The Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann was a two-man basic trainer produced in vast numbers for the Luftwaffe, as well as in Sweden, Holland, Czechoslovakia and Egypt.
Bücker had produced two very successful biplane trainers - the two-seat Bü 131 Jungmann and the single seat Bü 133 Jungmeister. The company then began to develop a series of monoplanes, but only the fourth and final of these would become a major success. First was the Bü 134, a high-wing monoplane with folding wings, one of which was produced.
This was followed by the Bü 180 Student, a low-wing two seat aircraft of mixed construction, with the crew sitting in tandem cockpits. This aircraft was designed as a civil touring aircraft, and around twenty were built.
Next came the Bü 182 Kornett, which made its maiden flight late in 1938. This was a single seat advanced trainer, using the same construction methods as the Bü 180. Four prototypes were produced, but the German air ministry wasn't interested in the design and no production followed.
The fourth and final aircraft was the Bü 181 Bestmann. This was designed as a two-seat sports and touring aircraft. It had the same basic configuration as the Bü 180, but this time its two crew were carried side-by-side in an enclosed cockpit. The first Bestmann made its maiden flight in February 1939.
The Bü 181 used mixed construction. The front part of the fuselage was built with a chrome molybdenum steel tube structure covered with metal panels. The rear fuselage was a wooden monocoque. The wings and tail had a wooden framework, with plywood covering on the wings and the fixed part of the tail, and fabric covering for the tail control surfaces. The main undercarriage was retractable. Inside the cockpit there were dual controls, space for seat type parachutes and a large baggage compartment.
After tests with the Luftwaffe the Bü 181 was accepted as the standard basic trainer and deliveries of the Bü 181A began late in 1940. Several thousand aircraft were produced in Germany, although the production figures for Bücker aircraft were lost at the end of the war. Two versions were produced for the Luftwaffe - the Bü 181A and slightly modified Bü 181D.
During the war the aircraft was produced by Fokker in Amsterdam, where 708 aircraft were built. Production also began at the Zlin factor in Czechoslovakia, but very few aircraft were produced there before the Germans were forced to retreat from the area. Production continued at Zlin after the war, and the Czech aircraft were designated as the C.6 and C.106 (presumably indicating war-time and post-war production). The Jungmann was also produced under licence in Sweden between 1944 and 1946, and in Egypt in the 1950s.
The Bestmann served as the main basic trainer for the Luftwaffe. As large numbers of aircraft appeared it was also used as a communications aircraft, a glider tug and even as an anti-tank aircraft. This final use came in 1945 and saw panzerfaust anti-tank rockets mounted under the wings. The Bü 181 was not a success as an anti-tank aircraft, and most used in this way were shot down.
Stats (Bü 181A)
Engine: Hirth HM 504 inline engine
Wing span: 34ft 9in
Length: 25ft 9in
Height: 6fy 9 1/8in
Empty Weight: 1,056lb
Loaded Weight: 1,650lb
Max Speed: 133mph at sea level
Cruising Speed: 121mph
Service Ceiling: 16,400ft
Range: 497 miles