The Revolutionary German Aircraft Stolen by America
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The Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri soared into the last days of WWII as a last-ditch effort to change the tides of the war and prevent Germany’s ultimate downfall.
Dreaming of Vertical Flight
The true breakthrough in helicopter evolution happened during WWII. Germany, with its relentless drive to achieve technological supremacy, threw its weight behind rotary-winged innovation.
Then, the Focke-Wulf Fw 61 was developed, which became the world’s first practical, functional helicopter with a powered main rotor on top. It would eventually lay down the groundwork for a bolder successor by Focke’s competitor, the Flettner Fl 282 Kolibri.
The Kolibri was the most recent design in a line of experimental rotorcrafts that aggressively competed with Focke for a chance to become the first military rotorcraft produced in mass for the Luftwaffe.
Taking to the skies in just two years after the Fw 61 in 1941, the enhanced performance, and the intensity of war reaching its peak, the Kolibri was the perfect candidate to become the mass-produced military helicopter in the world.
First of Its Kind
The Kolibri wasn’t an ordinary helicopter. It made its debut in July 1940. It had distinctive intermeshing rotors, a design approach that would become popular only after WWII, making it significantly ahead of its time.
The central placement of its engine provided the pilot with an unparalleled forward view, making it excellent for scouting, surveillance, and submarine spotting for the German Navy.
Impressively, its Sh 14 engine was highly renowned for its reliability, functioning up to 400 hours without the need for significant maintenance.
However, despite the Kolibri’s innovative design and impressive performance, its fate was largely intertwined by the war, and its potential would remain largely unfulfilled.
Like many of Germany’s advanced weapons that were unveiled during the last days of the war, the limited production of units and scarce resources meant that they couldn’t alter the course of the conflict.