Updated date:

The Bf 108 Taifun

Initial Development

Messerschmitt designed an aircraft to compete in the 1934 Challenge de Tourism Internationale (Tourism International Challenge) race. The aircraft was originally known as the Messerschmitt M 37. The German Air Ministry later designated the aircraft the Bf 108. It was commonly referred to as the Me 108.

The Bf 108A prototype, D-ILIT, first flew in June 1934. It was the first all-metal aircraft Messerschmitt built. Its advanced features included an enclosed cabin and an outward retracting landing gear. It had a speed range spectrum from 38 to 181 mph (61 to 290 Km/h).[i]


[i] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.

Before World War II

Seven Bf 108As entered the Challenge de Tourism Internationale 1934. The Bf 108A won the technical competition with 450-452 points. Bf 108s took the top three places in the fuel consumption and maximum speed trials. A Bf 108 was damaged in the technical competitions and had to give up. A Bf 108A, flown by Theo Osterkamp, finished 5th. Polish RWD-9S aircraft finished 1st and 2nd.[i]

The first foreign pilot to test the Bf 108 was Charles Lindbergh.[ii] Famed German aviatrix Elly Beinhorn flew the Bf 108A, D-IJES, on a round trip from Berlin to Constantinople in a single day in 1935. Her plane was named Taifun (Typhoon). The Taifun became the Bf 108’s designated name. Beinhorn flew Taifun from Berlin to Capetown and back in 1937. She also finished 2nd in the International Circuit of the Oases race in 1937.[iii]

During the 1936 Olympic Games Germany held some aviation rallies. The Bf 108 competed in these rallies. Brindlinger, a Messerschmitt pilot, ferried film of the Olympic events to the Swedish press.[iv]

Bf 108s logged 13,500 miles of trouble-free flying. Messerschmitt test pilot Hans Seidemann flew a Bf 108 in the 1938 Isle of Man race. [v]


[i] Memim Encyclopedia, https://memim.com/challenge-international-de-tourisme-1934.html, last accessed 1/1/20.

[ii] Asisbiz, Messerschmitt Bf 108 Taifun, https://www.asisbiz.com/il2/Bf-108/Messerschmitt-Bf-108-Taifun.html, last accessed 1/4/20.

[iii] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.

[iv] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.

[v] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.

World War II

The Luftwaffe believed the Bf 108 would be a good aircraft for fast transport and communication. Many operational units had Bf 108s. They were used in many roles. They were exported to other countries. The U.S. Military Attaché for Air purchased one in 1939. Germany repossessed the aircraft in 1941. Great Britain impressed 4 Bf 108s that were in their territory at the start of the war. They served in the Royal Air Force. The RAF also captured 15 more Taifuns after Germany’s surrender.

On January 10, 1940 a Luftwaffe Bf 108 flown by Major Erich Hoenmanns, with Major Helmuth Reinberger as a passenger, crash landed in Belgium. Belgium was neutral at the time. Major Reinberger was carrying plans for an attack on Belgium on January 17. Sergeant Frans Habets and Private Gerard Rubens, Belgian border guards, stopped Reinberger from burning the documents. Habets and Rubens took Hoenmanns and Reinberger prisoner. The Belgian and Dutch armed forces went on alert. This incident became known and the Mechelen Incident.[i] The Germans delayed their attack on the Low Countries until May 1940.

Theo Blaich a German plantation owner and adventurer flew off in his Bf 108 to join the Wehrmacht in 1939. He recommended the Wehrmacht capture Fort Lamy in North Africa. The Wehrmacht rejected his recommendation. In 1940 Free French Forces occupied Fort Lamy and used it to stage operations against the Kurfra Oasis group. Blaich suggested a bombing mission. The Africa Korps accepted this proposal. On January 20, 1942 the mission began. The mission consisted of a He 111, piloted by Leutnant Franz Bohnsack, a Savoia, piloted by Major Roberto Count Vimercati-San Severino, and a Bf 108 piloted by Blaich. The He 111 bombed Fort Lamy. The bombs destroyed 80,000 gallons of fuel and the fort’s oil supply. The bombing also destroyed some aircraft. The He 111 ran out of fuel and had to make a crash landing. Leutnant Bohnsack and his crew were rescued.[ii]

After France surrendered to Germany in 1940 Germany had the S.N.C.A. du Nord factory at Les Mureaux produce Bf 108s. This freed up aviation factories in Germany to build combat aircraft. The du Nord factory produced 885 Bf 108s during the war.[iii]



[i] World War II Gravestone, Mechelen Incident, posted 7/24/2017, https://ww2gravestone.com/mechelen-incident/, last accessed 1/4/20.

