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Bü 181 Bestmann
D-EKYF, a Swedish-built Bücker Bü 181 B-1
Role Advanced trainer
Manufacturer Bücker
First flight February 1939
Primary users Luftwaffe
Number built 3,400

The Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann (Best Man) is a two-seater, single-engine trainer aircraft built by Bücker Flugzeugbau GmbH in Johannisthal, Berlin and extensively used by the Luftwaffe in World War II.


The prototype Bü 181 (D-ERBV) made its maiden flight in February 1939 with Chief Pilot Arthur Benitz at the controls. After thorough works and official flight testing by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) the Bü 181 was nominated to be the standard primary trainer for the Luftwaffe. Series production of the Bü 181 commenced in 1940/41. The types were designated A to D with only slight variations between each and could be powered either by the Hirth 500A or 504 engine.


Flight instruments of a Gomhouria 181 Mk6

The Bü 181 Bestmann was powered by a 105 hp four-cylinder Hirth HM 504A piston engine. The Bü 181A aircraft was a single-engine low-wing monoplane with fixed undercarriage, air-cooled 4-cylinder HM 500 A engine, split flap, twin controls and two adjustable seats arranged side-by-side. The cabin section of the fuselage was of a tubular steel frame construction whereas the rear of the fuselage had a wooden shell. The wing assembly and tail unit were also of wooden shell construction. All the rudders, elevators and ailerons had wooden ribs and are covered in fabric.

The aircraft was designed for training flights, pleasure trips and aerobatics. Its strength corresponded to Stress Group 5 with a limited load (single occupancy) and Stress Group 4 fully laden.


The Bücker factory at Rangsdorf built most of the Bü 181's, but because of demand was forced to license the design to the Fokker Company in the Netherlands, who subsequently built 373 of the type for the Luftwaffe all of which were delivered by the end of 1943.

Production of both the Bü 181A and the slightly modified Bü 181D was begun by Fokker in Amsterdam in 1942 and its total wartime production was 708 aircraft. Between 1943 and 1945, Hägglund & Söner AB in Sweden built 120 Bü 181's with the Hirth 500A engine with the Swedish military designation Sk 25.

One of 125 Swedish-built Bücker Bü 181

Just prior to the German withdrawal from Czechoslovakia, production of the Bü 181D was initiated in the Zlín plant at Otrokovice, and production continued after the war, as the C.6 and C.106 for the Czechoslovak Air Force and as the Zlín Z.281 and Z.381 in various versions for civil use. 783 aircraft were built.

During the 1950s the Heliopolis Aircraft Works of Egypt acquired a Czechoslovak licence to produce the Bestmann in versions similar to the Zlín Z.381 with a 105 hp Walter-Minor engine. It was produced for the Egyptian Air Force as the Gomhouria (meaning "Republic") and subsequent versions were supplied to other Arab air forces. At least 300 Gomhourias were built.[1]

In all, 3,400 aircraft were built but only a handful survive today.


Although built as a primary trainer for the Luftwaffe, the type also performed other duties such as communication, glider towing, and even launching Panzerfaust anti-tank grenades from underwing-mounted launchers,[2] with one restored Bestmann on display at the Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin with a pair of Panzerfausts under its wing panels,[3] not unlike what American army officer Major Charles Carpenter had done with half-a-dozen M1 Bazooka rocket launchers, beneath the wing struts of his Piper L-4 Grasshopper liaison aircraft late in World War II against the Germans.[4] A Bücker Bü 181 'Bestmann' was used in the movie The Great Escape. It was flown in the movie by James Garner with Donald Pleasence as his passenger.

Test pilot, and sister-in-law of Claus von Stauffenberg, Melitta Schenk Gräfin von Stauffenberg was flying a Bücker Bü 181 when she was shot down and fatally wounded in 1945.[5]


Bu 181
Bu 181A
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft.
Bu 181D
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft. Slightly modified version, with only minor improvements.
Zlín Z.181
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft. Czech production version of the Bu 181D, built by Zlín in Czechoslovakia after the war.
Zlín Z.281
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft, powered by a Toma 4 piston engine.
Zlín Z.381
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft, powered by a 105 hp (78 kW) Walter Minor piston engine. Czech Air Force designation C-106.
Gomhouria Mk 1
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft, powered by a Walter Minor piston engine. Egyptian production version of the Zlín 381, built under licence in Egypt by the Heliopolis Aircraft Works.[6]
Gomhouria Mk 2
Two-seat primary trainer aircraft, powered by a 145 hp (108 kW) Continental C-145 piston engine.[6]
Gomhouria Mk 3
As Mk. 2, but with improved undercarriage.[6]
Gomhouria Mk 4
Increased fuel capacity.[6]
Gomhouria Mk 5
Similar to Mk 1, powered by Walter Minor, but with different engine mounting.[6]
Gomhouria Mk 6
Continental O-300 engine.[6]
Sk 25
Swedish Air Force designation of the Bucker Bu 181.


