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The last Flying He-111

Updated on September 25, 2015

The He-111 at Leesburg

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He-111 at Leesburg Municipal Airport, VA, August 2000He-111 of the CAF (Then Confederate Air Force, now Commemorative Air Force) at Leesburg Municipal Airport, August 2000.The He-111 sporting its film credits.The Kampfgeschwader KG-51 unit crest on the fuselage of the CAF He-111.The nose of the He-111 at Leesburg, VA, August 2000.The He-111's bomb site.  Leesburg, VA, August 2000.
He-111 at Leesburg Municipal Airport, VA, August 2000
He-111 at Leesburg Municipal Airport, VA, August 2000 | Source
He-111 of the CAF (Then Confederate Air Force, now Commemorative Air Force) at Leesburg Municipal Airport, August 2000.
He-111 of the CAF (Then Confederate Air Force, now Commemorative Air Force) at Leesburg Municipal Airport, August 2000. | Source
The He-111 sporting its film credits.
The He-111 sporting its film credits. | Source
The Kampfgeschwader KG-51 unit crest on the fuselage of the CAF He-111.
The Kampfgeschwader KG-51 unit crest on the fuselage of the CAF He-111. | Source
The nose of the He-111 at Leesburg, VA, August 2000.
The nose of the He-111 at Leesburg, VA, August 2000. | Source
The He-111's bomb site.  Leesburg, VA, August 2000.
The He-111's bomb site. Leesburg, VA, August 2000. | Source

Aircraft History and Importance

The last flying He-111 was a Spanish version of the He-111, a CASA-2.111E. This aircraft, N72615, was destroyed in a crash on July 10, 2003. Tragically the pilot and co-pilot, the only two people in the aircraft, died in the crash. This aircraft had been damaged on landing in October 1989. This aircraft was used in the movie The Battle of Britain and in the miniseries Piece of Cake. The aircraft sported the KG-51 Edelweiss emblem. He-111s flew their first bombing missions on March 9, 1937, as part of the German Condor Legion, in the Spanish Civil War. Although obsolescent by World War II He-111s flew missions throughout the war. KG-51 was arguably the most famous of the Luftwaffe bomber wings.


To Fly or Not To Fly

An ongoing controversy is if historic aircraft such as this should still be flying. The history of this aircraft gives arguments to both sides of this controversy. Only a handful of He-111s and CASA-2.111s are known to be in existence. Of these aircraft types only three were in North America. Now only the CASA-2.111B the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio and the CASA-2.111B at the Cavanaugh Flight Museum in Addison, Texas remain. Flying the aircraft afforded thousands of people the opportunity to view this aircraft in flight. It also affords many people the opportunity to view the aircraft that wouldn’t otherwise get to see it. Sometimes museums display some of their aircraft in ways that obscure part of the aircraft from public view. In some cases museums display some of their aircraft such that visitors can’t get to view them close-up. By flying this aircraft visitors were able to get a close-up, 360 degree, unobstructed view of the aircraft. Taking this aircraft to various air shows and open houses afforded thousands to see it who would not have had the opportunity.

Fly Them or Ground Them

Should rare historical aircraft be flown?

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Guernica by Pablo Picasso.  The bombing a Guernica during the Spanish Civil War inspired Picasso to make this painting.An He-111 of KG-53He-111s in formation.
Guernica by Pablo Picasso.  The bombing a Guernica during the Spanish Civil War inspired Picasso to make this painting.
Guernica by Pablo Picasso. The bombing a Guernica during the Spanish Civil War inspired Picasso to make this painting. | Source
An He-111 of KG-53
An He-111 of KG-53 | Source
He-111s in formation.
He-111s in formation. | Source

He-111 History

He-111s participated in many of the most famous and infamous Luftwaffe actions. On 26 April, 1937 He-111s participated in the bombing of Guernica. The bombing inspired Pablo Picasso make what may be his most well known painting, Guernica. On May 14, 1940 57 He-111s dropped high explosive bombs on Rotterdam. The resulting fire devastated the city. Over 900 civilians were killed in the bombing.[i] Some movies made during the war referenced Rotterdam. In the postwar movie “Miracle on 34th Street” the Dutch Girl’s Adopted Mother mentioned she was from an orphanage in Rotterdam. The Luftwaffe lost many He-111s to the British air defenses during the Battle of Britain. This limited their daylight operations over Great Britain. He-111s flew in the London Blitz. He-111s flew against the Arctic convoys. On September 13th and 14th He-111s launched torpedo attacks against convoy PQ 18. They sank 10 merchant ships in the convoy.[ii] He-111s served as transport aircraft in the German’s unsuccessful attempt to resupply the trapped 6th Army at Stalingrad. He-111s launched over 1,200 V-1 Flying Bombs against Great Britain from July 1944 until January 14, 1945. The Luftwaffe lost 77 He-111s during these V-1 operations. [iii]


[i] The Luftwaffe War Diaries, by Cajus Bekker, © 1966 by Macdonald & Company, Ltd.

[ii] The Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green © 1970.

[iii] ibid.

He-111P-4 Specifications

 
 
 
Crew
5
 
Engines
2 x 1,100 hp at take-off
1,015 hp at 14,765'
Defensive Armament
5 or 6 7.9 mm machine guns
 
Offensive Armament
4 x 550 # bombs (internal)
2 x 1,102 # bombs (external)
Maximum Speed
225 mph at sea level
247 mph at 16,400'
Max Speed w/Max Load
176 mph at sea level
200 mph at 16,400'
Maximum Range
1,224 miles at 9,840'
1,400 miles with fuel overload
Service Ceiling
26,250' at 23,590 #s
14,765' at 29,762 #s
Weights
Empty Equipped 17,670 #s
Max Load 29,762 #s
Source: Warplanes of the Third Reich by William Green (c) 1970.

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    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 14 months ago

      Yes, building an individual aircraft from scratch is much more expensive, and time consuming, than rolling them off the assembly line. I am amazed people have the time and finances to build these fighter planes.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 14 months ago from Houston, Texas

      I would imagine that is true. Imagine building the B-52 bomber as an example!

    • Robert Sacchi profile image
      Author

      Robert Sacchi 14 months ago

      Lately they have been building WWII aircraft under license. This works for small aircraft but might be too expensive for larger aircraft.

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 14 months ago from Houston, Texas

      That is a shame it crashed and both pilots were lost. At least 2 remain in museums. As to them flying the old aircraft...I voted "keep 'em flying." Now if it was the SOLE remaining aircraft in existence...I would change that vote.

      Where we live in Houston, twice yearly we get to see and hear the Commemorative Air Force which still flies some of those old WWII planes. Some fly directly over our house and subdivision. The engine noises are surely different than modern airplanes. They have a much deeper resonating sound. I showed many such airplanes in the hub I wrote regarding the West Houston Airport which is not far from where we live.