The Bücker Jungmeister dominated the aerobatic scene in Europe and the United States from the mid-1930s through the 1940s. Introduced in 1935 by Carl Bücker as a single-seat version of the Bü 131 A Jungmann, a two-place advanced aerobatic trainer, the Jungmeister became a favorite of European flying clubs.
Romanian pilot Alex Papana brought this Jungmeister to the United States crated in the airship Hindenburg and flew it at the 1937 Cleveland Air Races. Mike Murphy reregistered the airplane as his own and flew it to win the 1938 and '40 American Aerobatic Championships. Beverly "Bevo" Howard then bought it and won the '46 and '47 championships. Howard was killed in an accident in this airplane in 1971, but his estate restored the Jungmeister and donated it to the Smithsonian in 1973.
The Jungmeister dominated the aerobatic scene in Europe and the United States during the mid-1930s and 1940s, and the Museum's Jungmeister is especially important because of the four great aerobatic pilots who flew it. The modest size, plus a high power-to-weight ratio, with ailerons on both upper and lower wings, insured its future as an excellent aerobatic aircraft.
The Bücker Bü-133 Jungmeister was a production biplane built in Germany before World War II and in Spain during the war. It was the single-seat version of the Bü-131A Jungmann, a two-place advanced aerobatic sport and training plane introduced in 1934 by Bücker Flugzeugbau in Berlin. The Jungmann became popular with the flying schools of Luftsportverband, a civil flying association during the early 1930s before military flight was allowed in Germany. In reality, the association trained the pilots who formed a clandestine air arm that later became the Luftwaffe. In 1935, Carl Bücker introduced the single seat Jungmeister, so similar to the Jungman that parts could be interchanged. While the Jungmeister was designed to use either the Hirth HM 506 160-hp inline air-cooled engine or the seven-cylinder radial air-cooled Siemens Sh-14A of 160 hp, the latter engine was used almost exclusively. The fuselage was a steel tube covered with fabric, and the wings were built of wooden spars and ribs with fabric cover, with the upper and lower panels being interchangeable. The outer wing panels had an 11-degree sweep-back.
Because of its agility and lightness on the controls, it was selected by a number of European flying clubs and air services as an advance trainer for aerobatics. Some pilots of the prewar era contend that the only aircraft that matched the Jungmeister were the specially built Great Lakes trainers, but others even question this comparison. A number of Jungmeisters still exist, both here and in Europe, and command high prices because of their scarcity and demonstrated maneuverability. After World War II, a limited number of the airplanes were produced near Munich, but high labor costs made them almost prohibitively expensive. This situation and the growing enthusiasm for aerobatic flying led to the development of rival types such as the Pitts Special, the Zlin 526A Trener Master, and the Yak 18 PS.
The Museum's Jungmeister, YR-PAX and later N15696, was flown exclusively by aerobatic champions. Aerobatic pilot Alex Papana acquired the aircraft and it shipped to the United States in 1936 aboard the airship Hindenburg. During the Cleveland Air Races of 1937, both Papana and Count Hagenburg flew the aircraft in competition after the latter's Jungmeister crashed while these two pilots were engaging in a showmanship contest. Papana made a low level inverted pass in front of the grandstands, and Hagenburg, not wishing to be outdone, repeated the maneuver at no more than a few feet above the ground. But as he pushed forward to climb out, the vertical fin hit the ground slowing him sufficiently to cause the plane to crash. Fortunately, Hagenburg was not injured seriously, and a few minutes later he was back in the air completing his performance in Papana's Jungmeister.
The aircraft was severely damaged in 1940 and was acquired by Mike Murphy, who had already flown it to win the American Aerobatic Championship at the Miami All American Air Maneuvers in 1938. He rebuilt it with a Warner engine and flew it to victory again in 1940. Beverly "Bevo" Howard soon bought the Jungmeister and won the 1946 and 1947 aerobatic championships with it. Howard took great pleasure in flying numerous weekend air shows and programs for worthy causes, and he always performed at the graduation ceremonies for aviation cadets at Hawthorne Aviation Company Schools, of which he was president, in Charleston, South Carolina. Unfortunately, on October 17, 1971, while flying at a show in Greenville, North Carolina, he had a fatal accident. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cited complete engine failure, fuel exhaustion and failure to see and avoid objects and obstructions (a tree) as the probable causes. The Jungmeister was almost demolished but was rebuilt by his estate and friends who had worked with him during its flying career.
Howard's estate donated the restored aircraft to the National Air and Space Museum in June 1973. The Museum displayed the Jungmeister in its Exhibition Flight gallery and then lent it to the Naval and Maritime Museum at Patriot's Point, South Carolina for several years before its return to NASM. It is currently on display at the Museum's Stephen F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Virginia.