Blohm und Voss BV 141B-0

Symmetry is over-rated.

Time for a look at one of aviation’s truly unique designs.

Let’s start with the elephant in the room, the most obvious shocking thing here is the use of RLM 02 Grey as an exterior camouflage color, just get over it…

The BV 141 always looks like something is missing!

The origin of the BV 141 is in a 1937 Air Ministry (RLM) order for a new reconnaissance aircraft. The call was for a single-engine aircraft with optimal visibility. Arado had made most such aircraft and was the expected winner, but surprisingly their Ar 198 proved completely unsatisfactory. The FW 189, the ultimate winner, did not meet the original criteria because it was a twin. So for a while it looked like the BV 141 might see a large order.
The four initial prototypes and 5 “A” model pre-production aircraft used a BMW 132 engine with around 900 hp. It carried four light machine guns; two fixed forward and two flexible mounted for rear defense, and could carry up four SC 50 bombs ( a little over 100 pounds each). In spite of its lop-sided looks it was aerodynamically well balanced and had no particular handling vices.

But it was underpowered. So the the “B” series switched to a BMW 801 with about 1400 hp. The tail plane was cut down on the starboard side, making the BV 141 even more asymmetrical, to improve the field of fire for the defensive guns in the gondola. Ten pre-production BV 141B-0 were built, followed by ten production model BV 141B-1. And at 29 that was the end of the line. It might not even go that far, two of the “B” aircraft were rebuilt “A”s, and one of my sources suggests many of them were not finished.
At least one aircraft was deployed to the Eastern Front and flew operationally summer 1941. Plans called for a full Staffel (Squadron) of them, that may say something about German manufacturing inadequacies. The FW 189 was entering service by this time and proved to be a capable aircraft. But there remained official interest until 1943 in getting an out of production type into the field because of worries there were never enough Fw 189 to go around.

Why did interest finally fade on the BV 141? Two reasons are usually mentioned. The first is just it was too strange. Typical of bureaucratic types in every field the mere sight of such a strange machine made them nervous. So even if the type exhibited no deficiencies it was viewed with suspicion.
But more seriously concerning was the engine choice. The BMW 801 was in high demand for the FW 190. That alone was grounds for ending a lower priority type. The FW 189 used two lower powered Argus engines that were otherwise only used in trainers.

So many windows…
It can really fly! [World War II Database]
The FW 189 was more conventional, yet the crew gondola was remarkably similar.

This particular aircraft is the second BV 141B-0 pre-production aircraft (like a “Y” prototype in US terminology). It is a well documented machine, there can be no doubt it was finished! It is the Hobbyboss kit. A surprisingly easy build for such an odd type! The gondola has two major clear parts that make most of the exterior you see. So much clear surface area did cause me some concern, as I’ve mentioned before clear can be difficult attach because you want to avoid everything except white glue (any sort of fumes can cause fogging or crazing on the clear surface). Not only did this have two large clear pieces to glue together, but you also want a strong join where the gondola attaches to the wing. Well first of all the fit here was pretty good, so I didn’t need to do much shaping, filling or sanding. Then I used some small drops of CA glue for strengthening once the parts were somewhat secure in place. It all worked out pretty well.
I also used Eduard EZ Masks for the windows. I typically don’t mention that product but I probably should. I often use it on anything more than a single seat fighter, it makes masking a whole lot easier! I can’t imagine how tedious this plane would have been to cut all those masks individually.

A problem with this sort of heavy recon aircraft is it really requires aerial superiority to have a reasonable chance of completing its mission. Even a less than first rate fighter could ruin its day.
Which is why some air forces chose something more survivable for this mission. It also does better at clearing out the enemy’s recon sorts.

About atcDave

I'm 5o-something years old and live in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I'm happily married to Jodie. I was an air traffic controller for 33 years and recently retired; grew up in the Chicago area, and am still a fanatic for pizza and the Chicago Bears. My main interest is military history, and my related hobbies include scale model building and strategy games.
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14 Responses to Blohm und Voss BV 141B-0

  1. jfwknifton says:

    Immaculately constructed, a real work of art! I remember making the Airfix kit when it first came out, the best part of fifty years ago. My mother wouldn’t believe it was a real plane.

    • atcDave says:

      It kind of hurt my brain when I first encountered it as a kid too! It’s amazing to me that it seemed to fly just fine.

  2. This brings back memories for me, I bought the Airfix one (as did John) many moons ago. I was attracted to (and intrigued by) it’s unusual shape!

  3. Ernie Davis says:

    This is another one that hurts the engineer part of my brain. Yes, I suppose there is a way to make it all balance out and get the proper lift and propulsion without wanting to spin or yaw or roll or … But why?

    • atcDave says:

      I think the why was about a very open field of view to the right. You could circle a location and clearly see everything ahead, to the right, behind. Just hope your left is secure….
      I’ve seen a lot of types for this work with huge windows along the belly, even a distended belly so one or more observers are suspended below the wing the engine.
      I find it most amusing that handling and balance issues are not ever mentioned as this aircraft’s flaws; so obviously it was well engineered in that regard.
      I also find it interesting that the US and Britain both chose single engine fighters with a few extra cameras installed as the preferred types for tactical recon. The last generation of US aircraft designed for this mission (O-47, O-52) mostly never left the States and never fired a shot in anger.

  4. Anne Clare says:

    That is a beautiful model, of a funny looking plane! It took an unconventional thinker to come up with that design, I imagine.

    • atcDave says:

      I should have mentioned his name! Dr Richard Vogt. His most successful design was a flying boat, the BV 138, sort of a German Catalina. Prior to his work with Blohm und Voss he spent several years in Japan as head aircraft designer for Kawasaki.
      He was accomplished and quite imaginative.

  5. Jeff Groves says:

    Nicely done, Dave! I’ve been hoping for a new tool in 1/72 for quite awhile now.

  6. Pingback: Theme Build 3 – Complete | Plane Dave

  7. Nats says:

    My first ever model kit as a kid in the 1970s. Made a right mess of the cockpit glass – glue all over it lol.

    • atcDave says:

      And there is SO MUCH clear to fuss with! I’m sure you’re in good company. I did not mess this kit up as a kid, only because I never built one until now.

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