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1939 Focke-Wulf FW 190 Prototype: Crazy Big Spinner!

Focke-Wulf FW 190 V1 (prototype) with massive spinner

Cooling air was taken in thru the center hole in the spinner

(4 pix)

 As I mentioned in the FW 190 CoolPix post the other day, I've been a fan of the this airplane since I was a kid, but that doesn't mean there isn't a boatload of stuff for me to to still learn about it. Like; I didn't know the prototype aircraft had that huge spinner the diameter of the fuselage! I had no idea that this was the original concept Kurt Tank had for the airplane. I found out about the prototype FW 190 in a book my dad had that I stumbled across later the same day I had put up the CoolPix. The idea was that cooling air would enter into that big hole in the middle of the spinner, and the smaller spike spinner was there to help increase the air pressure. All this was supposed to lead to good cooling and low drag.

 There are two kinds of out-of-the-box thinking in aircraft design: super crazy cool ideas that are not only different, but right away they strike a chord as being really well worth the time and effort to give them a try. And then there are those ideas where you just have to say what the heck were these people thinking?! For me, that huge spinner fits the first category. It's like aerodynamics, art, and fantasy all coming together for a moment of synergy, but in the real world. Too bad this idea was better at looking cool than it was at keeping the engine cool.


1:48 scale model of the Focke-Wulf FW 190 prototype (V1) from

 Apparently the hole in the middle of the spinner wasn't big enough, or the air wasn't getting directed to the top of the cylinders well enough, or a little of both. Whatever the reasons, engine overheating was a real problem with this unique configuration. The cockpit was also placed right behind the engine which meant the pilot was overheating as well. It wasn't long in the developmental process that the change was made to the traditional cowling design we're familiar with for the FW 190. And, since the normal cowling hadn't solved all the cooling issues, they added a multi-blade fan right behind the prop, geared to turn about 3 times faster, to increase cooling air flow. Another big change at this time was the move from the original BMW 139 radial engine to the newly developed BMW 801. This picture of a BMW 801 shows the 12 blade cooling fan installed.

 Tho horsepower for both the original BMW 139 and the newer BMW 801 engines were in the 1,500 hp range, but the newer 801 engine was longer and heavier than the 139 that the FW 190 had been designed for. To compensate, the cockpit was moved farther aft to keep the airplane in balance, and it also helped to keep the pilot cooler too. While initially heavier, the 801 engine had the potential for power increases with further development. Later versions would produce well over 2,000 hp.

 The prototype FW 190 is actually quite a bit different than the airplane that became famous. The production aircraft had the traditional cowling, a larger wing, a different engine, the cockpit moved aft and the gear doors were different. Those are just some of the obvious changes, surely many more were made that are harder to detect. But I find it fascinating to see how the FW 190 looked when originally conceived. And I'm always eager to tip my hat to people who take cool, out-of-the-box ideas and give them a try in the real world.

 BTW, you should check out the FW 190 story on the building of the 1:48 scale model shown here, it's very interesting!


Another view of the 1:48 Focke-Wulf FW 190 prototype model from


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Reader Comments (2)

As usual, any time I do a search on an aviation topic of interest to me, I come across a post at AirPigz! I have a series of 8 posts in August and September that discuss the FW 190 from development to the Dora.

Kurt Tank was one of those aviation visionaries that come around rarely. It was unfortunate for the Allies that he was German rather than British or American - his work was essential to the Luftwaffe.

November 24, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRTF Skymaster

Very cool and interesting model. Seems like it would work but sometimes designs don't always translate into reality.

November 7, 2012 | Unregistered Commentermeh

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