Friday 15th September 1978
Willy Messerschmitt (80), airplane/manufacturer and namesake of the 1953-62 Messerschmitt bubblecar, died in Munich, Germany. Probably Messerschmitt’s single most important design was the Messerschmitt Bf 109, designed in 1934 with the collaboration of Walter Rethel. The Bf 109 became the most important fighter in the Luftwaffe as Germany rearmed prior to World War II. To this day, it remains one of the most-produced warplanes in history, with some 34,000 built, with only the Russian Ilyushin Il-2 surpassing it at 36,000. Another Messerschmitt aircraft, first called “Bf 109R”, purpose-built for record setting, but later redesignated Messerschmitt Me 209, broke the absolute world airspeed record and held the world speed record for propeller-driven aircraft until 1969. His firm also produced the first jet-powered fighter to enter service — the Messerschmitt Me 262, although Messerschmitt himself did not design it.