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Restoration News: Heinkel He 219 Night Fighter

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Thursday, July 17, was an exciting day at the Paul E. Garber Restoration Facility, and another step towards the completion of one major aircraft currently undergoing restoration:  the wing of the Heinkel He 219 Uhu night fighter was prepared for its move to the Udvar Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA. The He 219 was Germany’s best night fighter in World War II, and possibly the best night fighter of the war. It was a piston-engine aircraft specifically designed for night fighting operation — a status it shared with only one other aircraft in the war, the American Northrop P-61 Black Widow. Notable features include the first steerable nose wheel on an operational German aircraft, the world’s first ejection seats on an operational aircraft, and cannons mounted to fire at an oblique angle (the so-called “Schräge Musik”).

The He 219 wing is rolled out of the paint booth

The easy part, using nothing but manpower: The He 219 wing is rolled out of the paint booth, standing 4 m (13 feet) high and about 19 m (63 feet) long.

The Museum’s He 219, built in 1944, has been undergoing restoration for many years. Its fuselage and engines are already exhibited at Udvar-Hazy Center. The wing — with a span of about approximately 19 meters (63 feet) — had undergone painting at the Garber paint shop, while being kept on a special-built, two-piece stand that would enable the restoration team to rotate the wing from an upright attitude to its normal horizontal position,  a necessary step to get the heavy and unwieldy object ready for transport on a flatbed truck.

The wing rotation crew.

The wing rotation crew. Seventy years after their original production, the He 219’s wing looks like new. Note the position of the Balkenkreuz on the outer wing panels. Although Luftwaffe regulations routinely specified that this insignia be placed parallel to the leading edge of the wing, Heinkel located it in a slightly different position, parallel to the spar, which was exactly reproduced by Museum experts. Clearly visible are the blue horizontal and yellow vertical stand the wing is mounted to.

On the morning of July 17, 2014, about a dozen employees from the restoration workshop and the Collections Processing Unit (CPU) were involved in flipping the wings 90 degrees, a process that took three hours and involved some heavy lifting,  with the wings weighing in at about 2,223 kilograms (4,900 pounds), and the stand at an additional 454 kilograms (1,000 pounds).

Lifting the wing.

To lift the wing from the first stand, straps are attached to the wing lifting fixtures. Here, Dave Wilson and Tony Carp check the position of these straps.

Within the weeks to come, the wing will be taken to the Udvar-Hazy Center where it will receive its final coat of green/blue Wellenmuster (wave pattern) camouflage paint, before being assembled with the fuselage later this year. Meanwhile, curatorial staff, restoration experts, and volunteers are working on the last major component toward the completion of the aircraft — the replacement of the He 219’s famous ”stag antlers” FuG 220 antenna array. The Museum’s aircraft lost its antenna at some point in its lifetime. An original FuG 220 antenna array from a European museum will be brought to the Udvar-Hazy Center later this year, where Museum staff will reverse-engineer the components, in order to complete the night fighter’s identity. Once finished, our He 219 will be the only aircraft of its kind on display worldwide.

Rotating the wing.

After removing the first stand, heavy equipment is employed in rotating the wing 90°. Patiently and precisely, all equipment is put in place, and two staff members act as true “wingmen,” closely watching the wing as it is rotated.

Measuring the stand.

Once on the ground, wing and stand are measured one more time to determine the needs for their final transport. Subsequently, the wing was rolled back into the paint shop, and is now ready to be shipped to Udvar-Hazy Center.

Evelyn Crellin is a curator in the Aeronautics Department at the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Dave Wilson, museum specialist in the restoration workshop, contributed to this blog.

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7 thoughts on “Restoration News: Heinkel He 219 Night Fighter

  1. As a WWII aircraft buff, I have a fascination with the HE 219 and have seen the “pieces” at the Udvar-Hazy Center. I have to put a visit to see the completed aircraft on my bucket list. Thank you for the fantastic work in accurately restoring this rare piece of history!

  2. The Uhu and other night fighters of the Reich might have been even more effective if given freedom to operate over bomber bases in Britain by striking British aircraft in vulnerable landing mode. However, micro-manager Hitler forbade that tactic. He wanted the German public to be heartened by crash sights in Germany. Thanks again for your foolish, opinionated judgment, Adolf, and may you have a bad day. Alas, the Uhu was bad enough news as matters already stood.
    James Tent
    Professor of History Emeritus
    U. of Alabama at Birmingham

  3. An excellent and interesting progress report. Is there a preliminary time schedule when the wings will be married to the fuselage & engines waiting at U-H. ? This would help to plan a visit there – in 2015?

    Are you shure about the fact that this particulr aircraft had the (large) FuG 220 anntenas? It might have been used as training aircraft with a front unit to familiarize crews with the type, without radar (Funkemess) equipement.

    Did SI consider a photo documentary report on the restauration to be published with as many as possible before-and-after (detail) photos from the restauration process: You can be shure that there will be enough enthusiasts who would buy such a publication.Such publications (e.g. also as downloads for Pads, like the monthly Air&Space Smithonian magazine, e.g. as a monography special on a finished resauration of that magazin ) could be used as a fund raising charity for this and other former German Luftwaffe aircraft still at the Silver Hill storage (e.g. Ho IX, Ta 152, Me 410 and last not least the Ju 388L-1).

    Anyway, keep on with your esteemd work!

    Martin Handig
    Vienna, Austria

  4. He 219 was the best night fighter in WWII and people should be able to see it. Great idea to restore it!

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