'They were made to fight': Rare Messerschmitt warplane finds temporary home at Sask. Aviation Museum in Saskatoon
SASKATOON -- A relic from the Second World War has found a new home at the Saskatchewan Aviation Museum and Learning Centre in Saskatoon.
The Messerschmitt ME109, one of the fastest, deadliest and innovative warplanes to come out of the Nazi war machine, is being rebuilt by retired aviation engineer Don Bradshaw.
It’s on display at the aviation museum for all history buffs to gaze upon.
“Actual original 109s, I believe there’s only two that are flying in the world right now,” Bradshaw said, standing in front of his latest project.
“There’s probably 50 to 100 museums that have them on display, but they are very scarce.
“These were war planes, they were made to fight.”
Key features on the German fighter made the ME109 stand out from the rest. From the fuel-injected engines, to the larger-calibre machine guns and cannons, Bradshaw said the ME109 was built for speed and destruction.
Topping speeds of 590 kilometres per hour and soaring at 39,000 feet, the ME109, known later as the BF109, is the most-produced fighter plane in history.
“This started off as a fuel-injected engine in 1935, there’s cars still built that don’t have fuel injection,” Bradshaw said. The Germans also experimented with nitrous oxide to give the ME109 a boost when it needed to catch up or speed away.
The planes could also be outfitted with a 20 mm cannon pod on each wing.
“You could have three 20 mm cannons and two 13 mm machine guns and that will put out a lot of force and that’s what it was all about.”
The 13 mm ammunition would out-gun the .50 calibre and .303 calibre guns on Allied planes.
“When they would try and disrupt the bomber formations they wanted a lot of firepower and a lot of the time they didn’t have a lot of time on target, it would be seconds so they more lead they can spray out the more chance of success,” Bradshaw said.
Dale Tiedeman, pilot and director with the aviation museum, said the Messerschmidt is an incredible addition to the museum and it’s already drawing interest beyond Saskatchewan.
“This one is such a rare aircraft to be in the shape that it is and what it’s going to be, I think it’s going to be a great draw for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and our museum,” he said.
Bradshaw has been working to rebuild the Messerschmitt ME109 for the past seven years with the help of Kermit Weeks, a private airplane collector in Florida. Bradshaw said the ME109 in Saskatoon is one of two Messerschmitts in Canada.
“We’re not done here there’s still lots to do,” Bradshaw said. The project is as much a treasure hunt that a rebuilding project, as many tools, parts and pieces to rebuild the ME109 are hard to find and not cheap.
Starting Oct. 1 the aviation museum and learning centre is open to visitors Wednesday to Saturday from 9 a.m to 4 p.m.
The Messerschmitt will be on display until at least spring 2021.