The Jungmeister, Built as a Luftwaffe Trainer, Once Ruled Air Racing

Flown by champions, it remains a favorite today.

This Jungmeister, YR-PAX (later N15696), was flown by aerobatic legends Alex Papana, Count Hagenburg, Mike Murphy, and Beverly “Bevo” Howard—who perished in the aircraft at age 57 when it crashed as he was flying in a charity airshow.

Compact, lightweight, powerful, and equipped with ailerons on both its upper and lower wings, the Bücker Bü-133 Jungmeister was an aerobatic pilot’s dream, dominating the sport in Europe and the United States in the 1930s and ’40s. Today it remains a favorite of airshow pilots like David Martin, whose repertoire has included a daring inverted, no-hands flight of his Jungmeister since 2010.

Built in Germany before World War II and, during the war, in Spain, this single-seat variant of the Bü-131A Jungmann had a steel-tube fabric-covered fuselage and wings of wood spars and ribs. Most Jungmeisters used a 160-horsepower, seven-cylinder radial air-cooled Siemens Sh-14A.

The Museum’s Jungmeister was imported to the United States by aerobatic champion Alex Papana aboard the airship Hindenburg in 1936. Both Papana and Count Hagenburg flew it at the Cleveland Air Races the following year. Hagenburg had crashed his own Jungmeister trying to outdo Papana’s fancy flying with an extremely low-altitude inverted pass over the grandstand. Escaping serious injury, Hagenburg took off again mere moments later—in his friendly rival’s Jungmeister this time.

Bevo Howard, who inspired Martin’s Jungmeister routine, won the 1946 and 1947 Aerobatic Championships in this same aircraft. In 1971, Howard was performing an inverted turn in the Jungmeister at an airshow in Greenville, North Carolina when it crashed, killing him instantly. His estate donated the restored airplane to the National Air and Space Museum in 1973.

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This story is a selection from the February/March issue of Air & Space magazine

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