; some 10 years after the Wright Brothers had flown, when Messerschmitt joined with the 33-year-old architect Friedrich Harth in experiments to perfect the art of the sailplane. Following on the principles founded by the Wrights and their German predecessor Otto Lillienthal, this small band of self-taught aeronautical engineers endeavored to understand and test their ideas in flight.
A succession of monoplane designs, beginning with the model S 1 (segelflugzeug), undertook to achieve longer distance, higher altitude flights controlled by wing warping and variable wing incidence angle. Similar to what we now call hang gliding, succeeding models S 2 through S 7 sought to improve controllability, and to develop construction methods that were lightweight, yet durable. Harth was the most experienced, and consequently, was the group’s test pilot. The young Messerschmitt’s apprenticeship matured to that of a partner during construction of the S 3 glider, and progressed through succeeding models to become sole constructor, as his partner was called to service during World War I.
To read the article by Brian Silcox, click here.