The First and the Last: Junkers F.13 & Mistel 5
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The eerie hissing sound of the three jet engines shattered the night's peace. No time to waste, every pound of fuel was precious. Taxiing the clunky looking but really solid Mistel, many controversial thoughts kept on crossing his mind. Approaching the beginning of the runway, he incrementally advanced the throttles to full thrust - those engines would stall just by breathing near them! With the superlative machine picking up speed, at 130 knots he gently pulled the stick back and, at around 170, he was airborne...
Four hours before...
He woke up after an eight hour restless sleep. It was eleven at night and most personnel here in Alt Daber Airfield would be long asleep. The night would come quite early this wintery time of the year and, apart from having an evening beer in the Officers Mess or even in a tavern at the nearby town of Wittstock, there was really not much to do in this remote Ostprignitz-Ruppin district, in the north-western Brandenburg.
Sleeping during the day and waking up when everyone else is asleep is not a normal thing a pilot would do at an airfield. Unless, of course, he would be on something special. Particularly if this pilot would be Oberstleutnant Alfihar “Alfi” Fuchs.
Afihar, now 40, might not be among the youngest Luftwaffe pilots, but certainly among the most charismatic. A born aviator, he obtained his pilot’s license during his early 20s and somehow managed to sneak into the then newly reformed Junkers, flying their corrugated Wunder Flugzeug, the F.13.
The F.13 itself, way ahead of its time, looked purely futuristic in that flimsy biplane era. All metal with strong structure, aerodynamically clean and with a luxurious passenger cabin, this was both a pilot and a passenger’s dream. Alfihar was dead sure that a fully enclosed cockpit would offer the bird many advantages, the only (but decisive) disadvantage being the unfamiliarity that would cause to most pilots of those purely “open cockpit” times.
“Alfi" loved his plane and certainly loved his job. Together with Florinus "Flori" Hunziker, a talented Swiss pilot more or less at his age, they would fly the F.13 all over central Europe, carrying their passengers (many of them being Very Important Persons) in safety and comfort. Flying together and exchanging between captain and copilot, those two fine men would gradually develop an extremely positive reputation regarding their abilities to fly smoothly in a “clean-cut”, wasteless style, making them among Junkers finest. Suffice to say, they became best friends.
The fact that the newly born Luftwaffe in the mid-30s urged to recruit Alfi came as no surprise. That Flori was not recruited was also understandable, as was Alfi's sadness that the forthcoming war would separate him from his trusty copilot and friend.
Anyways, that seemed to be a long time ago, during better days, Alfie thought upon finishing his coffee. Dressed in his flying suit, he hopped on his Brough Superior SS100 (his Kommandanten hardly tolerating that he rode an English motorcycle) and headed towards a remotely located hangar. This looked like a normal aircraft hangar at first glance, apart from the fact that its rear end somehow penetrated into a small mound, as if the hangar was extending into it.
Whereas no activity seemed to take place in the area, Alfihar was forced to a halt by a good number of guards upon his approach, only to be immediately allowed to continue towards the hangar: everybody in the airfield knew very well who “Alfi” was.
He drove straight into the hangar, parking his bike next to IT. His loyal ground crew expected him, with pride and confidence enlightening their faces upon seeing their charismatic leader. This was the moment they have been waiting for! All efforts, the numerous tests, the teething problems, (with some of them being nasty as hell to solve), everything seemed to have come to fruition this cold November night of the year 1944.
A couple of years before, Arado had proposed a Mistel which would consist of a Heinkel 162 that would carry the company’s projected E.377a bomb, this design known to have been remaining on paper. What very few knew was that this actually did not remain a paper project, but it went further, with a prototype delivered to Alt Daber Airfield last May, securely hidden in the extended hangar in daylight and flown in absolute secrecy during the night! Even fewer would also know the machine’s horrifying reality: the E.377 did not carry the projected Trialen 105 high-explosive compound, but a small nuclear bomb…
Though not officially admitted by the Allies, it was a common secret that Nazi Germany was making solid progress in its nuclear program, deeming it a clear and present danger that the Allies were aware of, the only viable solution being to win this war the soonest and kill all Nazi’s nuclear activities. It was a mad race against the clock, understandably known to few. These few knew that odds did not look too good. What they did not know was that odds were even worse…
The machine itself came from the future. The Heinkel upper element was an already established platform, which, despite its shortcomings as a fighter (even a point defense one), it seemed as if it was tailored for this role: small enough, it would contribute to improve the Mistel’s much needed aerodynamics; and fast, so it would flee away upon releasing the deadly lower element.
The Arado was even more advanced: a twin turbojet machine, very clean aerodynamically, with the embedded nuclear bomb in its fuselage being small enough to allow a large quantity of kerosene to be carried, in order to feed the Mistel's thirsty gas turbines. Its wireless guidance system, having the bulk of its teething issues addressed, was something Arado engineers were proud of. The fact that a primitive but effective screen had been incorporated into the Heinkel, through which the pilot could direct the missile within a 20 mile range was quite an achievement!
But an achievement for which purpose? Alfihar loved his Mistel as a technical achievement, the way he loved the F.13, both being machines ahead of their times. Only, the F.13 would carry four passengers to safety, whereas the Mistel would send hundreds, possibly thousands barely aware civilians to an early grave.
Afihar was clear minded enough to understand that no matter how "unavoidable" this war seemed to have been, it was certainly transforming to pure madness, a big nut house where each day would be for granted worse than the previous one. Germany would lose, that was for sure, with the prospect of turning the tide by implementing atomic bombing being senseless, as the country's corrupted infrastructure would not permit the production of such devices, merely achieving finishing this one-off prototype.
Not that Afihar would be otherwise happy, should Germany have a sufficient number of operational such bombs a year before and deciding to drop them. Moral questions would arise, bothering the souls of many, including the die-hard Nazis.
Anyway, here he was, flying at 30,000ft with 300 knots, not that fast, the throttles set at around 90%, in order to save as much fuel as possible. Alfi never stopped feeling astonished about this Mistel's capabilities, with a good number of its flight characteristics being close to those of "normal" planes. Who'd have imagined it for a plane with practically a huge mass attached under it!
Soon, this deadly mass would have to be released right above the middle of London! Alfi knew what he had to do...
Approaching the English coast he throttled back and lowered his nose. Thankfully, it was not too cloudy and, aided by the moonlight, he could easily distinguish the sea surface.
At 280 knots and practically at sea level, the Mistel, totally undetected and in radio silence, was approaching the mainland. London would not be that far away, just a few minutes ahead. All Alfi had to do was to observe a straight course, which made the sharp right turn the Mistel went into seeming too strange, to say the least...
It was not too hard for the small English boat "Teeny Vanity" to spot Alfi in his raft, as he had lighted his red and green flares in the agreed order. The water was cold and his savior boat approach came as a blessing. It had not proved too challenging to ditch the Mistel at the agreed area, also having beforehand dumped practically all his fuel, so no induced fire would reveal his position.
He was pulled out of the cold waters..
"How was the ditch?"
"No problem, dumped the fuel, then slowed down and ejected upon feeling the Mistel would stall. The water was bloody cold!"
"You know you made the right decision..."
"I guess so…"
"This will not take too long, Alf. Soon we will be flying together again, our own airline maybe?"
"Cannot think of anything better!"
"You know, there will never be a finer machine than our Junkers, don’t you..."
"There will be better, Flori, trust me! The only good outcome of this stupid war.
There surely will be better..."
This was a short story inspired by our wonderful Flight 19 little group’s “first and last” builds