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GOT: The Blohm & Voss BV 238

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#1 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 11:27 AM

This time, the topic is about the biggest aircraft built during WWII. And its origins were even bigger. Big aircraft are not only "great". With rising numbers of passengers to be carried and miles or kilometers to be passed, they also become big in economic terms. While all passenger air traffic before WWII merely was a subsidized undertaking, Blohm & Voss chief constructor Dr. Richard Vogt's concept P.200 from 1940 was also a huge step towards the break-even point for transoceanic passenger travel.

And it really was a giant. While its outlines remind a bit to the Consolidated Coronado or Martin Mars prototypes, its dimensions are comparable to the Hughes H-4 or Saunders-Roe Princess, or even to the biggest contemporary aircraft. Learn more about the P.200 from the Secret Projects Forum:

http://www.secretpro...php/topic,10592

Well, times did change, and not to the peaceful. Early in 1941, Dr. Vogt was told by the Luftwaffe to convert his project for military service. His firm already was engaged in constructing very big-size aircraft, the BV 222. The little high-seas take-off and landing performance of this flying boat type was well known. A new construction should heal this problem, thus making the aircraft operate from the sea surface even at a wind force of 5 Bft (the BV 222 could not manage more than 2 Bft). We see the BV 238 wearing a completely different bow form than the BV 222 has, obviously dealing with the problem.

In posession of a flying boat like the BV 238 is, chances for unconventional warfare opened. Especially for cooperation with submarines this aircraft looked to be very suitable. It even is not self-understood which of them is the offensive weapon and which one only is the provider. The possible tasks for the BV 238 were the following:

1) Observation of sea areas over longer times. It was planned to send the aircraft out to the ocean not only for hours, but until to four weeks. In case of darkness or bad weather, it should water and wait for the next chance to take off.

2) Of course to fight ships, using all thinkable weapons, like cannons up to a calibre of 10 cm, conventional and glide bombs, even to employ a parasite fighter.

3) Harassment attacks on the US East Coast.

4) Functioning as an instrument to maintain control over a new hypothetical German colonial empire.

Please note these were all demands by the German navy. The Luftwaffe denied them and saw the big flying boats only as transporters, preferring the Heinkel He 177 for high-seas reconnaissance tasks instead. Remember the BV 222 only got to this role in the first half of 1943 because at that point of time the He 177 still was not really serviceable.

But even if you see the BV 238 in a more conventional role, this aircraft still has a special feature no other transporter seaplane of this time had. The big front doors (never open on the pictures, you only see a small, separated door within the big door open) makes it also suitable for amphibian landing operations, giving the opportunity to release men and, very probably, vehicles too on a beach to occupy.

Besides all these favours, a special demand was given about especially favourable maintenance conditions for the engines, also to be performed out on the ocean. We shall get to this later in detail.

It is not known when construction work on the first BV 238 prototype V-1 really started, but it most probable during 1943. Blohm & Voss was busily producing BV 222s, delivering the last one in May 1944, so the firm should have been equipped with a considerable stockpile of aluminium. Like the other flying boats, it was built in the firm's aircraft producing site in Hamburg-Finkenwerder. The area is still active in aircraft production, now belonging to EADS and continuing the tradition of building big aircraft in form of the Airbus A380. The old aircraft halls are still standing and are still in use.

Sporting much more weight of a BV 222, the BV 238 needed high-performance engines to operate. The originally foreseen Jumo 223 diesel engines never became available, so it was necessary to spare six very valuable DB 603 engines from the needy fighter production program.

By beginning of March 1944, the huge aircraft became completed and the first flight should soon take place. For the purpose of high-seas operations, special emphasis was put on water stability and taxiing traits. Eventually these proved especially favourable as the aircraft (V-1, registrated RO+EZ) ploughed through the waters of Hamburg's harbour before taking off for the first time on 11 March 1944, under the control of Blohm & Voss chief test pilot Flight Captain Helmut Rodig.

From the beginning, the aircraft showed exceptionally good flight characterists. Reason for this was the Blohm & Voss-own servo control which made the pilot feel to fly a much smaller aircraft. In the beginning, the thread mechanism to rectract the supporting floats was not yet installed, this happened later, but this is why you can often see on pictures the BV 238 flying with the floats down. All in all there were little complaints, although teething troubles appeared like in any new aircraft. To number some of them, e.g. the installed version of the DB 603 engine had no servo mechanism to lower the power. Retracting gas was difficult and the rod system became damaged. The backside doors (never to be noticed on photographs) were a false construction, thus hampering the cooperation with boats. The airscrews needed to be fitted for reverse setting to get the aircraft slow down on water on the shortest possible distance.

Once when Oberst Siegfried Knemeyer visited (at that time head of the Technical Office of the Luftwaffe and responsible for judging new aircraft) he got in a way enthusiastic about the flying ship that he instantly wished a second flight after having had the first one under his control. Until 23 June 1944, the BV 238 successfully went through 38 test flights from the river Elbe near Hamburg. But the time for strategic actions for the Luftwaffe was over, and the RLM ordered all flight tests of the BV 238 to be stopped.

