|Jet Tales. The Lufthansa Magazine. 3/81.|
Willy Messerschmitt founded his company in 1923, intially making gliders. His first powered aircraft was the sport model M-17, a high-wing monoplane. With only 30 horsepower, it managed to fly over the Alps to Rome, albeit with stopovers.
In 1927, his company merged with Bayerischen Flugzeugwerken (BFW) which had much larger facilities in Ausburg. The first product to emerge was the M-18, a mid-wing cantilever model with a three-passenger cabin and open cockpit. This led to the development of the M-20, which expanded accommodation to 10 passengers and included an enclosed two-place cockpit. It offered airlines exceptional economy, since its payload was almost 90 percent of its empty weight.
Lufthansa ordered 10, but reneged on the deal when two machines crashed in 1930. This put the Ausburg factory into a tailspin, forcing it into bankruptcy in 1931. The M-20's tail structure was found to be the cause of the accident and, once this was strengthened, Lufthansa agreed to buy the aircraft, which it used frequently for children's excursions over Berlin. Primarily used on domestic flights (and carrying names like Odenwald, Franken and Rheinpfalz), these aircraft also flew to other European destinations such as Barcelona, Amsterdam and Basel. They were both reliable and economical, and the last one was not removed from service until 1943.