By J. DOUGLAS HINTON
Prologue: Luftwaffe Unteroffizier (Corporal) Heinz Orlowski was shot down Feb. 9, 1945, over Nazi-occupied Norway’s Fordefjord during an Allied raid of 32 Beaufighters, 10 Mustangs, and two search and rescue aircraft intent on destroying the German destroyer Z33 and support ships holed up in the fjord. Pitting his Focke Wulf 190F-8 “White One” against an RAF Mustang, both aircraft took hits.
The Mustang crashed, killing the pilot, but Orlowski’s Focke Wulf was still being riddled, probably flak from the ships below. He decided it was time to go before taking a mortal shell himself. He climbed and tried to bail out, but was temporarily hindered by his radio cord. Finally disentangled from the aircraft, he jumped — but too low. With his chute only partially opened, he alit on a mountainside, started a small avalanche, and slid to the bottom while his flare pistol ignited, causing serious burns to one leg. Discovered hiding in a barn by two Norwegians, he was turned over to the German ground forces and spent the rest of the war in his base hospital at Herdla.
The raid on the Z33 was subsequently dubbed “Black Friday” as the Allies lost nine Beaufighters and one Mustang to flak from the ships and aerial combat. Several more made it back to Scotland but were so badly damaged they never flew again.
Fast forward to 1983: “White One” and other wrecked FW190s were shipped to the Texas Air Museum on an exchange deal. Orlowski’s plane was partially restored and put on static display where Heinz nostalgically visited his steed in 1994.
Later transferred to Tom Reilly’s Warbird Museum in Kissimmee Florida, the plane was purchased in 1999 by Mark Timken with the intention of not only restoring it to flying condition, but to restore it exactly to its 1945 flight condition. Once complete, it will be the second FW190F-8 fighter bomber in the air.
The restoration began immediately after Timken bought the plane and is still ongoing. Timken, director of the non-profit World War II Fighter Aircraft Foundation, estimates it will be another two years before first flight, probably by the warbird first-flight-after-restoration expert Steve Hinton (no relation to the writer).
But the problems facing Timken were enormous. The engine, propeller and spinner were wrong, as were the motor mounts. BMW of Germany was not interested in overhauling the 1,700-hp 801 engine, which was eventually accomplished by Mike Nixon’s Vintage Aero Engines in California. An interesting feature of this engine is that it’s (way back when) FADEC. The throttle controls power, mixture and rpm.
Missing and damaged parts, corrosion, translation of the original flight and maintenance manuals from German to English, and a worldwide search for FW190 parts, all contributed to a frustrating experience.
But the project seems to have a life of its own, Timken noted. “Believe it or not, parts we need occasionally pop up on eBay and we’re off and running again,” he said.
When I asked Timken how the project was being funded, he tapped his chest and said, “You’re looking at him! We have T-shirts, mugs and other gewgaws for sale to weekend visitors, but that’s a drop in the bucket.”
All of the work is accomplished by a couple of paid employees and a few volunteers. Syd Jones has been with the project during the last two years. Owning his own T-6, he is rated on several warbirds and has a wallet full of licenses and ratings. He frequently conducts the weekend tours of the restoration.
When vital parts aren’t available anywhere, the only recourse is to reverse engineer, he said. “Damaged or corroded originals are photographed and meticulously measured, a template is made and replacements are manufactured,” Jones explained. “Timken is a purist who insists that everything is an exact replica of the original.”
To understand the scope of the project, all the parts are either restored or re-made by hand using the original plans and/or parts, Jones explained. Metals and materials are researched to make sure they match the original specifications. An example of the authenticity of the project is that the original metric 120° countersunk rivets were especially fabricated to be exclusively used throughout the project.
All original production markings are reapplied to the restored or replaced components. Even the paint and rubber materials comply with the original chemical composition used in the late production version of this model Focke-Wulf.
Dunlop will provide tires for the aircraft to original specifications and the aircraft cannons will be replaced with dummy copies (spiked, of course!).
The project has moved several times, from an off-airport location, finally ending up on Kissimmee Airport (ISM) in its own hangar next to Stallion 51’s facilities. Not satisfied with the just the “White One” project, Timken is also planning on restoring a FW190 Dora 9 model and a P-51 Mustang “Missy.”
Heinz Orlowski passed away a couple of years ago in Berlin. If he’s looking down from Above, he must be pleased that his beloved “Weisse Eins” will be taking to the air again in the not too distant future with an ersatz Unteroffizier Timken at the controls.
For more information: WWIIFighterAircraftFoundation.org, 727-365-1713