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Willy Messerschmitt
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    (June 26, 1898-September 15, 1978)
    Born in Frankfurt am Main, Germany
    Aircraft designer and manufacturer
    Founder of Messerschmitt AG (1926)
    Designed the Bf 109 and Me 209 fighter planes
    Many of his designs were unstable.
    The first time he flew in one of his own designs (for a glider) he crashed (1925).
    His firm went bankrupt when Lufthansa cancelled their orders after two of his M20 transports crashed (1931).
    Pressed to design a single-engine fighter with long range to serve as a bomber escort, he replied, 'What do you want? A fast fighter or a barn door?'
    Years later, when his factory was attacked by American bombers accompanied by single-engine Thunderbolt fighters, a colleague said, 'Well, there are your barn doors.'
    He served two years in prison after WWII for using slave labor (1948-50).
    The Bf 109 was the most produced fighter in history, with 35,000 built.
    The Me 209 set a speed record of 469 miles per hour (1939), and held the record for propeller-driven planes until 1969.
    Initially banned from aircraft production after WWII, he turned to manufacturing sewing machines, prefab housing and mini cars.
    Ironically, he died on the day when the English celebrate victory in the Battle of Britain.
    In his will, he left most of his personal fortune to restoring cultural monuments in Europe.

Credit: C. Fishel

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