The Last Flying He 111 Crashed in 2003 (Video)

CASA 2.111
CASA 2.111

This short video takes you on a detailed tour of the He 111 CASA 2.111, an aircraft based on the German Heinkel He 111 that was produced by the Spanish under license in WWII.

The aircraft featured in the tour was the single He 111/CASA that was airworthy, until it was a totally lost in a crash in 2003, killing both the pilot and co-pilot.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Spain were in the market for newer, modern military aircraft. They looked to Germany, who at the time were producing cutting edge aircraft like the He 111 and Me 109. Spain purchased a number of He 111s from Germany, and eventually sought a deal to build them themselves, by the aircraft manufacturer CASA. Heinkel agreed to license the design.

A German Heinkel He 111. Image by Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0.
A German Heinkel He 111. Image by Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0.

The chaos in Europe at the time meant the project moved at a snails pace, taking all the way until 1945 to get the first one in the air, a whole decade after Heinkel first flew the He 111. The lack of engines was also an issue. The first model was powered by two Jumo 211F-2 engines that were sourced from a stockpile discovered in France, which contained enough engines to fit into 130 aircraft and provide a small supply of spare parts.

These German engines became even harder to source after the war had ended, so Spain chose the Rolls-Royce Merlin to replace them. This engine was available in large quantities, and offered even better performance. The engine nacelles were identical to those used on the Lancaster bomber.

The resulting CASA 2.111 looks remarkably similar to the He 111, because in truth, it was one, with a few difference here and there to suit the Spanish.

Only 240 CASA 2.111s were built, of which around 14 survive today. Interestingly, there are more CASA 2.111s around today than the 5 remaining He 111s, despite over 6,000 of those being built.

None of these survivors are in flying condition, however.

It wasn’t always this way though, as there was a single CASA 2.111 flying until 2003. On the 10th of July that year, the aircraft fatally crashed upon landing at the Cheyenne Municipal Airport, after flying from Midland, Texas. The aircraft was on its way to an airshow in Montana when the tragedy struck.

On the final approach to the runway, the aircraft’s left engine lost power. The pilot reported this to the control tower, adding that they would not be able to make to the airstrip. Eyewitnesses saw the aircraft flying low and slow at very low altitude, before dipping hard to the left, striking the ground with the left wing first.

A German Heinkel He 111. Image by Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0.
A German Heinkel He 111. Image by Alan Wilson CC BY-SA 2.0.

The CASA 2.111 crashed through a fence, hit into a parked car and then collided with a school bus-washing business under construction. As mentioned, the pilot and co-pilot were sadly lost in the crash.

A detailed examination of the engines showed there was no problems that could have caused such an issue. Regardless of the reason, once the left engine cut out, the aircraft would have needed the right engine’s full power to remain in the air. At low airspeeds, this can cause aa loss of control of the aircraft.

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Videos, such as this one, and images taken at the Armed Forces Air Show (1997) are all that remain of this aircraft.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE