Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann

The 1963 World War II epic film “The Great Escape” is one of my personal all time favorites. The movie is loosely based on the non-fiction, first-hand-account book (“The Great Escape”) by Paul Brickhill which describes an Allied prisoners of war (POW) escape from German Stalag Luft III, on March 24, 1944. 76 prisoners managed to escape but sadly 50 were murdered by the Gestapo and only three made it to freedom.

The United Artists “The Great Escape” film has an all star cast and in one of the escape scenes Flt. Lt. Robert Hendley “Scrounger”, (James Garner) and Flt. Lt. Colin Blythe “Forger”, (Donald Pleasence) manage to steal a small trainer type airplane from a German airfield in order to fly out of Germany to freedom. I’ve always wondered what kind of airplane it was and if they really existed in WWII? The answer….Yes, they did!

The Bucker Bü 181 Bestmannn was a two seat single engine airplane built by Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH in Rangsdorf, Germany. The prototype Bü 181 (D-ERBV) made its maiden flight in February 1939 with Chief Pilot Arthur Benitz at the controls. The aircraft was designed to be the standard primary trainer for the Luftwaffe and production began in 1940 and the airplane served the Luftwaffe until 1945. The Bucker Bü 181 was also used for courier & liaison missions and later some airplanes were converted to be “tank busters” carrying four Panzerfaust anti-tank grenade launchers from wing-mounted launchers, and some aircraft were used in night time harassment missions carrying three 50 kg bombs.
Several other aircraft manufacturers produced the Bü 181 during and after the war and they were used by other militaries into the early 60′s. Of the many original Bü 181′s built only a few are left today.

picture by "bomberpilot" author julian herzog
Specifications Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann

• Manufacturer: Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH
• Crew: 1
• Capacity: 2
• Length: 25 ft. 8 in. (7.85 m)
• Height: 6 ft. 8 in. (2.05 m)
• Wingspan: 34 ft. 8 in. (10.6 m)
• Empty weight: 1058 lb. (480 kg)
• Loaded weight: 1653 lb. (750 kg)
• Powerplant: 1 × Hirth HM 500A or B 4-cyl. inverted air-cooled in-line piston engine, 78 kW (105 hp)
• Variants: 18
• Number built: 3400
• First Flight: 1939

Performance

• Cruise speed: 121 mph.; (105 kts)
• Maximum speed: 134 mph.; (116 kts)
• Serviced Ceiling: 16,405 feet; (5000 m)
• Range: 497 miles; (432 nm)

If you have never seen the movie, “The Great Escape” you need to check it out. Get it here: The Great Escape movie
The book “The Great Escape” by Paul Brickhill is available too: The Great Escape Paperback – by Paul Brickhill

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