FIESELER Fi-156c-7 STORCH AM-99 c/n 475099

The Fieseler Storch was designed in Germany as a short take-off multi-purpose communications aircraft and the prototype first flew in May 1936.  The majority of Fieseler Storch aircraft were produced by the Morane-Saulnier factory in France and the Mraz factory in occupied Czechoslovakia, both of which continued production after the war.  Many ex-Luftwaffe examples served with various European forces well into the 1950s.

The aircraft's remarkable performance and versatility soon proved its worth as an army co-operation aircraft during the Campaigns fought in Western Europe, the Mediterranean and Russia.  Field-Marshal Erwin Rommel made extensive use of the Storch to survey the ever-changing front line during the Campaign in North Africa and the Western Desert.  The Fieseler Storch also proved invaluable in locating and rescuing German airmen who had been shot down.

The remarkable aircraft can be airborne within a distance of 35 metres and can land within 125 metres.  In a 50 km/hour head-wind, the aircraft can "hover".  The aircraft capabilities were best demonstrated during the dramatic rescue on 12 September 1943 by German Parachutists, of Benito Mussolini, the former Italian Fascist dictator, who was being held under close arrest at a mountain top hotel.  Another excellent example of this aircraft's ability to operate in confined spaces was the dramatic mission that took place on 23 April 1945 when the famous woman test pilot Flugkapitan Hanna Reitsch landed a Storch in the centre of Berlin at night amid piles of rubble and under soviet gunfire so that the new incoming Luftwaffe Chief could conduct a personal interview with Adolph Hitler.

Regarded as the best liaison and spotter aircraft of World War Two, captured Storch aircraft were highly prized amongst Allied Commanders and even Sir Winston Churchill, Field Marshal Montgomery and General Eisenhower are known to have flown in them whilst inspecting Allied forces in Normandy during 1944.  At least 47 of these captured aircraft are known to have been used by the allies throughout the Mediterranean Theatre.

During 1946, Captain “Jack” Meaker was sent to England to do a flying conversion course on the Gloster Meteor jet fighter.  While on course, he, together with fellow course members from other Commonwealth Countries, visited the Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough where a large collection of captured Luftwaffe aircraft was stored.  They were invited to select examples of aircraft to be placed in military museums in their home countries.  He selected five aircraft, namely, two Messerschmitt Me262 jet fighters, two Focke-Wulf Fw190's and a Fieseler Fi156c-7 Storch.

Assuming that all the necessary official transfer procedures would be completed, he finished his conversion course and returned to the Union.  During 1946, the selected aircraft were sent to 47 Maintenance Unit RAF for dismantling and subsequent shipment by sea to South Africa.  The aircraft left Britain on 20 October 1946 aboard the S.S. Perthshire and arrived in Cape Town on 6 November 1946.  Some time later, Captain Jack Meaker was summoned by his superior officer to be and informed that "his aircraft" were awaiting collection on the quayside at Cape Town harbour and at the same time, presented him with an account for 6 000 Pounds, the cost of shipping the aircraft from Britain to South Africa.  After some serious explaining, the Union Government agreed to cover the costs.

Two of the aircraft were transferred to 68 Air School in Lyttleton while the other three were transported to Air Force Station Nigel (Dunnottar) where they were partly assembled and parked out in the open on the edge of the airfield.  Sadly, after having suffered the effects of the weather and souvenir hunters, the two aircraft at 68 Air School were sold to a trade school and later scrapped.  The remaining Me262 Night Fighter (now the only one of its type surviving in the world) and a Focke-Wulf Fw190 are now on display at the South African National War Museum in Johannesburg.  The Fieseler Fi-156c-7 Storch together with both engines from one of the scrapped Me262 jet fighters were delivered to the SAAF Museum at Zwartkop on 13 May 1975 where they are now on display.  One of the Me262 engines was sectioned and is now on display at the SAAF Museum at Ysterplaat, Cape Town.

The Fieseler Fi-156c-7 Storch VD+TD on display was built during October 1944 with werk nr. 475099 as a c-7, the last wartime variant – having a twin-braced tail wheel, no elevator slats and no rear-firing machine gun.  It is one of two known survivors of the 230 examples produced at the Mraz factory in German occupied Czechoslovakia.  From the original paintwork it appears that this aircraft served on the Russian front.  Allocated the Air Ministry serial AM99, it was one of three aircraft ferried from Knokke in Belgium to RAF Farnborough in September 1945.  The SAAF allocated the aircraft number 200 but it appears that this number was never painted onto the aircraft.

Having flown only six hours and 40 minutes in South Africa, the aircraft was grounded on 28 October 1947 due to overheating problems and placed in storage.  The Storch was originally allocated to the South African National War Museum but they were unable to accept it due to lack of space and it was then offered to the SAAF Museum in February 1974.

The Storch was taken on charge during May 1975 and an attempt to restore it at Wonderboom was aborted.  During 1977, the restoration project was resumed by 1 Air Depot at Air Force station Voortrekkerhoogte.  Detailed and meticulous research enabled the Storch to be restored to its original wartime appearance and, after making its first flight on 29 November 1979, it became the first aircraft to join the SAAF Museum’s Historic Flight.

The overheating problems which originally grounded the Storch in 1947 remained unsolved and were only alleviated by the removal of the side engine cowlings – a solution apparently also adopted by the Luftwaffe during the Western Desert Campaign.  The Storch flew for the last time on 10 November 2000 after flying a total of 149 hours since rebuild.

Specifications:

Country of Origin:  Germany but built in German occupied Czechoslovakia
Manufactured as:  Fieseler Fi-156c-7 Storch
Role:  Artillery Spotter and General Communications
Power Plant: One Argus, 8 cylinder air-cooled, piston engine delivering 176 kW (240 hp)
Max take-off mass:  1 320 kg
Max speed:  175 km/h
Max range:    378 km