The raising of "Yellow 3"

Since the location of our Bf109- G2/R6, “Yellow 3” last summer a lot of planning and preparations has been done to ensure that the recovery could be done in a safe way.

When you are dealing with an airplane that has been in the sea for nearly 70 years you can never safely assume that the structure is strong enough to withstand the loads of lifting. You are always working with a lot of unknown factors and each of these factors will have an effect on the success or failure of the total operation.

Several days before the recovery, the Nærøy Aquaservice and the Folla Diving Club had connected the main lifting straps. At the Norwegian Aviation Museum, special strengthening plates to go around the leading edges of the wings had been made. The main lifting straps were to go on top of the plates together with attachments for additional strapping of the engine. We planned to hoist the airplane almost to the surface and then turn it to a horizontal position when still submerged. It was not to be!

The first problem emerged when it was not possible to secure the engine by using straps attached to the propeller blades. The mud on the bottom was simply too hard for digging. It then became necessary to use straps wrapped around the engine instead. This method was used as an emergency because we very much wanted to have the engine as well as the propeller to the surface in one operation.

The main lifting straps were installed the week before the recovery but the extra straps securing the engine were installed the day of the recovery. To unstuck the “Yellow 3” from the bottom, a load on the winch of nearly ten tons had to be used. When you know that the normal empty weight of this airplane is a little more than 2.5 tons, you can well imagine the loads imposed on the structure!

After being unstuck, the weight of the airplane was 6 tons. Deduct from this the 2.5 tons of “clean” airplane and you have the weight of the silt collected inside the structure through the years!

The recovery vessel “Camilla” left Rørvik harbor at 9 in the morning. The “Yellow 3” broke surface at 12 and the vessel was back in the harbor at 1530. Deduct from this 2 hrs of voyage to and from the wreck site and you have the actual working hours. This is includes the strapping of the engine. To then say that the whole operation went smoothly is an understatement! It was brilliant and performed in a very professional way from all involved.

The extra straps added to secure the engine was not sufficient in order to keep the engine in a straight line to the fuselage. The 20 mm Mg151 gun is protruding almost half a meter through the firewall and into the cockpit. Because the engine shifted somewhat to the side, this gun got stuck to the firewall. Due to the limited space on the deck of the recovery vessel, the gun could not be unstuck at the site safely. A decision was then made to hoist the airplane on board as it was and to keep it vertically hanging from the crane with the engine resting on the deck of “Camilla” until safely ashore.


This decision however, prevented us in removing the securing strap on the tail of the airplane until “Yellow 3” was lowered on to the pier. Because of the rather bad condition of the tail section, a calculated risk was made to have a go with this strap still fastened. Because the most important part for us to salvage was the front end of the fuselage, it was important for us to have this part as intact as possible. We finally managed to disconnect the gun and the engine from the rest of the airplane before hoisting it on to the pier.

The lowering of the airplane to a horizontal position was almost a success but as expected the tail broke loose when in a close to horizontal position. The breakage was at the point of attachment of the securing strap and at the (for us) best point where you had the least damage to salvageable parts.

A team of more than 18 volunteers from the Norwegian Aviation Museum and the Bodø Aviation Historical Society (BAHS) together with several others from the Rørvik area did the dismantling of the aircraft. First-aid preservation to the parts was made at the pier before transportation to Bodø.

The wings are still awaiting transportation to Bodø. Because of an ongoing strike in the transport sector we do not know when we can expect them arriving at the museum.

The last week has been quite hectic with permanent preservation to the most fragile parts being performed. Still we have a lot of work to do until we can relax a little in our activities of preserving all parts recovered.

Already an agreement on the restoration of the wings at Karl Birczaks workshop in Hereg, Hungary is finalized. As soon as we can have the still useful parts from the wings of “Yellow 3” transported to Hereg, this part of the rebuild will start. Also in principle, an agreement of the rebuild of the tail section will most likely result in the aft part of the fuselage being made at Hartmair Leichtbau in Freising, Germany.

A local team will have a go on the DB605 engine, starting as soon as they get organized with tools and workshop.

If all goes as planned, this indicates a hectic year ahead for a lot of people!

A special thank you goes to the Nærøy Aquaservice and the crew aboard the “Camilla” as well as the team from Folla Diving Club for their great help and professionalism in this operation. Without them this addition to the collection of the Norwegian Aviation Museum has not been possible. Also the positive attitude from the local community of Rørvik was instrumental for the successful outcome of this operation.

The Norwegian Aviation Museum has decided that the Messerschmitt Bf109 to go on show inside the museum some years from now will be “Yellow 3”. This will be a fitting tribute to the locals from Rørvik that made it all happen!