Thursday, 4 June 2015

The Blohm & Voss Bv 141 - A Technical Guide

Airframe Detail No. 1, Richard A. Franks, Valiant Wings Publishing Ltd., Bedford, England, 2014, ISBN 978-0-9575866-7-3. Illustrated, softcover, published in English.

Cover image © by Valiant Wings Publishing Ltd., 2014.

It is pleasantly astonishing that we live in an age where aircraft formerly thought of as rather obscure - or even outright unworthy of any attention - become the subject of lavish, dedicated publications. I do remember the time well when books on the former German Luftwaffe focused only on the most well known aircraft or units but still rendered all interested parties happy merely due to the fact that one was starved for a publishing house that would actually consider us odd crowd. If a glimpse at aircraft other than, say, Ju 52s, Bf 109s, or Fw 190s was desired, one was left with occasional brief but, in hindsight, vastly pioneering articles in magazines such as Flug Revue + flugwelt (authored by Hans Redemann), Modell Magazin (Heinz Birkholz, Theodor Mohr, Karl Kössler, Heinz Mankau, and many others), Modell Fan (Manfred Leihse, Gebhard Aders, etc.), or Luftfahrt international (Günther Ott, Karl Kössler, etc.).

Things have changed dramatically in the past thirty or forty years, of course. We are now not only treated to the substantial array of information available through the internet (as utterly flawed and/or regurgitated as it often is), the possibility of near-instant exchange of research and images provided by the very same medium, and plenty of books about rare types such as, e.g., the Junkers Ju 287, Messerschmitt Me 264, Horten Ho 229, or Focke-Wulf Ta 152. Happy times, indeed, and among the latest such publications is Richard Frank's Airframe Detail No. 1 on the rare but truly unique Blohm & Voss BV 141.

By and large the book follows the concept of earlier releases by Franks/Valiant Wings. And those have set a reasonably high standard. At 66 pages and a format of 29 x 21 cm, the layout, paper quality, and text and image reproduction of the book are quite exceptional, as expected.

Once again, as with Franks' previous Valiant Wings releases, The Blohm & Voss Bv 141 is a comprehensive examination of the aircraft's various details, preceded by an 11-page illustrated overview of the history of the BV 141. The material provided in the technical description section of the book is beautifully opulent, consisting of 38 pages of close-up photos as well as reproductions of drawings sourced from the aircraft's handbook. This comprises cockpit and interior details, landing gear, wings, empennage, armament, and equipment. Much of this material is known to those seriously studying the Luftwaffe, and the handbook has been available commercially for considerable time. Even so The Blohm & Voss Bv 141 serves as a significantly valuable collection of relevant information.

This content is bookended by a 9-page section discussing camouflage and markings. It also includes numerous rather lovely colour profiles. The profiles are a bit small, however, due to the probably inevitable decision to print them horizontally across the pages rather than vertically. The latter would have resulted either in less aircraft featured or more pages added to the publication. Nonetheless, it works as it is. The book concludes with a 5-page look at BV 141 scale models and a bibliography. All of this makes for a precious and thorough work of reference, not least given the lack of attention this fringe aircraft has endured through past decades. All that is lacking, mysteriously, is a good set of line drawings.

It seems perhaps a bit odd that some authors or publishing houses chose to accompany their specialist publications by advertising or content statements which, upon closer examination, simply serve to direct the reader's attention to very limitations of the publication in question. On page 3 of the book, Franks states that he believes that his The Blohm & Voss Bv 141 contains every existing photo of the BV 141. To anyone familiar with serious Luftwaffe research, this is of course an utterly perilous statement. In spite of the wealth of excellent photos actually featured in Franks' work, it is thus not surprising that a number of previously known photos are missing from the book (e.g. landing gear well details, tail wheel details, canopy details, etc.). Some of them have been available online for many years, for example, courtesy of Lars Kambeck and Gary Webster, or were part of Lars Kambeck's truly excellent four-part series of articles on the BV 141, published in Jet & Prop magazine in 2003 and 2004.

Also on page 3, Franks states that he has chosen a certain manner of writing the aircraft's designation (i.e., Bv 141, Bv 141A-0, etc.). This in spite of the fact that a majority of surviving Blohm & Voss company documentation (some of which is even reproduced in Franks' book) contradicts this (as evidenced by the manner used in this blog). An unimportant detail to some, perhaps, but I find this rather unnecessary and annoying, and it certainly doesn't serve to ensure historical accuracy and prevent confusion.

There are some further puzzling observations, most likely caused by an unfortunate yielding to production requirements. The photo of the cockpit of the BV 141 V2 on page 15, top, for example, also exists in an uncropped version (published by Kambeck) that actually shows the instrument panel referred to by Franks in its very caption. Moreover, some detail shots (a random example would be the cockpit port side shot on page 16, bottom left, or the rear observer's station and cabin interior images on page 17, top) are reproduced so small that they offer hardly any value. In addition, they have been reproduced far larger elsewhere. Odd for a publication named Airframe Detail.

Finally, on page 36, bottom left, there is a photo depicting a pair of devices under the aircraft's starboard wing (they are visible in other photos as well). Franks asks what they are and presumes they might serve to "measure gust". They are, in fact, the Paddelausgleich (Fahnenausgleich) zur Ausrichtung des Querruders [paddle balance supporting aileron movement].

The Paddelausgleich helped the pilot in operating the ailerons. It consisted of two sets of pairs of small, square paddles, mounted under the port and starboard outboard wing segments on slim, forward-pointing support arms. They were linked internally by means of rack and pinion linear actuators, and connected to the aileron by means of push rods, moving inversely. With increasing deflection of the aileron, the paddles were spread apart into the airstream, thus opposing the force of the control surface and relieving the pilot.

The Paddelausgleich was a device frequently seen on Blohm & Voss aircraft. It is featured, for example, in Modell Magazin 5/1976 (referring to the Blohm & Voss BV 222), Modell Fan 4/1977 and Modell Magazin 4/1977 (Blohm & Voss BV 138) or in Flugzeug Extra 2 (Blohm & Voss Ha 139).

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for such a comprehensive review of Frank's book on the BV 141. While I agree with all of your observations and criticisms, the worst thing in a title of this sort, is the lack of a good, up-to-date set of scale line drawings. I find this omission utterly incomprehensible, as it detracts from the very purpose of a book described in the cover as a 'technical guide'. Are specially commissioned scale drawings so expensive that Valiant Wings prefer rather not to include them?
    R. Vieira