Fritz Kelb crash

The photo below was published in "Le Messerschmitt Diabolique ", the French translation of Mano Ziegler's "Raketenjäger Me163 - Tatsachenbericht von einem der überlebte", and was kindly provided by Gilbert Haentjens from Belgium. It shows the dramatic last seconds of a Komet. The first photo seems to capture the moment of opening the emergency T-Stoff dumping valve. In the second photo the dumping is going full blast. In the third photo the T-Stoff dumping seems to have finished, and the pilot has just bailed out. The last two photos show the parachute deploying.

The caption does not mention who piloted the doomed aircraft, but "Profile No. 225: Messerschmitt Me 163 Komet" contains one of the photos and reports that Fritz Kelb was the pilot involved. Mano Ziegler's book has a chapter about Fritz Kelb's crash which closely fits the film footage. In my 1996 German issue, the story is told on pages 160 to 163. Mano Ziegler reports: While demonstrating the Komet to a Japanese delegation, Fritz' engine quit just after take-off at an altitude of about 100 meters. Black smoke came from the aircraft, clearly the aircraft was on fire. Fritz pulled up, and opened the T-Stoff dumping valve. Just a few meters above the trees, I saw a body falling out of the cockpit, and the parachute opened. They went looking for the crash site, and found Fritz drinking coffee in a farmhouse, with a badly strained ankle.

The date of the crash is problematic. "Flugplatz Brandis 1935-1945 " has the most extensive Komet crash list (page 104-105). The only crash that involved Fritz Kelb is dated 17 March 1945, and reports 'Ort unbekannt; Schaden infolge Luftkampf' or 'location unknown; damage due to air combat'. Both the date and description do not fit. I think that it is quite unlikely that a professional film crew would be present mid March 1945, just one month before the Americans captured the airbase.

The definitive answers were finally published in the second volume of the Ransom/Cammann books. Op page 252 they report that it indeed was Fritz Kelb, the date being 9 September 1944, and the film crew from Ufa. The aircraft identity has not been established however. The crash is not reported in the crash lists in Ethell's book, nor in Ransom's Brandis book.

One last note: I received several e-mails about the 'roundels' visible on the wing. This suggests the sequence shows a captured aircraft, crashing during an evaluation flight. Indeed the wing markings look like white circles, but they are composed of the corners of the iron cross. The photos in the Ransom/Cammann book show this slightly better. Also, no powered test flight were performed after the war, making it impossible that this is a captured aircraft.

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