Messerschmitt Me 163B–1a Komet

The Curtiss HS–2L was the next restoration project to begin, but while it was in progress the Me 163 was started and completed.

The National Museum of Science and Technology had been anxious to obtain the loan of a Convair Atlas missile for outside display and the USAF Museum wanted the loan of an Me I63. The Museum had two Me 163s, one of which had been in good condition and had been refinished by the Canadian War Museum in the marking of1 JG/400 during I966-67 and put on display in the War Museum. The other specimen had been stored outside at St. Jean, Quebec, and was badly weathered when rescued by the War Museum in I958. The specimen was then stored inside but no work had been done on it. It was agreed that the National Aviation Museum would restore it and place it on long-term loan to the USAF Museum. In exchange a Convair Atlas would come to the NMST.

Restoration work started in September 1976 and a quick survey showed the following items were missing: instruments and instrument panel; cockpit controls; tail wheel strut, wheel and tire; plastic cockpit canopy and bullet-proof glass; generator propeller and fairing; numerous fairings and hatch covers. The wooden wings were in poor condition from long exposure to the weather, with the left wing considerably worse. Fortunately the other Me I63 nearby made it easy to obtain the necessary information to duplicate missing parts.

Messerschmitt Me 163B–1a Komet
The fuselage of he Messerschmitt Me 163 under restoration at the NAM.

komet 2
This sketch was found on the inside of the Me 163, apparently made by an unhappy impressed French worker. The sketch is of a building, probably the factory, with the notation Manufacture ferme (Plant closed) and underneath the message Mon coeur est en chômage (My heart is not in it).

The instrument panel was made, and fortunately almost all the missing instruments were found at the National Research Council, so only two dummy instruments had to be made. A mould for the plastic canopy was formed commercially by contract. The Museum formed the bullet-proof screen from plate. The rest of the missing parts were made by the Museum, but a wooden tail-wheel tire was substituted for the original rubber one.

The wooden wings had to be entirely reskinned and about two thirds of the ribs had to be replaced. The sheet metal fuselage had to be stripped of all components, and everything was cleaned and repaired and reassembled. Similarly, the undercarriage needed cleaning and refinishing as did the Walter rocket engine. All jacks, control systems,etc., were restored to working condition.

Several items found during the Me 163 restoration showed the consequences of employing impressed foreign labour, as was done in Germany during the later war period. All glue in the wings was found to be completely ineffective; Museum staff thought that soap had been mixed with it. Had the aircraft been flown, it would probably have suffered a structural failure. The large fuel tank located behind the pilot to contain hydrogen peroxide (T-stoff), a highly corrosive substance which, when mixed with hydrogen hydrate (C-stoff), ignited and powered the rocket motor, had been sabotaged. This had been done by placing a small stone between one of the tank support straps and the tank itself. The intention was that, when the tank was filled with fuel, the stone would penetrate it causing a disastrous leak.

The completed aircraft was finished in its original factory paint scheme and shipped on loan for exhibit to the USAF Museum in November 1978. It was returned to Rockcliffe for exhibit upon the opening of the Museum's new building.

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