In August 1944, Blohm & Voss withdrew the aircraft to the Schaalsee, a lake about 80 km northeast of Hamburg. Works on the aircraft continued, and it was permanently kept in airworthy condition. When you carefully look at pictures of the BV 238, you can see some special gadgets. One is the huge mast on the fuselage. It was only installed for testing reasons, carrying instruments for flow measurement. Another, when you look at the ventral fin, protruding from it closely over the fuselage there is a round tube. This is - a suction intake duct for a refrigerator! Intended for to keep cool a stock of foods for the crew when operating in tropical regions...
Not visible on the following pictures is that every engine had its own maintenance crane behind it. By this, the crew was able to independently change complete engines, a very important help for situations when the aircraft should operate on its own for longer times.

The demanded change of the airscrews took place, thus making the aircraft able to turn on the spot like a tank. Only flight tests were forbidden, taxiing tests were not mentioned. So, the aircraft went to its final parking position without any help from tug boats - moving itself in the backward direction. Japanese General Otani, responsible in the embassy for contacts on a technical level, inspected the aircraft and applied for a license to produce it in the Land of the Rising Sun.

There is a die-hard myth in literature as well as in the internet. E.g. you still can find it in the English language Wikipedia article about the BV 238. Lt. Urban Drew and his pack of Mustang pilots from 361 FG claimed on 18 September 1944 having found the BV 238 on the Schaalsee, subsequently attacking and destroying it. But due to lots of witnesses and the notes of Dr. Vogt, in winter 1944/45 the aircraft was still well alive. What Drew really did destroy, if anything, remains a mystery. Voices telling he really hit a Potez-CAMS 161 instead, located in a bay of the island of Rügen lots of miles to the east, are as well unbelievable, as the only known sample (really?) of this type was destroyed months before on Lake Constance in Southern Germany.

Near the end of WWII, there were rumours arising about Nazi celebrities trying to escape from Germany using long-range airplanes. Regarding the BV 238, it was only Dr. Vogt, who was told by "his pilot" (Rodig?, RT) to take "three families", third one to be the onboard mechanic and his, to flee to South America should the Soviets be up to conquer Hamburg. Well, the Russians did not come, but the RAF did. The BV 238 had been still in flyable condition and completely fueled up, when days before the end of WWII a Nazi party man appeared and demanded the gasoline to be pumped off to trucks, and went off. Between 23 and 26 April 1945, British Hawker Typhoons spotted the aircraft, returning the other day and destroying it by machine gun fire. The real amount of damage done is unsure, it is told the engine oil caught fire, the fuselage broke in two and the aicraft sank, with the wing still being over the level of the shallow lake.

The wreck kept on being there until 1947/48, thus giving local children an adventurous - and dangerous - playing ground. Then it was blown up and scrapped, the valuable aluminium and other materials to be fed into the needy German post-WWII economics. Decades later divers led by seaplane expert Prof. Dr. Elmar Wilczek found some leftovers, now possibly being kept in a museum (information from the German Google earth forum). Dr. Vogt really went to America - but within "Operation Paperclip" to the USA, where he spent the rest of his professional life.


Not mentioned:
V-2 and V-3 protoypes found unfinished when Allied troops seized the factory halls in Hamburg.
FG 227: A scale model for gaining experience, buit by students in Prague, but was finished too late for being evaluated.
BV 250: A possible landplane version.

Pictures:

#1: Drawing of the P.200.
5d120ee5.jpg?t=1295001958

#2: Dimensions of the P.200 compared to modern big aircraft:
f3486bf5.jpg?t=1295002020

#3: Small front door open, big one closed:
52e5544c.jpg?t=1295002178

#4: Anchoring action.
e7927ad1.jpg?t=1295002258



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#2 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 11:29 AM

#5: Fast boat moving off.
Posted Image

#6: From above in the harbour near the factory location:
Posted Image

#7: Taxiing, not so slowly as one may mention:
Posted Image

#8: The moment of taking off:
Posted Image

#3 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 14 January 2011 - 11:36 AM

First time here? Scroll up please!

#9: Seconds later:
2a7e3fe2.jpg?t=1295002644

#10: Hovering over the river:
3d234fea.jpg?t=1295002724

#11: Seconds before directly overpassing:
fc6aa7a8.jpg?t=1295002809


Sources:

About the possible military use of the BV 238:
Sönke Neitzel, "Der Einsatz der deutschen Luftwaffe über dem Atlantik und der Nordsee 1939 - 1945", publishing house Bernard & Graefe, Bonn, 1995.

About the fate of the BV 238:
"Luftfahrt History" magazine no. 1.

In the beginning personal conclusions about the P.200, later about the BV 238 as landing craft.


