Chronicles of Courage: Fw 190

Air Date: 05/23/2017
Source:
NBC Learn
Creator:
Kate Snow
Air/Publish Date:
05/23/2017
Event Date:
1944-1945
Resource Type:
Science Explainer
Copyright:
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
2017
Clip Length:
00:05:31

Erich Brunotte, a pilot in one of the most decorated fighter wings in the German air force, or Luftwaffe, during World War II, flies the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter plane. As the war progresses, design modifications to the Fw 190 present new challenges for German engineers as they strive to improve the plane's performance. "Chronicles of Courage: Stories of Wartime and Innovation" is a co-production of Vulcan Productions and NBC Learn.

Chronicles of Courage -- Fw 190

KATE SNOW, reporting:

World War II is raging on as American and British bombers strike from the skies deep into the Nazi heartland. The Allies attack Germany's forces with an around-the-clock bombardment.

ERICH BRUNOTTE (Pilot, German Air Force): The Americans mostly flew during the day, and the English at night. We flew defense of the Reich.

SNOW: Erich Brunotte is a pilot in Jagdgeschwader 51, one of the most decorated fighter wings in the German air force, known as the Luftwaffe.

BRUNOTTE: My group, my fighter wing, we flew until the last day of the war.

SNOW: He flies the famed, and much feared, Focke-Wulf Fw 190.

BRUNOTTE: The Focke-Wulf 190, with its bull engine, it was again wonderful for diving. Vroom!

SNOW: In combat, the Fw 190 is sturdy and deadly, with a powerful 14-cylinder BMW radial engine.

JASON MUSZALA (Flying Heritage Collection): It flies well. It's fast. It climbs well. And it performed well. So, I mean, all around, the Focke-Wulf 190 series was just an amazing aircraft.

SNOW: Throughout World War II, engineers at Focke-Wulf make modifications to the Fw 190, introducing updated models. Brunotte first experiences the "A" model and remembers its rugged frame.

BRUNOTTE: The Focke-Wulf 190, it was for me, more truck than car. It had that wide landing gear, below the right and left wing panels.

SNOW: But as the war grinds on, American airplanes become more advanced, and soon fly higher, farther, and faster than the German Fw 190-A. In order for the Fw 190 to keep ahead of the curve, German engineers replace the engine with an inline V-12 engine that is lighter, faster, and produces a lot more horsepower. After A, B, and C models, this now becomes the "D" model, nicknamed "Dora". It's a power house, with the speed and versatility to attack high altitude bombers and their lethal fighter escorts.

BRUNOTTE: The Dora is the improved Focke-Wulf 190. Only with the difference that it has a long, straight engine. With that really long engine, the enemy called us the “the long-nose.”

SNOW: The longer nose adds more weight toward the front of the aircraft, creating a new problem for engineers.

MUSZALA: That greatly affects the weight and balance of the aircraft.

SNOW: A plane's "weight and balance" is a crucial aspect of aircraft engineering and is a constant concern for pilots. All aircraft have strict limits on weight and how it’s distributed throughout the plane. Adding this new engine to the Dora moves the plane's center of gravity, an imaginary point on the airplane where it is perfectly balanced in the air. With the center of gravity so far forward, it can cause the nose to point downward, making takeoffs and landings much more dangerous. If the nose of the airplane is not level during flight, airflow over the plane is disturbed, causing an unstable flight or even a deadly crash. To correct this imbalance, engineers are forced to make further adjustments.

MUSZALA: They essentially had to make the tail longer or put weight back there. They just took a plug, so to speak, or just another extra, like 18-inch section of fuselage, and they just patched it right in, and it just made the fuselage a little bit longer.

SNOW: With the weight and balance now corrected, the improved Dora becomes a formidable fighter.

BRUNOTTE: That was the fastest aircraft I had ever flown. In battle, the Dora was unbeatable.

SNOW: But as effective as it is, the Dora comes too late in the war. Germany is unable to mass produce it quickly and the sheer number of Allied aircraft overwhelms the German defenses. Brunotte flies missions in his Dora until the war in Europe finally comes to an end in May of 1945.

BRUNOTTE: When the war was over, we were astonished. We positioned the planes nicely, and handed them over.

SNOW: After flying over 560 missions, Brunotte reluctantly surrenders to Allied forces.

BRUNOTTE: Personally, I couldn't cope with it. Damn it!

SNOW: Though the Dora's engineering advancements are still admired to this day, they are not enough to turn the tide of the war. With the Allied victory in Europe, Hitler's reign of terror finally comes to an end.

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