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The Fieseler Fi 156 Storch (stork) was a small Germanmarker liaison aircraft built by Fieseler before and during World War II, and production continued in other countries into the 1950s for the private market. It remains famous to this day for its excellent STOL performance, and French-built later variants are a common fixture at air shows.

Design and development

In , the RLM (Reichsluftfahrtministeriummarker, Reich Aviation Ministry) put out a tender for a new Luftwaffe aircraft (suitable for liaison, army co-operation today called Forward Air Control), and medical evacuation, as required to several companies. Conceived by chief designer Reinhold Mewes and technical director Erich Bachen, Fieseler's entry was the most advanced in terms of STOL (Short Take Off and Landing) performance, by far. A fixed slat ran along the entire leading edge of the long wings, while the entire trailing edge, inspired by earlier 1930s Junkers "double-wing" aircraft wing control surface designs, including the ailerons, was a hinged and slotted flap. In a design feature that was rare for land-based aircraft, the wings on the Storch could be folded back along the fuselage, in a manner not unlike that of the US Navy's F4F Wildcat fighter, allowing it to be carried on a trailer or even towed slowly behind a vehicle. The long legs of the main landing gear contained oil and spring shock absorbers that compressed about 450 mm (18 inches) on landing, allowing the plane to set down almost anywhere. In flight they hung down, giving the aircraft the appearance of a very long-legged, big-winged bird, hence its nickname, Storch. With its very low landing speed the Storch often appeared to land vertically or even backwards, in strong winds from directly ahead.

Variants



  • Fi 156 - prototypes with Versuchs numbers. The V1 first prototype flew in the spring of 1936. It was powered by an air-cooled 180 kW (240 hp) inverted-vee Argus As 10C V8 engine, which gave the plane a top speed of only 175 km/h (109 mph), enabling the Storch to fly as slow as 50 km/h (32 mph), take off into a light wind in less than 45 m (150 ft), and land in 18 m (60 ft). It was followed up by the second V2 prototype and third V3 prototypes, the ski-equipped V4, plus one V5
  • Fi 156A-0 - ten pre-production aircraft.
  • Fi156A-1 - first production models for service, ordered into production by the Luftwaffe with an order for 16 planes, the first production aircraft entered service in mid-1937.
  • Fi156B - Allowed for the retraction of the leading edge slats and had a number of minor aerodynamic cleanups, boosting the speed to 208 km/h (130 mph). The Luftwaffe didn't consider such a small difference to be important
  • Fi 156C - Essentially a "flexible" version of the A model. A small run of C-0s were followed by the C-1 three-seater liaison version, and the C-2 two-seat observation type (which had a rear-mounted MG 15 machine gun for defense). Both models entered service in 1939. In 1941, both were replaced by the "universal cockpit" C-3, suited to any role. Last of the Cs was the C-5, a C-3 with a belly hardpoint a camera pod or drop tank. Some were fitted with skis, rather than wheels, for operation on snow. Other versions of the Fi 156 were the C-3/Trop, which was a tropicalised version of the Fi 156C-5.
  • Fi 156D - which was an air ambulance version of the Fi 156C. The first two Fi 156D models were the D-0 pre-production aircraft, and the D-1 production aircraft, powered by an Argus AsP engine.
  • Fi 156E - Ten pre-production aircraft were fitted with tracked landing gear
  • Fi 256 - A five seat civil version two were built at the Morane-Saulnier factory at Puteaux in Francemarker.
  • Morane-Saulnier MS-500 Criquet - French production post WWII with 240 hp French built Argus engine
  • Morane-Saulnier MS-501 Criquet - with a 233 hp Renault 6Q
  • Morane-Saulnier MS-502 Criquet - MS-500 with the Argus engine replaced by a 230 hp Salmson 9ab radial engine.
  • Morane-Saulnier MS-504 Criquet - with a 304 hp Jacobs R-755-A2.
  • Morane-Saulnier MS-505 Criquet - MS-500 with the Argus engine replaced by a 304 hp Jacobs R-755-A2 radial engine.
  • Morane-Saulnier MS-506 Criquet - with a 235 hp Lycoming engine.
  • Mráz K-65 Čáp - production in Czechoslovakia after WWII.
  • Antonov OKA-38 - An unlicenced copy of the Fi 156, powered by a copy of a Renault MV-6 engine, was starting production as the factory was overrun by German forces in


