Blohm and Voss Bv 141 Tactical Reconnaissance Aircraft
Despite its radical and unorthodox layout, the Blohm & Voss Bv 141 actually did fly and was produced in some 20 examples.
Authored By Dalex; Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com
While the Blohm & Voss (or "Blohm und Voss") aircraft firm will forever be linked to their many successful floatplanes and flying boats used by the German Luftwaffe throughout World War 2, it is the Bv 141 that will forever be remembered as their most unique aircraft project. The Bv 141 made use of an wholly unorthodox asymmetrical design layout in which the crew was set within a nacelle offset to the starboard side of the aircraft while a portside boom held the powerplant and tail unit. Both sides were joined together at the forward portion of the boom by the wing element making for a truly unique and identifiable plane. Despite proving to have excellent handling, the aircraft saw much working against it and was only produced in prototype and pre-series forms by the end of her run.
Walter Blohm maintained a long-held belief in the idea of an intersecting commercial business where "flying boats" would soon take over the poor performing passenger boat lines, ferrying persons and their belongings to far off places. As such, most of the Blohm & Voss developments to this point held commercial interests at heart and limited the capacity for the aircraft firm to advance much further than that. Former World War 1 aviator and infantryman Richard Vogt joined Blohm & Voss after over a decade of designing his own aircraft, even spending some time at Dornier straight out of college. Though none of his early designs amounted to much in terms of creating a name for himself, he was undeterred and believed his time would eventually come on its own. He was ambitious and an outspoken personality to say the least and was a driven spirit. He held a vastly distinct personal vision and designed to a different standard, oft looking away from traditional aircraft forms being focused in on at the time.
By the time of the Second World War, aircraft had advanced beyond the rickety canvas-over-wood biplanes of World War One and into sleek metal-skinned monoplane creatures taking on the appearance of the everyday bird with each passing year. The conventional approach to designing aircraft - be they civilian or military in purpose - was to fit a powerplant before the cockpit, all centralized in a smoothly contoured fuselage tapering at the rear. Wings were standardized as straight-edged monoplanes fitted to the forward portion of the design and tail sections could be developed with single, double or even triple vertical fins.
While this approach was serviceable, it held with it several inherent drawbacks that aircraft engineers have always worked to perfecting. The pilot (and his crewmembers if the design called for them) were generally given a poor vantage point from behind the engine and above and behind the wing assembly. The centralized positioning of the forward-mounted engine meant that the circular air generated by the spinning propellers assaulted the rear-mounted rudder surfaces from the sides, forcing the aircraft to act contrary to pilot actions in certain circumstances. The engine placement in this arrangement also required heavy attention on the part of the pilot, he having to work the rudder constantly to counteract any undesired movements of the aircraft. A powerful engine, spinning a large propeller assembly, generated a good amount of natural torque that would have the entire aircraft favor one side (this being the primary reason that helicopters utilize a tail rotor). This force naturally had the airframe favoring the left when breaking from straight level flight at speed. Despite the symmetric approach being utilized by aircraft engineers prior to (and during) World War 2, these aircraft did anything but behave symmetrically. As such, Vogt maintained a different sort of vision in which the design of an aircraft should be developed as asymmetric to inherently maintain symmetric performance and handling. The resulting project became the Bv 141.
Wartime held a distinct benefit to all those young aircraft engineers looking to make a name for themselves. Though by this time, Vogt was far from a spring chicken - a man now in his forties. Regardless, the Reich Air Ministry came calling in 1937 with a design requirement specification for a single-engine reconnaissance aircraft with excellent vantage points for her crew. While the typical German aircraft firms jumped into the fray - including the Focke-Wulf company with their Fw 189 twin-boom "Uhu" - Blohm & Voss submitted their Vogt-inspired Bv 141 as a private venture. The Focke-Wulf Fw 189 was eventually accepted as the official winner but work on the Bv 141 continued none-the-less - the Air Ministry was at the very least intrigued.
The original Bv 141 prototype approach was more conventional than the final form - it was actually a symmetrical attempt from the beginning. The base design saw a long a pair of slender booms with one offset to the portside of centerline and fitted with the powerplant and tail unit. The other was offset to starboard and contained a heavily-glazed crew nacelle. The crew nacelle offered up excellent views for the three-man crew, particularly when looking forward, rear, above and to the right. Both cylindrical structure forms would be attached to one another by way of a long-spanning straight-edged wings with clipped tips. The wings were monoplanes and mounted well forward in the design. The empennage (tail unit) was nothing more than a rounded, highly swept vertical tail plane with a single, rounded horizontal tail plane offset to portside.