Monday, July 9

Haynes Publishing’s Messerschmitt Bf109 Owner’s Workshop Manual 1935 onwards (all Marks) Review

The list of Owner’ workshop Manuals from Haynes have been bolstered with lots of more unusual things than cars recently – we have already reviewed one manual on the Tiger I tank and the P-51 Mustang fighter and find them to be great reads and even better reference. This manual – on the Bf 109 – looks to emulate the quality of the first two books we reviewed, let’s see if it does…

Haynes Publishing’s Messerschmitt Bf109 Owner’s Workshop Manual
1935 onwards (all Marks) Review

Series: Owner's Workshop Manual
164 pages containing 150 colour & 100 B&W illustrations
Binding: 270 x 210mm, Hardcover
Book No: H4642
Language: English
ISBN:  9781844256426
Available directly from their site: £19.99

This is the fourth Haynes manual I have in my collection. The guys that were so famous for their manuals on how to look after your car have branched out into lots of different areas – from ships to spaceships, from the battle tank to the BBQ (I jest you not) the manuals I have are all on subjects apart from cars. This book on the Bf 109 – one of the most famous and THE best-selling model kit in history must appeal surely?

Well this book seems to be laid out in a similar way to other books I have read in the enthusiast manuals series – there is a general introduction, then through the story of the original aircraft and then they get down and dirty and really examine the subject. For this task Haynes have done the smart thing and enlisted the help of a man called Paul Blackah - who restored the famous “Black 6” Bf 109G2 you will see and that is a major part of the book.

As well as Russ the other author is Malcolm V. Lowe who was responsible for many other great aviation titles like production line to frontline series for Osprey. I have to say with these gentlemen’s pen ship and the in depth knowledge you are in for some good insight in this title.

The book covers all marques of the ‘109 from early Jumo engined variants to the more well-known Daimler Benz units E through K as well as the Spanish built Buchons and the Czech Jumo powered  Avia C-199 and CS-199 this book covers them all. However like the other books in this series this title does centre around one aircraft in particular – the Bf 109G-2 that sits in Hendon’s RAF Museum in London.
An odd but a very good choice – this aircraft sits pretty much right in the middle of the aircraft’s development and so has features of both the early and later Marques. The other reason is the excellent documentation that has been kept and the great story of the repair and constant work done on this aircraft to bring it up to flying and then static standard. More on this later – but this is an excellent choice for this book to centre around. Indeed the team of men who worked on this book and their recollections make this book not just a factually correct but a really interesting read.

The book examines the  Warbird market and the type’s gradual increase in popularity from the post war almost  apathy through the increase after immortalization in the “Battle of Britain” film through till the fixation this type seems to enjoy now with people’s hearts, especially the Daimler Benz engined variants.
We examine at first the nomenclature of the aircraft (no ME109’s here) and the history of this aircraft – this small chapter kind of leads into the first large section explains the history of the aircraft.

The authors go from the first beginnings of the airframe and the uses of the “D” model in the testing phase and through the first actions in the Spanish Civil war. The authors talk about the first actions and lessons learnt in that conflict and then explain the changes to the “E” model and then go on to examine the F. G, K and two seater models along with the variants made in Spain and Czechoslovakia.
The further detail here is in the armament, equipment and the handling and combat comparisons to other aircraft of the time.  A few pages are dedicated to the different power plants used at the time and there are notes from the pilots as well as a small box section (there are many to further illustrate interesting points throughout this book) talks of the aces who flew this plane and their opinions of it.

In the second chapter we learn of the theories and philosophies of your own restoration of an aircraft like this. All of the major parts of the aircraft are examined in the chapter and what it takes to restore them is discussed. Expert Steve Vizard gives his opinions and view on the restoration process and how to get the best results – it is a skill of the author to make this and other’s contributions seem just like another part of the book – never does this manual feel like it was written by part. It is a seamless production in that aspect.
“Restoring Black 6” takes you through the really interesting tale of the no doubt star of this book the Messerschmitt which passed through many sets of potential owners before it ended up at the RAF Museum at Hendon in North London. The story of the trials and tribulations of the people who loving restored this aircraft make for some riveting reading. You can feel the frustration the restorers – lead by Russ Snadden, must have felt at the sometimes downright unhelpful assistance given them by the MOD and the people who controlled the destiny of this aircraft. The story should be put into a book – ohh it was, and it is all here in this manual.

The aircraft’s story of being made from a hulk to flying condition and then having an accident then re-repair is a great story by itself and you have to give some credit to this part of the book and the people who recalled what happened as the heart of the tome.

Then next large chapter talks of the owner’s view of the aircraft, how to first of all purchase, what to avoid and some of the things you must be forewarned about before you take the plunge. There is some information from three different sources about owning or looking after this bird, from Russ Snadden again (lots of great info here), of the three ‘109’s owned by EADS in Germany and of  Cliff Spink who owns a Buchon.

Before reading this book I really want that bothered with Buchons, but cliff’s text gave me a much better understanding and appreciation of this aircraft.Now I actually look out for these aircraft with a much better understanding the they are not just an "Ersatz" Emil.
The next section of the manual describes the view of the pilot towards the ‘109. German Luftwaffe, contemporary pilot Dave Southwood and the greatest test pilot in British history Charlie Brown all give their interesting views on the bird. Some myths are exposed and some explained. Factors like the narrow track of the landing gear and the troubles with take-off and landing are discussed in depth.

There is an excellent photo essay of the start-ups and shut-down procedures of the aircraft which make for a great instruction if you ever wanted to steal one from an airfield in wartime Germany!
The last large section in this book is the description of the aircraft from the view of the engineer. If you ever wanted to know anything about the internal structure, engine and armament of this aircraft well this is the place to look.

Paul Blackah who has been working on Black 6 for the last twenty five years explains every part and quirk of construction and maintenance of this plane. You can read that he has a real appreciation of all of the ‘109’s good and sometimes not so good points. This is all pointed out with some really excellent pictures, diagrams and drawings which illustrate exactly what Paul is talking about.
This chapter really does give you a great insight to really knowing the aircraft inside and out and makes you feel you could have a go yourself if you had a toolbox!

There are four appendices at the rear of the book which list and show all surviving Bf 109’s and the other three being a glossary and translation, some useful contacts and a metric conversion table.

I must give credit at this stage also to the people who gather the illustrations, pictures and diagrams and plans to show you what the text is trying to relay. The book is pretty seamlessly tied up in these two areas and the manual never really feels like a dry book you have to read – it is more like a book you really WANT to read. And a great read it is too.

Great for modellers, enthusiasts or armchair know-it-all’s – this book also comes with my firm recommendation.

Adam Norenberg

Thanks to Haynes for this manual – it was a great read! Check out their site for nearly every different manual on almost anything you could think of.