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Summary Article: Messerschmitt, Willy (Wilhelm Emil)
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

German aeroplane designer. His Me-109 was a standard Luftwaffe fighter in World War II, and his Me-262 (1944) was the first mass-produced jet fighter.

Messerschmitt aeroplanes were characterized by simple concept, minimum weight and aerodynamic drag, and the possibility of continued development. He designed cantilever monoplanes from the early 1920s when the market still looked for biplanes with visible struts and bracing wires.

The Me-109 held the world speed record of 610 kph/379 mph from 1937.

Small planes Messerschmitt was born in Frankfurt-am-Main and studied at the Technische Hochschule in Munich. A glider he designed with gliding pioneer Friedrich Harth achieved an unofficial world duration record in 1921. The following year they set up a flying school and in 1923, while still a student, Messerschmitt formed his own company in Bamberg. Its first product was the S-14 cantilever monoplane glider. He produced his first powered aircraft in 1925, the ultralight sports two-seater Me-17. In 1926 came the Me-18 small transport. The Me-37 1934 was the archetypal low-wing four-seater cabin monoplane, with retractable landing gear and flaps.

World War II By 1938, Messerschmitt was appointed chair and general director of the company manufacturing his designs, Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, renamed Messerschmitt Aktiengesellschaft. He and his company went on to produce numerous designs for fighter, bomber, and transport aircraft. From the end of World War II Messerschmitt was held prisoner for two years by the Allies, and was then banned from manufacturing aircraft in Germany. Instead, he designed and produced a two-seater bubble car.

Post-war work Messerschmitt took up aircraft design again in 1952 under contract with Spanish manufacturer Hispano. Between 1956 and 1964 he worked in association with the German Bolkow and Heinkel companies and developed the VJ-101 supersonic V/STOL (vertical/short takeoff and landing) combat aircraft. His company merged with Bolkow in 1963 and they were later joined by Hamburger Flugzeugbau. In 1969, Messerschmitt became chair of the resulting Messerschmitt Bolkow Blohm (MBB) group.

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