[ii] Asisbiz, Sonderkommando Blaich, https://www.asisbiz.com/Luftwaffe/Sonderkommando-Blaich.html, last accessed 1/4/20.

[iii] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.


After World War II

The du Nord factory build 285 Bf 108s for the French Air Force and Navy. These machines were designated the Nord 1000.[i] Du Nord made the variants Nord 1001 Pingouin I (Penguin), which has a 240 hp Renault 6Q-10 engine, and Nord 1002 Pingouin II, which had a Renault 6Q-11 engine.[ii]

The Bf 108 had some similar lines to the Bf 109. The Commemorative Air Force uses a Bf 108 to represent a Bf 109. Many 1960’s vintage war movies have Bf 108s acting as Bf 109s. Probably the most well known are “Von Ryan’s Express” and “The Longest Day”.

In “The Longest Day” two Bf 108s were used to dramatize a ground attack mission flown by Oberst Joseph Priller and Unteroffizier Heinz Wodarczyk against the Normandy beaches.[iii] These pilots carried out the attack in Focke-Wulf FW 190s.


[i] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.

[ii] Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No. 2 by J. Richard Smith © Ian Allen, 1971.

[iii] Oberst is equivalent to the U.S. rank of colonel and unteroffizier is equivalent to the U.S. rank of corporal.

Bf 108BStats

Source: Messerschmitt: An Aircraft Album No.2, by J. Richard Smith (c)Ian Allen 1971.

 

 

 

Wingspan

10.62m

34ft 10.5 in

Length

8.29m

27ft 2.5 in

Empty Weight

880 kg

1,941 lbs

Loaded Weight

1,352 kg

2,981 lbs

Maximum Speed

303 kn/h

188 mph

Normal Range

1,000 km

621 miles

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Robert Sacchi (author) on February 10, 2020:

In the days before CGI real airplanes were the best options. Axis aircraft were in short supply in the 1960s. So film makers had to use substitutes if they wants any sense of realism.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 09, 2020:

Hi Robert,

I like how you also relate these aircraft to the movies that have been made using them.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 13, 2020:

You're welcome. The U.S. has been on a kick of naming their aircraft after famous past aircraft. The F-35 is named the Lightning II.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 13, 2020:

It certainly does. Thanks for clearing the confusion up.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 12, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting. A current RAF fighter is named the Typhoon. The RAF also had a WWII fighter named the Typhoon. The RAF has named many of its aircraft after weather events. "Taifun" is the German word for "typhoon". Often times two or more countries give their aircraft the same name such as the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and the English Electric Lightning. Makes life confusing.

Liz Westwood from UK on January 12, 2020:

I had heard of the Typhoon, but it took me a while to make the link with the taifun. This is yet another interesting and well-researched article.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 11, 2020:

What are routine flights today were first time flights in the 1930s. Thank you for reading and commenting.

RoadMonkey on January 11, 2020:

The early days of aviation had their share of daredevils! Rather like motor car racing, desert crossings and balloons.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 11, 2020:

Yes, their baby died in the kidnapping. For many years it was considered the crime of the century.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 11, 2020:

My grandfather was one who kept those WW1 airplanes flyable. It was a smaller group of pilots and others related to those early airplanes back then which is probably why they met.

Most people probably know that Lindbergh's had their 20-month old child kidnapped. A law was passed subsequent to that which made kidnapping and crossing a state line a federal offense.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 11, 2020:

Charles Lindbergh was on friendly terms with Nazi Germany. He took a lot of criticism for it. President Roosevelt refused to let him serve in the military during World War II. He did fly 50 combat missions in the Pacific and shot down one Japanese fighter.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on January 11, 2020:

Both of those movies that featured the Bf 108 were good ones. It is interesting to know that Charles Lindbergh was the first foreign pilot to test that airplane. My paternal grandfather had met him during the WW1 era.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 10, 2020:

Yes, neither side had the market on flamboyant volunteers. Since it wasn't a combat aircraft it doesn't have the historic prominence of other aircraft of the era.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 10, 2020:

i was not familiar with the Bf 108s, but I found the history of this plane very interesting. I also thought it was interesting that Theo Blaich flew off of his plantation to join the fight.

Robert Sacchi (author) on January 09, 2020:

You may have seen it in some of those old war movies. Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you enjoyed the article. There was some resistance to the closed cockpit. Pilots wanted to be able to hear if there was something wrong with their airplane. There was one aircraft design that had an open cockpit but an enclosed passenger cabin.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 08, 2020:

This is a plane I’ve never heard of, but I enjoyed the details such as the advanced feature of having the enclosed cabin. I can’t fathom such high speed winds whipping one in the face. (And imagine if it’s raining or such) I imagine they were very thankful for the enclosure.