Everyone knows the best aircraft to come out of WW2, but what were the worst? To find out, let's base this on some criteria:
The aircraft on this list must have:
- Been produced as part of a series (no prototypes)
- Served in some sort of operational squadron
- Seen some action
With that laid out, here are, quite simply, some of the most atrocious aircraft of the war.
This Italian ground attack aircraft should, in theory, have been pretty good at its job. The prototype had been very promising, yet with the added weight extra structure and operational equipment installed, the airframe became extremely heavy. Many simply refused to take off! Due to this, the aircraft was rather embarrassingly demoted to the role of a grounded decoy to protect airfields - What an indignant end to be considered so useless!
The Soviet LaGG was perhaps the worst fighter of the war. It is, therefore, surprising that 6,528 of the things were built between 1941 and 1943. It was made almost entirely of laminated plywood, which wasn't so bad, but it also turned out to be extremely heavy and cumbersome. The handling was dreadful, so much so that the pilots nicknamed it the 'morticians friend'. Many defects were rectified in the much improved LaGG 5.
3. L.W.S.6 Zubr
This one wins the prize for the hands-down ugliest plane of the war. Looks aren't everything though - this Polish aircraft was also absolutely terrible in almost every other respect. For instance, when the prototype flew on its first demonstrative flight in 1936, it crashed killing the crew. This wasn't enough to stop it being pushed into service where it was found to be hard to fly and useless in its bombing role. Almost all were destroyed on the ground by the invading German army during the invasion of Poland in 1939.
The statistic that nearly 100 of these British planes were shot down in just one week in 1940 should tell you something about the Fairey Battle's suitability as a combat aircraft. Its large airframe was towed along by a single Merlin engine, the sort used by the Spitfire and Hurricane. This simply did not give out the necessary power to outrun or outmanoeuvre attacking BF 109 E's during the Battle of France. Its redeeming quality of easy flying characteristics meant that it was retired to be used as a trainer in 1940.
This was the British general reconnaissance plane that was dreadful at general reconnaissance. The Botha's cockpit was absolutely tiny and had virtually zero visibility, much to the annoyance of its pilots. The aircraft was demoted to a trainer where it's appalling stability got it into a number of fatal accidents. Cramped, turbulent and hopeless at its job, the Blackburn Botha was, in a nutshell, utterly rubbish.
The Me-210 was a good idea in concept. It was a twin-engined interceptor fighter with some impressive tech like remote gun turrets. Unfortunately, the type was extremely unpopular with pilots. This was because the plane suffered from terrible stalls and spins. The chief test pilot said that the 210 had "all the least desirable attributes an aeroplane could possess." - not a great reference to have! Eventually, this plane became the Me-410 which solved many of its problems.
7. Me-163 Komet
Although technologically a success in many ways, the rocket-powered Me-163 was pretty much a failure for the amount of effort put into its design. It was also unbelievably treacherous to fly. A great number of pilots were lost due to the innate dangers travelling at the 600mph+ combined with an unpowered landing. It's not the worst plane on this list by any means, but the 163's shortcomings and inherently perilous nature made it one of the worst planes to fly.
Famously outclassed by superior Japanese fighters at the Battle of Midway in 1942, the Buffalo might have made an adequate WW2 fighter if it hadn't been so out of date. This aircraft had good flying tendencies and, personally, I think it looks like a pretty characterful little fighter. This didn't cut much ice in 1942, however, earning it the nickname of 'Flying Coffin' by American pilots.
Much like the Me-163, Germany's last-ditch attempts to swing the tide of the war by producing revolutionary new fighter jets were a little desperate. For this reason, the aircraft they designed, such as the Heinkel 162, had many flaws. It's engine only lasted 10 hours before needing to be rebuilt and early versions started to disintegrate after their acidic glue began to destroy the wooden airframe. The 162 was also difficult to fly meaning that it needed experienced pilots, many of whom were killed in accidents. Let's just say that you wouldn't want to take a ride in one of these.
10. Saro Lerwick
The Saunders-Roe A.36 Lerwick was an RAF flying boat designed for coastal operations in the English channel. Unfortunately, it was a flawed design. Out of the 21 built, 10 were destroyed in accidents. Ordered off the drawing board (meaning there were no proof of concept prototypes) the Lerwick had atrocious handling both in the air and on the sea. It stalled all over the place and was extremely difficult to get pointing in the direction you wanted to fly in. By 1943, there were none left.
Have you got any dishonourable mentions? Leave a comment below!
Article by James Whomsley
Editor of FliteTest.com