The Storch

If you ask a person which aircraft is synonymous with speed you will probably get answers varying from the Supermarine S-6B and Bell X-1 to the Concorde and Lookheed SR-71. If you ask a person which aircraft is synonymous with slow flight you will probably get the answer Fieseler Storch. The relatively new Gerhard Fieseler Werke G.m.b.H. in Germany designed the Storch in 1935. It became the answer to an RLM Technische Amt requirement to the industry for an army co-operation and observation aircraft. The helicopter had not yet matured to a usable aircraft and short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities could best be achieved by fixed wing designs. The Storch first flew in April 1936 and only minor modifications were needed before it was put into production. First tested operationally by the Legion Condor during the Spanish Civil War, it instantly showed its usefulness. Production tempo built up steadily during 1938 and a large number was delivered to operational units in preparation to the attack on Poland in September 1939. The Storch became a familiar sight on all German fronts during World War II. It fulfilled a number of roles from recognition platform, ambulance, rescue aircraft, light transport and personal runabout.

The single most famous operation by a Storch was the liberation of Benito Mussolini from the hotel at the peak of the Gran Sasso Massif in Italy. The plan was to use a Focke-Achgelis helicopter, but it became unserviceable and it was necessary to use a Storch. The overloaded Storch managed to take off from a rocky mountain plateau at 9000 ft altitude and bring Mussolini to a short period of safety. It is also noteworthy that Generalfeldmarschall Erwin Rommel had a Storch as his personal plane in North Africa. The last act of fame by a Storch was to bring Ritter von Greim and Hanna Reitsch to Hitler’s bunker in Berlin 26 April 1945.

Photos taken at Oslo airport Fornebu in April 1940 indicate that the Storch participated early in the attack on Norway (operation Weserübung). The Storch war ideal for operations in Norway, especially because it could land nearly everywhere on skies during winter. Several units operated the Storch, especially as a means of transportation due to the vast distances and inadequately built roads in Norway. Another important task was to search for Norwegian underground resistance groups hiding in the mountains. The most famous group was the one that succeeded in destruction of the heavy water plant at Rjukan in Norway.

After the war at least 35 Storch aircraft were taken over by the Norwegian Air Force. This was the only type of German aircraft that in any significant number escaped destruction by British units. Most of them were in a bad condition and it was decided to give 10 of the best ones a complete overhaul. Only 8 aircraft were eventually overhauled at the main depot at Kjeller. They became known as Kjeller Storch and given new serial numbers KF- 1 to KF - 8. The last military operation with a Kjeller Storch was in 1954. Later, at least two of them were registered as civil aircraft, and one of them flew until 1961. The only complete Storch in Norway at the moment is a static one on displayed at the Sola Museum as “SB+UY.

A Kjeller Storch in formation with two Fairchild Cornell’s in Norway about 1950. They all wear a standard blue fuselage/yellow wing USAAF trainer paint scheme.

The Storch is basically of conventional design. The fuselage is of welded steel tube with fabric covering. The all around glazed cabin is wider than the fuselage, a feature that gives a clear view straight downward. For “respect” some models (C-2 and C-3) had installed a rear firing 7,92 mm MG-15 machine gun. The fabric-covered wooden wings are hinged at the aft main spar and can be folded backwards to facilitate ground transport.
The extreme slow flight characteristics are the result of a great wing area combined with a relatively lightweight, slats along the entire leading edge, large slotted flaps and drooping ailerons. A heavy-duty main landing gear with long stroke dampers and hydraulic brakes can bring the airplane to an almost immediate stop. The inverted V-8 Argus As 10C can pull the airplane into the sky in a similarly impressive manner. The power output of 240 hp is not that impressive, but its slow rotating speed can turn a relatively large and effective propeller.

The Fieseler Storch was designed to fill the same roles as the American Piper L-4 Grasshopper and the British Auster and Westland Lysander. It must be admitted that the L-4 did almost the same job at a third of the weight of the Storch and with 65 hp. The Lysander was even heavier and could not come near the Storch in terms of STOL capabilities. Several companies have copied the Storch after the war. Noteworthy designs are Dornier Do27 and the PZL-104 Wilga. Even kit build reduced scale Storch copies are available. However, the need for STOL aircraft almost disappeared with the introduction of the helicopter.

Technical data for Fi 156 C-2 (performance at 1240 kg take-off weight)

Wingspan: 14,25 m
Length: 9,90 m
Height: 3,05 m
Wing area: 26 m2
Wing loading (at 1275 kg): 49 kg/m2
Weight/power ratio (at 1275 kg): 5,3 kg/hp
Empty weight: 930 kg
Maximum take-off weight: 1320 kg
Minimum speed (full flaps): 32 mph (51 km/h)
Cruise speed (1800 RPM): 87 mph (140 km/h)
Maximum speed (at sea level): 109 mph (175 km/h)
Maximum dive speed: 165 mph (265 km/h)
Take-off distance (short cut grass): 70 m
Maximum rate of climb (10 degrees flaps): 942 ft/min
Time to 3281 ft (1000 m): 3 min. 54 sek.
Service ceiling: 19.358 ft
Range (at 1800 RPM): 205 miles (330 km)
Landing distance (from 50 ft): 125 m
Landing distance (from touch down): 26 m


The Warbirds of Norway Storch profile is now in sale. It contains 40
pictures of Storch's, mainly taken in Norway, aircraft description, Storch
operations in Norway and Sweden and a detailed listing of 103 German
Storch's in Norway 1940 - 1946. Information most relevant to international
readers are in English. The price is US$ 19,- + postage. The Storch
profile can be ordered via Tor Nørstegård (se contact information).

The Storch is 80 years old!

10 May 2016 must be a proper day for an update on this website. There is conflicting information about the date of the first flight of the Storch. April 1936 is mentioned, but 10 May is in my mind the most trustworthy date.

The Storch was the result of a tender arranged by the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM) Technische Amt in 1935 for an army co-operation and observation aircraft. The request was for an aircraft with extreme slow flying capabilities, short landing performance and excellent downward view. It was also stated that the preferred engine was the Argus As 10.

Gerhard Fieseler Werke responded. The basic design was laid out by Hermann Winter, the chief of design. Reinhold Mews and Viktor Maugsh headed the team that carried out the detailed design and Gerhard Fieseler himself was the overall project leader. There were first produced four prototypes: Fi 156V1 D-IBXY, Fi 156V2 D-IGLI, Fi 156V3 D-DGQE and Fi 156 V4. The later was used for static tests and newer flew.

It is likely that V2, D-IGLI, made the first flight, followed by V1, D-IBXY. The three other companies responding to the new specification was Bayerische Flugzeugwerke (later Messerschmitt) with the parasol winged Bf 163, Siebel with a pusher propel type Si 201 and Focke-Wulf with the gyrocopter Fw 186. The gyrocopter was rejected because its radical design and the two other prototypes flew too late to be considered. The two first Storch prototypes were sent to Reichlin for tests during 1936. A uniquely successful design was born!

V2 deviates from the later production models in several ways. Noteworthy is a leading edge slats on 2/3 of the wing span only, an early type landing gear, four separate exhaust outlets on each side of the engine cowling and an oil cooler in a forward position. This photo is from October 1936, when V2 had a variable pitch metal propeller.

V1 deviates from later production models in much the same way as the V2, but had “winglets” and a rather unusual dorsal fin. Also note the full span leading edge slats and wooden propeller, details that was kept on all later models. The later A-series (military version) and B-series (civilian version) looked almost like the final C-series, but kept the separate exhaust ports. The forward position of the oil cooler was kept on the A series, but it was moved aft to the standard position on the C-series.