Of the over 4,000 Bü 181s originally built, only 32 examples remain. Of the 32 survivors, only two are presently in flying condition, one being on display at Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, Florida [1].

Former Military Operators

  • - Postwar.


Data from The Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II [8]

General characteristics

  • Crew: Two
  • Length: 7.85 m (25.7 ft)
  • Wingspan: 10.6 m (34.71 ft)
  • Height: 2.05 m (6.7 ft)
  • Wing area: 13.5 m² (145.3 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 480 kg (1,058 lb)
  • Max. takeoff weight: 750 kg (1,653 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Hirth HM 504A 4-cyl. inverted air-cooled in-line piston engine, 78 kW (105 hp)


  • Maximum speed: 116 knots (134 mph, 215 km/h) at sea level
  • Cruise speed: 105 knots (121 mph, 195 km/h)
  • Range: 800 km (497 mi, 432 nm)
  • Service ceiling: 5,000 m (16,405 ft)

See also


  1. Donald 1996, p.200.
  2. Smith and Kay 1972, p.95.
  3. FalkeEins (August 4, 2012). "Bückers with bazookas - Bü 181 'Bestmann' mit Panzerfäusten (1)". Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  4. "What's New-Piper Cub Tank Buster". GoogleBooks, Popular Science v.146 No.2, Feb, 1945. February 1945.,+Vol.+146+No.+2&source=bl&ots=TEAxvB4k9K&sig=t34IeM2lM3tvLIsW4fTDdruORUw&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rPZIUM_4LNO30QHktYGQAw&ved=0CDEQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&q=Popular%20Science%2C%20Vol.%20146%20No.%202&f=false. Retrieved September 6, 2012. 
  5. Russel Naughton. "Melitta Schiller (1903 - 1945)". Retrieved 2009 1 4. "'info taken from book by Gerhard Bracke, "Melitta Gräfin Stauffenberg, das Leben einer Fliegerin"'" 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Taylor 1965, p.29.
  7. "Trade Registers". Retrieved 2013-06-20. 
  8. Mondey 1996, p.30.
  • Donald, David and Lake, Jon. (editors). Encyclopedia of World Military Aircraft. London: Aerospace Publishing, Single volume edition, 1996. ISBN 1-874023-95-6.
  • König, Erwin. Bücker Bü 181 "Bestmann" (Flugzeug Profile 30) (in German). D-86669 Stengelheim, Germany: Unitec Medienvertrieb e.K.
  • König, Erwin. Die Bücker-Flugzeuge (The Bücker Aircraft) (bilingual German/English). Martinsried, Germany: Nara Verlag, 1987. ISBN 3-925671-00-5.
  • König, Erwin. Die Bückers, Die Geschichte der ehemaligen Bücker-Flugzeugbau-GmbH und ihrer Flugzeuge (in German). (1979)
  • Mondey, David. The Hamlyn Concise Guide to Axis Aircraft of World War II. London: Chancellor Press Ltd, 1996. ISBN 1-85152-966-7.
  • Smith, J.Richard and Kay, Antony L. German Aircraft of the Second World War. London: Putnam and Company Ltd., 3rd impression 1978, p. 94-96. ISBN 0-370-00024-2.
  • Taylor, John W. R. Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1965-66. London: Samson Low, Marston, 1965.
  • Wietstruk, Siegfried. Bücker-Flugzeugbau, Die Geschichte eines Flugzeugwerkes (in German). D-82041 Oberhaching, Germany: Aviatik Verlag, 1999. ISBN 3-925505-28-8.
  • Wood, Tony and Gunston, Bill. Hitler's Luftwaffe: A pictorial history and technical encyclopedia of Hitlers air power in World War II. London: Salamander Books Ltd., 1977, p. 140. ISBN 0-86101-005-1.

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