The Smithsonian's Do 335
The last Dornier Do 335 Pfeil (Arrow) is at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center. The aircraft is a Do 335A-0 Werke Nummer (Serial Number) 240102. The Germans completed construction on this aircraft on September 30, 1944 then it underwent flight tests. Famed test pilot Hans Werner Lerche flew this aircraft from 20-23 April 1945. He took off from Rechlin on April 20 and after a number of stops landed at Oberphaffenhofen. This is where U.S. forces captured this aircraft and a dozen other completed Do 335s. In June 1945 test pilot and German Cross in Gold holder Hans Padell flew three Do 335s to Cherbourg, France, including 240102.[i] Great Britain received the two seat Pfeil. The HMS Reaper took 240102, the other Do 335, and many other captured Luftwaffe aircraft, to the United States. The other Do 335 went to the USAAF and 240102 went to the U.S. Navy. The navy flight tested it then until 1948. Then it was kept outside at Norfolk NAS. The U.S. Navy gave the aircraft to the Smithsonian in 1961 but the aircraft stayed outside at Norfolk NAS until 1974. Then this aircraft was sent back to the Dornier factory at Oberphaffenhofen. Dornier went about restoring the aircraft. The Dornier workers discovered the Do 335 still had the explosive bolts on its top tail fin and rear propeller. The explosive bolts previously destroyed one captured Do 335.[ii] Dornier quickly restored the aircraft in 1975. They added guns to the aircraft. The aircraft went on static display at the May 1976 Hannover Airshow. It was on display at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. It was returned to the Smithsonian in 1986 where it was stored, disassembled, at the Paul E. Garber Facility in Silver Hill, Maryland. The aircraft is now on display at the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Center.
[i] National Air & Space Museum (http://airandspace.si.edu/collections/artifact.cfm?object=nasm_A19610129000)
[ii] World War II Database (http://worldwar2database.com/gallery/wwii0099)
Do 335 Development
The German Ministry of Aviation (RLM) put out a requirement in 1942 for a single seat aircraft capable of carrying a 1,100 lb bomb and capable of flying 495 mph. Dornier-Werke won the contract and its project received the designation Do 335. On October 26, 1943 the first Do 335 flew. The preliminary trials showed the Do 335 generally handled well and had good maneuverability for a plane its size. With only the rear engine running it could fly 348 mph. Dornier addressed the issue of poor rear visibility by adding rear view mirrors. The egress system for the aircraft was an ejection seat and explosive bolts on the top tailfin and rear propeller. Deploying the ejection seat would automatically jettison the top tailfin and rear propeller. The three point landing for the Do 335 was the main landing wheels and the tail bumper on the bottom tailfin. The pilot would then lower the nose until the nose wheel met the runway. The pilot could jettison the bottom tailfin for a belly landing. In September 1944 some Do 335s underwent service evaluation with Erprobungskommando 335. There were delays in deliveries of power plants and other items to the Do 335A-1 assembly facility at Oberpfaffenhofen. Plans for a bomber destroyer and night fighter versions of the Do 335 were still on the drawing board when the war ended.[i] While the Do 335 never flew in combat allied aircraft had a least one encounter with the Pfeil. In April 1945 Captain Pierre Clostermann, the top scoring World War II French ace with 33 kills, and his flight of RAF Tempests spotted a Do 335. The flight gave chase put quickly realized they had no chance of catching the speedy Pfeil.[ii]
[i] Warplanes of the Third Reich, by William Green © 1970.
[ii] The Big Show, by Pierre Clostermann.
The Do 335 had good performance and was well suited as a multirole aircraft. It serves as an example of the state of the art in German piston engine aircraft development in World War II. It also showed the limitations of piston engine aircraft. It could have served in many roles but in the spring of 1945 the Luftwaffe had jet powered aircraft that could serve those roles better. It met the goal of being able to carry a 1,100 lb bomb load by fell 20mph short of the 495 mph goal. The Pfeil was faster than other piston engine aircraft in front line service in the spring of 1945 but other piston engine aircraft, such as the P-51H, had comparable or superior speed. The Do 335 could probably take more punishment than other Luftwaffe fighters. How much of an advantage this would have been is highly speculative. The difficulty in getting power plants for the Do 335 showed German inability to supply enough engines wasn’t confined to jet engines.
Do 335 - Jet Comparison
|Do 335A-6||Me-262||Ar 234C|
Speed - Night Fighter
Time to Climb
14.5min to 26,250'
13.1min to 29,530'(4.5min to38,400' with Rocket Assist)
11.9min-16.7min to 32,810'
Service Ceiling-Night FIghter
1x30mm & 2x15mm
2x20mm forward firing & 2x20mm fixed rear firing.
Do 335 Piston Engine Comparison
Robert Sacchi (author) on September 21, 2018:
That is a shame about the museum's damage. I know many years back there was a weather incident that damaged an aircraft museum at Willow Grove.. That is always a concern since many famous aircraft have only a couple of examples of them left.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on September 21, 2018:
We have yet to visit the aircraft museum that has been moved from Galveston to Houston. We did see it in Galveston many years ago with my husband's uncle and his wife. His uncle was a Navy pilot so he really enjoyed seeing the collection of airplanes. The museum was damaged from one of the hurricanes that hit Galveston. It is now further inland so has a bit of a land buffer should a hurricane make a direct hit again.
Robert Sacchi (author) on June 16, 2016:
Yes, it is quite an experience when you see a plane you have read about for the first time.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 15, 2016:
Thank heavens the workers restoring the Do 335 discovered those explosive bolts before being harmed by them. You surely do like learning about all these different vintage airplanes. Seeing them in person must be fun.