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Fieseler Fi 156 Storch

A Bit of STOL History

The Granddaddy of STOL

The legendary Storch (“Stork,” in English) was developed for the Luftwaffe in 1935 and is considered to be the granddaddy of short takeoff and landing aircraft, for good reason. It readily fulfilled its mission of liaison, observation, close air support, staff transport and medevac, and notoriously was used in Benito Mussolini’s escape from the 9,000’ mountaintop prison at Gran Sasso after Italy’s surrender to the Allies during WWII.

The Storch succeeded so well that production was continued after the war in France and Czechoslovakia, and the design spawned several full-sized and 3/4-scale copies that were manufactured in many other countries. Replicas of the original airplane are still produced today.

What Made It Work?

Inspired engineering, incorporating some very promising innovations in aircraft design.

Handley Page Slats

Leading edge wing slats were developed at about the same time by Frederick Handley Page in England, and Gustav Victor Lachmann in Germany. These slats are aerodynamic surfaces attached to the leading edges of the wings of fixed-wing aircraft, allowing the wing to operate at a higher angle of attack. Airplanes so equipped can fly and maneuver at slower speeds, and land and takeoff in shorter distances.

The long wingspan of the Storch is rendered even more effective at generating low-speed lift by adding these slats. Derivatives of the Handley Page design are in use today in commercial airliners as well as a number of STOL aircraft.

Outboard Struts with OLEO Shocks

Side-mounted struts give the Storch a wide stance to improve landing stability. The struts are equipped with long-stroke OLEO shock absorbers that dramatically damp landing forces. AOPA Pilot contributing editor Barry Schiff described the experience of landing the Storch as follows:

“A three-point or so-called full-stall landing is better described as a full-mush landing. You can actually feel the rapid drag rise and developing sink rate early in the flare. To avoid premature touchdown, you need to pull the stick back aggressively and fully. The long-stroke oleos then squish and the gear legs spread as the airplane settles onto the ground at what seems like a standstill. The landing sequence is much like a large bird alighting on a rock, its great wings extended and angled to catch the wind.”

Fowler-Style Flaps & Drooping Ailerons

Fowler-type flaps droop and also extend to increase wing area. On the Storch this increase amounts to 18% of an already very generous wing.

The Storch’s ailerons are synchronized to droop with the flaps when they extend past 20 degrees, forming in effect a full-width flap that creates powerful additional lift and drag.

Although the Storch weighs in at about 300% of a J3 Piper Cub, it is capable of slower flight and shorter takeoffs and landings.

Historic Newsreels Featuring the Storch

Timeless Innovations

Materials and manufacturing techniques have improved a good deal since the 1940s, and as a result we are able to build superior airplane todays. But many early flight innovations have proved to be timeless.

The Storch remains a landmark in STOL design, because the engineers and inventors who contributed their ideas to its development introduced aeronautical innovations that are as useful and practical today as they were then.

Here’s an interesting write-up by Paolo Severin of how he researched and designed his 1/4 scale flying model of the Fi 156 Storch.

Photo of Paolo Severin's 1/4 scale model of the Fi 156 Storch

Download the article.

Note: SportairUSA is not affiliated with Paolo Severin srl.


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