Messerschmitt Me 163B - (scan - 1984)

The plane really should be called the Lippisch 163, as Alexander Lippisch was really its father. Lippisch began working with tailless designs many years before the Me 163 was thought of. He designed many tailless gliders and prop-driven aircraft before it was realized that his designs would be perfect candidates for rocket propulsion. The early prototypes for a rocket propelled tailless fighter were the work of Lippisch and his team. The project was moved to Messerschmitt only to take advantage of more plentiful resources. Lippisch and his engineers were badly treated at Messerschmitt. Lippisch himself soon washed his hands of the project.

Landings in the 163 could be extremely rough, and some pilots received severe back injuries as a result. Really rough landings could rupture tanks with catastrophic results. Fuels potentially fatal if any mistake was made in their handling and would explode, or eat up most anything if spilled (including people). Pilots had to wear asbestos flying suit. Performance was remarkable; top speed exceeded 623 mph, service ceiling 54,000 ft, and initial rate of climb 16,000 fpm with generally excellent handling characteristics. Exhausted all fuel in 7-12 minutes of flying time, depending on skill of pilot in managing fuel flow. However, glide ratio of 20:1 provided low rate of descent and prolonged time in the air.

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