Operational history

Fi 156 in Luftwaffe markings
Fi 156 in flight
The Storch could be found on every front throughout the European and North African theaters of operation in World War II. It will probably always be most famous for its role in Operation Eichemarker, the rescue of deposed Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from a boulder-strewn mountain top near the Gran Sassomarker, surrounded by Italian troops. German commando Otto Skorzeny dropped with 90 paratroopers onto the peak and quickly captured it, but the problem remained of how to get back off. A Focke Achgelis Fa 223 helicopter was sent, but it broke down en route. Instead, pilot Walter Gerlach flew in a Storch, landed in 30 m (100 ft), took aboard Mussolini and Skorzeny, and took off again in under 80 m (250 ft), even though the plane was overloaded. The Storch involved in rescuing Mussolini bore the radio code letters, or Stammkennzeichen, of "SJ + LL" in motion picture coverage of the daring rescue.

On 26 April 1945 a Storch was one of the last planes to land on the improvised airstrip in the Tiergartenmarker near the Brandenburg Gatemarker during the Battle of Berlin and the death throes of the Third Reich. It was flown by the test pilot Hanna Reitsch, who flew her lover Field Marshall Robert Ritter von Greim from Munich to Berlin to answer a summons from Hitler. Once in Berlin von Greim was informed that he was to take over command of the Luftwaffe from Hermann Göring.

A Storch was the victim of the last dog fight on the Western Front and another was fittingly downed by a direct Allied counterpart of the Storch—an L-4 Grasshopper—from the L-4's crew directing their pistol fire at it. The pilot and co-pilot of the L-4, Lts. Duane Francis and Bill Martin, opened fire on the Storch with their .45 caliber pistols, forcing the German air crew to land and surrender. The involved Storch was the only aircraft known to have been downed by handgun fire in the entire war.

A total of about 2,900 Fi 156s, mostly Cs, were produced from 1937 to 1945. When the main Fieseler plant switched to building Bf 109 in , Storch production was shifted to the Mráz factory in Choceňmarker, Czechoslovakiamarker. A large number were also built at the captured Morane-Saulnier factory in Francemarker, starting in April 1942, as the M.S.500 Criquet. Both factories continued to produce the planes after the war for local civilian markets (in Czechoslovakia it was made as K-65 Čáp, 138 were made by 1949).

Licenced production was also started in Romainia in 1943 at the ICAR (Īntreprinderea de construcţii aeronautice româneşti) factory in Bucharestmarker. Only 10 were built by the time Romania switched sides, with a further 70 aircraft being built by the Romanians before production ended in 1946.

During the war at least 60 Storchs were captured by the Allies, one becoming the personal aircraft of Field Marshal Montgomery.

Because of its superb STOL characteristics (which would be of obvious great benefit to bush pilots, for example) there have been many attempts to recreate or outright copy the Storch in modern form, namely in the form of various homebuilt aircraft.[26603] One of the most successful recent examples of this is the Slepcev Storch designed by Nestor Slepcev. It is a 3/4 scale reproduction of the original with some modification for simplicity. Through the use of modern materials the aircraft features better STOL performance than the original with a take-off run of 30 m and landing-roll of 50 m with no headwind.

Operators

Rudolf Langhanns collection
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • (Post war)
  • Spanish Statemarker


Specifications (Fi 156)

Morane-Saulnier M.S.500 Criquet


See also

References

Notes
  1. Antony Beevor. Berlin: The Downfall , Penguin Books, 2002, ISBN 0-670-88695-5. p.322
  2. Axworthy 1994, p.12.
Bibliography


  • Axworthy, Max. "On Three Fronts: Romania's Aircraft Industry During World War Two". Air Enthusiast, No.56, Winter 1994. Stamford, Lincs, UK:Key Publishing. ISSN 0143 5450. pp8–27.
  • Bateson, Richard P. "Fieseler Fi 156 Storch". Aircraft in Profile, Volume 11. Widsor, Berkshire, UK: Profile Publications Ltd., 1972.


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