Picture sources:

Mezzi civili di fantasia: #1
Secret Projects Forum: #2
Flyingboatforum: #3 - 7, #10
en.vikivisual.com: #9
bw.hilchenbach.de: #8
zona-militar.com.ar: #11


Regards, RT

(P.S. Please notice the foo fighter orb between the outmost engine and the float on the portside in picture #11. In picture #9, you see a foo fighter pan. The extraterrestrials watched everything, and still do! :D)



#4 GregP

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 04:29 AM

Hi Holger,

Great post, as usual. I've been a bit fascinated by both the BV222 and BV238 for years. I like the 222 better aesthetically, but the 238 is, without a doubt, a wonder of the time. Even today it would be a BIG aircraft and, with modern turboprops, could have as much power as it needed to lift the big loads.

I have often wondered why there are few big seaplanes around, including flying boats. I suppose it is because of salt water corrosion ... but, the Martin Mars flying boats seem to soldier on ... probably because they are moored in freash water.

It seems the BV238 could make a living today ... if any were around, but maybe I misunderstand the market. There are any number of large lakes around the world in which it would seem a large flying boat could make a big difference in freight delivery. Maybe not ...

Anyway, thanks for a great post, my friend!

By the way, we finished the YP-59A canopy last weekend! No more canopy work! Hurray! ... back to sheet aluminum, I suppose.

#5 Romantic Technofreak

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Posted 18 January 2011 - 03:03 PM

Thank you Greg!:)

Seaplanes are more expensive to operate than landplanes are - sadly so. I wish they would resume the Coral Route:

http://www.teal.co.n...teal/TEAL 2.htm

this time using Beriev Be-200 instead. There should be enough customers for this...:rolleyes:

The BV 238 would look great alongside the Martin Mars', sharing their paint scheme and joining them in firefighting. When in many years our successors may not have too much to do, I would suggest a new department of the Chino Air Museum to start building a BV 238 replica on Lake Elsinore!:D

BTW Greg, we always appreciate any progress in the Chino projects as you kindly use to tell us. Even if we don't comment right away.

Bestr regards, RT

#6 Wuzak

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Posted 19 January 2011 - 06:24 AM

Thank you Greg!:)

Seaplanes are more expensive to operate than landplanes are - sadly so. I wish they would resume the Coral Route:

http://www.teal.co.n...teal/TEAL 2.htm

this time using Beriev Be-200 instead. There should be enough customers for this...:rolleyes:

The BV 238 would look great alongside the Martin Mars', sharing their paint scheme and joining them in firefighting. When in many years our successors may not have too much to do, I would suggest a new department of the Chino Air Museum to start building a BV 238 replica on Lake Elsinore!:D

BTW Greg, we always appreciate any progress in the Chino projects as you kindly use to tell us. Even if we don't comment right away.

Bestr regards, RT


Why bother with teh Bv when the Spruce Goose is just up the road itching to be made airworthy again and fly!

#7 GregP

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 01:21 AM

Wuzak,

I've seen the Spruce Goose, and have been inside it ... about 20 years ago. I'd hate to trust a 65-year old wood spar that has not been exactly well-stored for some years. I think the REASON it never flew more than once is that Howard Hughes knew it didn;t have enough control throw, particularly in the rudder, to fly much at all. He proved it WOULD fly but knew it SHOULDN'T.

Today, with hydraulics being the way they are, it would be easier to control the ting, but the Spruce Goose had manual cables!

Also, it had NO spruce in it ... it was basically maple.

I think the BV 22 and BV 238 proved THEY could fly well. Howard never proved that, even though his plane IS impresive and DID fly once.

Anyway, to get back into the spirit of the reply, I basically agree that we should resurrect some flying boats, assuming they could be made to pay for themselves.

#8 Wuzak

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:11 AM

You mean like this?

Posted Image

#9 Kutscha

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Posted 20 January 2011 - 03:39 PM

Also, it had NO spruce in it ... it was basically maple.


The entire airframe and surface structures are composed of laminated wood (primarily birch).

#10 GregP

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Posted 21 January 2011 - 02:00 AM

Hi Kutscha,

I knew the structure was largely birch, but we were told the Duramold wooden skin was made of resin, paper, and maple plywood when we toured the thing 20 years ago. It was in Long Beach Harbor and my girfriend and I stayed on the Queen Mary for the weekend.

It was a commercial operation, and I suppose they could have been wrong since most of the Fairchild Duramold documentation says resin, paper, plywood (not necessarily maple plywood), and a few other items thrown in for good measure.

It would not surprise me to find out the Duramold used in the H-4 was not maple-based. Do you know for sure? I don't; I just remember what they said it was at the time. They had a small example of Duramold unfinished, but it looked more like regular plywood than anything else to me.

Since many builders of today use spruce for wings spars in wood aircraft, I had assumed the spars were spruce, but I don't know for sure. For all I know, they may have been Aluminum! I doubt it, but did not pursue the spar material when I was there at the time or even in 2003 when I was in Oregon and the H-4 was just down the road in McMinville, where it remains today. The Evergreen Museum in McMinville has some wonderful aircraft in it. The Curtiss Falcon simply makes me want to go fly it RIGHT NOW. Beautiful and art-deco style in the extreme. I WANT one.

Edited by GregP, 21 January 2011 - 06:02 AM.






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