Heinkel He 51 Fighter / Floatplane / Ground Attack Aircraft
The Heinkel He 51 series was part of Germany's rebuilding program, providing priceless combat experience for Luftwaffe pilots in the Spanish Civil War.
Authored By Staff Writer; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
The He 51 was a product of the German Heinkel firm and a design of the Gunter twins, Walter and Siegfried. The Gunters became part of the Heinkel firm in 1931 and made the He 49 their first product with the company. The He 49 was a biplane aircraft developed as a fighter, sporting a pair of machine guns, and developed into three major prototype forms. It was these prototype designs that eventually developed into the He 51a prototype and, ultimately, the He 51 production models.
The He 51a differed from the previous He 49 forms in that it was given a new tail fin, wings, undercarriage and radiator. The He 51 itself would become a successful German fighter in World War 2, becoming a serviceable floatplane derivative and light ground attack platform as well. Despite the limitations imposed on German war machine development following the close of World War 1, the He 51 was none-the-less pursued under the guise of it being an advanced trainer. In many ways, the He 51 was part of the "new-look" German military soon to be unleashed on an unsuspecting world.
The He 51 was given uneven-span biplane wings (also known as "sesquiplane") with the upper span longer (and situated forward) than the lower span. Each wing had a single bay with parallel struts angled forward (in profile) and outward with applicable bracing cables. The engine was positioned at the extreme forward of the contoured fuselage and consisted of a liquid-cooled inline engine powering a two-bladed propeller. The pilot sat directly behind and under the upper wing element in an open-air cockpit protected by a forward windscreen. The empennage was conventional with a rounded vertical tail fin and mid-mounted elevators. The undercarriage was fixed and featured two main landing gears faired over and a tail wheel at rear, also faired over. The seaplane version of the He 51 was very similar in design with the most notable exception being the large pontoon floats affixed in place of the landing gears. Armament consisted of 2 x MG 17 machine guns mounted over the engine, synchronized to fire through the revolving propeller blades, with 500 rounds reserved to a gun. For the light strike roles inherent in the C-models, up to six 22lb bombs could be carried.