The Me-163 Flies Again!

When I first heard that the Me-163 Komet was flying again I said, “By who? Suicidal Pilots?”. The rocket take off of the combat 163’s killed a lot of pilots.   At a  2009 war-bird meeting south of Paris a replica Me 163 Komet replica built by EADS Germany was on static display and in the air. It’s a full scale replica.

Jozef Kurz, a former Me-163 pilot designed and built the replica. His goal was to replicate the aircraft as close as possible to the original. The main differences are that it’s made of wood rather than metal and is towed to altitude rather than using the rocket take off.  the flight control system is an exact copy.

The wheels fall off on take off.

Kurz painted his replica Komet in the markings of the most famous Me 163- the Me 163B flown by Erprobungskommando 16 (EK16- an operational test unit) commander Wolfgang Späte on the Komet’s first operational combat mission in 1944.  His crew chief had painted the aircraft red in honor of the Baron von Richtofen (the Red Baron). The paint added 40 pounds to the aircraft weight. Späte did not share his crew’s confidence in the aircraft’s performance and ordered it repainted in standard camouflage. No known photos exist of the red Me-163 but was described in detail in Späte’s memoirs. Kurz used the descriptions to replicate the paint job and markings.

Kurz first flew his  Komet replica on 18 June 1996 with the registration D-ESJK. Designating his glider the Me 163BS, Kurz made numerous short test flights before unveiling it at a vintage aircraft fly-in in September 1997. Its last flight in Kurz’s hands was at the Berlin ILA 2000 air show. With only five flight hours logged, Kurz sold the replica to EADS (which then had just been formed as the parent to Airbus Industrie and Eurocopter) for display in the Flugmuseum Messerschmitt at Manching, Bavaria.

Note the EADS logo under the cockpit.

Rather that let it languish in a museum, the EADS took steps to add the Me-163 to the museum’s heritage flight. Additional modifications were made to strengthen the internal structure. The landing skid was modified to allow for better ground handling. The original paint scheme was restored minus the Nazi Swastika that is banned from display in Germany.  The aircraft was re-registered as a one-off glider with the civilian registration of D-1636.

It made its second maiden flight on 20 June 2006 after which it joined the EADS Heritage Flight fleet at the Flugmuseum Messerschmitt.

By the end of 2010 the replica Komet had flown forty hours. Two pilots with the EADS Heritage Flight are rated in the glider, using a Dornier Do 27 tow plane to get to altitude. Taking 10 minutes to reach 4,000 feet, the Komet is said to be most demanding on the tow line and is much easier to handle in free flight. As the aircraft was optimized for high speed flight, its gliding performance wasn’t on par of purpose-built sport gliders but has nonetheless been a hit at air shows in Europe

The Me163 in a Wartime Promotional Film

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