secret.JPG (1920 bytes)


Main Page

Introduction

Tribute

Overview

The Mission

The Pilots

The Planes

1  2  3  4

Technical

Resources

Webmaster

 

W  I  L  L  O  W    G  R  O  V  E  ,    P  E  N  N  S  Y  L  V  A  N  I  A 

  

The Willow Grove 262 (again wearing its authentic wartime paint scheme) in late 2000.
Image courtesy of the DVHAA

 

Among the rarest of all surviving Me 262s is an original two-place trainer, recently returned to Willow Grove Naval Air Station outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Historically, this B-1a variant is one of 15 aircraft modified under contract by Blohm and Voss for use as a dual-control trainer.  Although its direct wartime role is still somewhat speculative, this aircraft almost certainly has some operational history in Luftwaffe service, and was one of the few Stormbirds known to have been captured completely intact.  It carries an original werknummer of 110639, and bore the number "White 35" when captured by American forces in May, 1945.

Following the arrival of the 54th ADS at Lechfeld, this was the first jet the Americans brought into the hangar for restoration.  Soon thereafter, it was named Vera, after Staff Sergeant Eugene Freiburger's sister-in-law.  Vera was test flown by German test pilot Ludwig Hofmann on the 14th or 15th of May, and an American operations officer accompanied him.  This officer, Captain Ward, became the first American to fly the Me 262.

On the 30th, Hofmann's counterpart, Karl Baur, took Colonel Watson on a familiarization flight in this aircraft, and it was used a few days later in training most of the American pilots.  Hofmann ferried the aircraft to Melun, France with the team, where it was renamed "Willie" in his honor.  At this time, the control number 555 was also assigned. 

 

The plane was loaded aboard the H.M.S. Reaper with other captured aircraft, and transported to Newark, New Jersey.  At Newark, it was among the aircraft handed over to the U.S. Navy for flight testing. 

The Navy assigned a "BurAer" number to this aircraft (121448), but there is no evidence that it ever flew in the formal test program.  It was listed at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in late 1945, and transferred to Willow Grove NAS (then NART Willow Grove) in 1946.  This forward-thinking action on the part of the station's maintenance officer, David Ascher, saved the jet from almost certain destruction.  The Navy cancelled the test program and scrapped the remaining jets shortly thereafter.

Ascher's prize joined other rare aircraft in the collection at Willow Grove.  There the jet was placed on static display along with other captured Axis aircraft.  Despite the significance of this unusual collection, the planes were exhibited outdoors for decades, where the ravages of time -- and souvenir hunters -- took their toll.  The Me 262B-1a was left in an extreme state of disrepair.  

In 1993 the Navy agreed to allow 555 to be used as a pattern aircraft for the Me 262 Project.  In conjunction with this effort, it recently underwent a complete restoration.  Post-restoration rollout photos are included at the top of this page, and on the Me 262 Project site mentioned above.

 

 

The trainer (#555) at Lechfeld.  Credit:  NASM.

555 at Melun, France on 27 June 1945.  Credit: webmaster's collection

555 at Patuxent NAS in early 1946.

The Navy retook possession of their prized B-1a in late 2001, where it was returned to permanent static display at Willow Grove NAS in eastern Pennsylvania.  For the most current information on this aircraft, visit the Delaware Valley Historical Aircraft Association web site.

 


Back         Main         Next


1998-2001 Sabre Design Group. All rights reserved.