Race planes of the 1930s' - The BFW M.29

By Willie Bodenstein


Designed by Willy Messerschmitt and built by Bayerische Flugzeugwerke, the BFW M.29 was a single-engine two-seat low-wing aircraft designed for the 1932 Circuit of Europe races. A Messerschmitt M 23 had won the Circuit of Europe or Challenge International de Tourisme in both 1929 and 1930, boosting the sales of the aircraft. The M.29 was designed to repeat this success.

Six were built, both of which entered the 1932 Challenge Cup. The Challenge 1932 was the third FAI International Tourist Plane Competition (French: Challenge International de Tourisme), that took place between 12th and 28th of August in, 1932 in Berlin, Germany. The four Challenges, from 1929 to 1934, were major aviation events in pre-war Europe.

The International Touring Competitions (Challenge International de Tourisme) was a FAI international touring aircraft contest, that took place between August and September in various European countries. The Challenges were major aviation events in pre-war Europe. The regulations were based upon the FAI rules, but details were worked out by the German Aero Club. The 1934 races were hosted by Germany and held in Berlin.

A low-wing cantilever monoplane of slightly smaller span than the M.23, the BFW M.29's long sleek fuselage with its enclosed continuous cockpit for two in tandem looked the part. An all-moving tailplane, mounted on bracing towards the top of the fin flowed seamlessly from the fuselage. Its clean cantilever wing could be folded backwards as required by the competition rules.

Powered was by either a closely cowled 112 kW (150 hp) Siemens-Halske Sh 14a seven-cylinder radial engine (M.29a) or an air-cooled inverted inline Argus As 8R resulting in a top speed of 260 km/h (162 mph).

Four aircraft of both variants were delivered for testing a few days before the start of racing on 27 August 1932. Before the contest, a favourite was German Messerschmitt's BFW M.29, offering the highest performance. However, within days, one had disintegrated in mid-air, killing the pilot and another was lost in the same way on approach to landing. The pilot in the second accident bailed out, though his observer was killed and reported that the disintegration began at the tailplane, progressing forward. All M.29s were grounded and missed the race while the tail structure was strengthened.

The remaining race machines, joined by at least one more, flew successfully after modification.

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