Messerschmitt Me 262 Ace: Walter Nowotny
Walter Nowotny (7 December 1920 – 8 November 1944) was an Austrian-born fighter ace of the Luftwaffe. Credited with 258 aerial victories over 442 combat missions. He achieved 255 of these victories over the Eastern Front whilst flying predominantly the Focke-Wulf Fw 190 but also the Messerschmitt BF109. He scored an "ace in a day" on several occasions - five enemy aircraft shot down in a single day. There were even two occurrences of "double-ace in a day" - 10 kills in a day. His final three kills were in the Messerschmitt Me 262.
Nowotny joined the Luftwaffe in 1939, completing his fighter pilot training in 1941. He was posted to Jagdgeschwader 54 "Grünherz" (JG 54) on the Eastern Front. Here, Nowotny was the first pilot to achieve 250 victories – 194 of them over 1943 earning several decorations. He was then prevented from flying for several months for propaganda reasons but was reinstated to front-line service in September 1944.
Nowotny tested and developed the 262 jet fighter as commander of a specialist unit named Kommando Nowotny. The unit had to grapple with the continuing development of the aircraft as well as creating new aerial tactics suitable for a jet aircraft. Nowotny's first kill in the 262 was a B-24 Liberator bomber on 7 October 1944.
On the 8th November, Nowotny engaged a large enemy bomber force singlehandedly, after a problem with his turbines prevented him from taking off with other aircraft. He reported over radio downing a B-24 Liberator and a P-51 Mustang before radioing with his final words - either "I'm on fire" or "it's on fire". It is not known whether he was shot down or suffered engine failure. In the wake of his death, the first operational jet fighter wing was named in his honour.