Aviation Historian 41
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R.Forsyth, A.Dillmann - Eyes of the Luftwaffe (2)
Grumman Wildcat IV FN168/“Q” of No 811 Sqn, flown by Lt Eric Sven Erikson, Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer Reserve (RNZVR), returns to HMS Biter, reportedly after sharing the kill of the Ju 290A-5 of Ltn Eberhard Elfert and crew with Lt William Dimes RNZNVR on February 16, 1944.
Commissioned into the Royal Navy in May 1942, escort carrier HMS Biter had a 410ft (120m)-long wooden flight deck with a small superstructure on the starboard side combining the bridge and flight control. It is seen here with Hawker Hurricanes on deck, but by February 1944 it was operating with the Wildcats of No 811 Sqn.
Developed from the Junkers Ju 90 airliner - itself an outgrowth of the German “Ural Bomber” programme abandoned in 1936 - the Ju 290 first flew in August 1942. It reached its operational apogee as the Ju 290A‑5 maritime reconnaissance aircraft, an example of which is seen here, and which incorporated extra armour for fuel tanks and crew.
Only 11 examples of the Ju 290A-5 were built - more than any other variant - and although the type was much admired by its pilots and crews, there were simply not enough of the aircraft to fulfil the tasks its crews had been set. One Ju 290A-6 was built as Hitler’s pressurised personal transport, but it was never used as such.
Ju 290A-2 WNr 0158 was one of two delivered to FAGr.5 following the unit’s formation in July 1943. The Ju 290A-3 that followed, of which three were built, differed in having a low-drag Focke-Wulf-designed tailgun position. Five Ju 290A-4s were built with minor armament modifications, the A-5 undergoing some major revisions.
The Ju 290 first saw action as an emergency transport aircraft, the V1 prototype and the first Ju 290A taking part in the airlift operations at Stalingrad in late 1942. The Ju 290A‑2 was a dedicated maritime patroller, examples of which were sent in August 1943 to the newly established FAGr.5 at Mont‑de‑Marsan, as seen here
The Ju 290A was popular with its pilots, being a docile and comfortable aircraft to fly, with a spacious cockpit and extensive glazing. Despite the latter, however, one of the type’s drawbacks pointed out by its aircrews was the restricted view from the cockpit while on the ground. In this photograph, the instrument layout appears surprisingly basic.