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Fieseler Fi 156 Storch liaison plane

Written by Sakhal

Berlin, night of the 25-26 April 1945. The superb capital of which should have been the Reich of the thousand years is agonizing. Practically there is no building unaffected by the devastating fury of the war. The sky is grey during daytime because of the smoke of the explosions and the dust raising from the ruins; during the night it is red due to the fires and the blasts of the bombs and grenades. In this hell, thousands of men are going to face each others in the last encounters of the war. By German part there are teenagers from the Hitlerjugend, old men from the Volksturm and small groups of desperated or fanatics that represent what remains from the large armies that had dreamed about parading in London and Moscow. For them there is nearly no support from heavy weapons and the air cover is just a distant memory. But soon before the dawn, in the sky of the Axis East-West, the great Berlinese artery that departs from the Brandenburg Gate, it can be heard along with the explosions the insistent hum of an aircraft that descends progressively, as it wanted to land. Actually, after a quick descent, the aircraft lands near a group of few persons that wait it under cover. At the controls is Hanna Reitsch, famous aircraft tester who, fervent nazi, wanted to meet with the Fuhrer in his refuge in the Chancellery, bringing with her General Ritter von Greim, chief of the 6th Luftflotte, to receive the last dispositions.

The aircraft used for this travel half way between heroicity and madness was a small reconnaissance plane, the Fieseler 156 "Storch" (Stork). The origin of this reconnaissance and liaison aircraft dates back to the first studies made in 1935, but its entry into service would not happen before the late 1937. It was a single-engined high-winged monoplane of mixed structure: metallic for the frame and wooden and fabric for the coating and the control surfaces. The engine was an Argus As 10C with eight cylinders in inverted V and a maximum power of 240 horsepower. The most interesting characteristic of the Storch, besides its maneuverability, was its capability to land or take off with so short stretches that were prohibitive for the common aircraft of that time. Thanks to a complex system of flaps installed in the leading edge of the wings and along the internal half-wing the aircraft could take off in little more than 50 meters, while for landing 20 meters were enough. If also there were favorable conditions (opposing wind of about 13 kilometers/hour), the takeoff stretch would be reduced to less than 50 meters while for landing 15 meters would be enough. This made of this aircraft and ideal element for a variety of purposes. A landing gear with high-absorption suspension allowed for landings and takeoffs in unprepared terrains. For landing in very rough terrains it was studied and prepared a special version with the landing gear fitted with rubber tracks.

This extraordinary aircraft, in particular conditions of wind (particular but not exceptional as the wind of about 13 kilometers/hour for reduced landings), was able also to remain almost immobile in the air, practically like a helicopter. This was because the minimum speed of the Storch was somewhat inferior to 50 kilometers/hour. These capabilities led many to consider this aircraft as the first STOL (Short Taking-Off Landing) aircraft in the history of aviation. Built in little less than 3000 exemplars, the Storch took part in the whole war providing excellent service in every front, being used for diverse tasks such as liaison, tactical reconnaissance, observation, ambulance service, emergency rescue (specially in North Africa), transport of officers or air command. Specially during the invasion of France, about 125 of these aircraft disembarked shock troops before the armored columns in Belgium and Luxembourg to secure the advance. As the most spectacular actions can be mentioned the liberation of Mussolini, the 12th September 1943, and the aforementioned flight of General Ritten von Greim to Berlin, twelve days before the surrender of Germany. A great amount of these aircraft was delivered to countries allied with the Axis. After the war the Storch was produced in France with the denomination MS 500 and MS 502 "Criquet" (Locust) and in Czechoslovakia with the denomination K-65 "Cap" (Stork).

Fieseler Fi 156 Storch liaison plane

Fieseler Fi 156 Storch liaison plane

Development record

Four prototypes were made for the Fi 156 (V1 to V4); V3 included military equipment and V4 landing gear with skies; three-seat aircraft. The Fi 156 V5 was the preseries prototype, militarized as the V3. The Fi 156A-0 was the test model, similar to the V3; 10 units built. The Fi 156A-1 was the initial series model. The Fi 156B was a project for a civilian model. The Fi 156C-0 was a modified A-1 with the rear cockpit raised, one MG 15 7.92-millimeter machine gun and improved radio equipment. The Fi 156C-1 was a version for liaison and transport of officers. The Fi 156C-2 was a two- seater for reconnaissance and ambulance service, with possibility of carrying a camera or a stretcher in the rear part of the cockpit. The Fi 156C-3 was a light transport for general purpose; some of them fitted with engine As 10P, another ones tropicalized. The Fi 156C-5 was similar to the C-3 but fitted with a droppable fuel tank in ventral position (allowing for an operational range of 1000 kilometers) and engine As 10P; some of them tropicalized. The Fi 156D-0 was a preseries model for ambulance service, with modified interior to allocate a stretcher and enlarged loading door; engine As 10C. The Fi 156D-1 was like the D-0 but fitted with engine As 10P. The Fi 156E-0 was a preseries model similar to the C-1, fitted with an experimental landing gear with rubber tracks; 10 units built. The Fi 156P was a police and anti-partisan version fitted with two bomb carriers under the wings, with capacity for 48 light bombs SD-2. The Fi 256 were two prototypes built by Morane- Saulnier for a five-seat civilian model fitted with engine As 10P.

The production for the versions A to E amounted to more than 1900 exemplars built by Fieseler, 784 built by Morane-Saulnier in France under licence and more than 150 built by Mroz in Czechoslovakia under licence. Total production amounted for more than 2900 exemplars, excluding the ones produced under licence after the war. They saw service in Bulgaria (20), Croatia (at least 6), Finland (2), Germany, Britain (captured), Hungary (at least 40), Italy, Romania (45), Slovakia (10), Spain (at least 10), Sweden (19), Switzerland (6), United States (captured) and Soviet Union (at least 1).

Specifications for Fi 156C-2

First flight: Spring 1936

Wingspan: 14.25 meters

Wing area: 26 square meters

Length: 9.90 meters

Height: 3.05 meters

Weight (empty): 930 kilograms

Weight (full load): 1320 kilograms

Crew: 2-3

Engine: Argus As 10C of 240 horsepower

Time to reach 1000 meters of altitude: 3 minutes 24 seconds

Service ceiling: 5100 meters

Maximum speed at sea level: 175 kilometers/hour

Cruising speed: 130 kilometers/hour

Operational range: 385 kilometers

Armament: One MG 15 7.92-millimeter machine gun in an orientable mounting firing rearwards

Article updated: 2015-07-06

Categories: Aircraft - World War Two - 20th Century - [General] - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-06-01

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