Louis Francis Langhurst (22 January 1907 - 17 May 1995) was an American engineer and inventor. Born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he is best known for building a 7/10-scale flying replica of Germany’s feared Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive-bomber.
Birth of an idea
In 1970, while living on a 70 acre farm in Carriere, Mississippi, Louis Langhurst first got the idea of building a replica Junkers Ju-87 Stuka, a two-seat monoplane dive-bomber used by Germany’s Luftwaffe (Air Force) during WWII. With no original plans available, Langhurst spent the next three years gathering and studying research materials on the aircraft and making the necessary aerodynamic calculations in order to draft plans for a 7/10th scaled-down version. By April 1973, he had enough drawings completed to actually begin cutting metal. Langhurst opted for all-metal construction based on the parameters he had set for the scale replica and also because he felt his metal-working skills were superior to those he had working with wood.
Langhurst chose to build a replica of the Ju 87B-2 as this version was in production at the outbreak of WWII and constituted the largest number of all Stukas built during the war. He housed the project in a shed on his farm and was later granted permission to clear a 1,700-ft grass airstrip on his property from which to fly the completed aircraft. By his own estimation, Langhurst spent 8,000 man-hours working on his Stuka.
After much consideration, Langhurst painted the aircraft in the same scheme and unit markings as that of Germany’s most highly decorated Stuka pilot, Oberst Hans-Ulrich Rudel, who commanded III Gruppe/Stuka Geschwader 2 Immelman (III./StG2) on the Eastern Front during WWII. The plane was assigned the official FAA registration tail code N87LL and sports the registration code T6+AD along the fuselage.
By July 1978, Langhurst’s replica Stuka was complete and ready for flight testing. Following an inspection of the aircraft, the FAA agent in Jackson Mississippi issued temporary airworthiness papers so that testing could begin. Initially the plane’s wheel pants, dive brakes, machine guns and dummy center line-mounted bomb were left off so as to conduct testing of the aircraft in a “clean” condition. Later in the program, these items were individually added back on to determine how they affected the plane’s overall handling characteristics.
Among the initial problems encountered with the aircraft were flight controls out of adjustment, inadequate braking action and shimmying of the tail wheel. None of these posed any serious impediments to the aircraft’s basic aerodynamic performance, however, and all were eventually corrected. A flight accident occurred when one of the test pilots applied the brakes too hard upon landing, tipping the aircraft nose first and wrecking the plane’s propeller. Langhurst had to wait eight months for the manufacture of a new custom-made propeller.
By July 1979 the flight testing and necessary flying time were finished and the FAA lifted the temporary restrictions. Langhurst had long planned on taking the plane to the annual EAA Fly-In at Oshkosh, WI and, with his friend Col. Reggie Braddock at the controls and Langhurst occupying the backwards-facing rear gunner’s seat, made the 900 mile trip that summer. Langhurst had attended the Fly-In for the past 15 years but this was the first time he had his own home-built aircraft to bring along.
In talking over the Ju 87 Stuka’s actual flight characteristics with several former Luftwaffe pilots, who had flown them during the war, Langhurst felt his replica shared many similarities, chiefly the quick responsiveness of the controls and the need to “…fly the airplane all the time you are in it” and the ability to land it three point or on two wheels with equal ease. In November 1980, former Stuka pilot Hans-Ulrich Rudel himself had a chance to fly in Langhurst’s replica and declared that its flying characteristics closely hewed to the original.
In 1981, after 175 hours of flight time, Langhurst loaned his home-built Stuka to the San Diego Aerospace Museum (now the San Diego Air and Space Museum) where it was placed on display for the next ten years. The aircraft was then sold to newspaper editor Roland Weeks of Biloxi, Mississippi. In 2002, Weeks sold the plane to Mitch Sammons of Augusta, Maine where the plane now resides and is a frequent performer at local air shows.
Other Stuka replicas
A second flyable Stuka replica, based on Langhurst’s drawings, was completed by Richard H. Kurzenberger of Horseheads, NY in 1987. It was given the FAA registration code N87DK and sported the fuselage registration code T6+KL. Kurzenberger's Stuka was based in nearby Elmira for the next twelve years until he sold it in 2000 with an accrued flight time of 354hours. The new owner's father, Amos Faux-Burhans, making his first familiarization flight in the aircraft, crashed upon take-off from the Faux-Burhans Airport in Urbana, Maryland on 26 May 2000 and died from his injuries. His son had purchased the plane just two weeks earlier. The aircraft was so badly damaged from both the crash impact and subsequent fire that it was written off.
Vladimir Nesonov, a retired Ukrainian army pilot, built a 3/4-scale replica Stuka from scrap and powered it with a four-cylinder engine. He flew it for the first time in June 2002 at an airfield in Dzhankoi, Ukraine. The plane is currently on exhibit at the Central Air Force Museum at Monino Airfield, just east of Moscow.
As of 2012, Jeff Willoughby was still working on a 5/8-scale Stuka replica in Pennsylvania, a project he began in 2003. Construction is primarily wood with an aluminum main spar and aluminum skinning for the wings and fuselage. The plane will be powered by a 110 hp converted Corvair automobile engine.
Langhurst Stuka Specifications
Data from Military Aircraft Replicas: A New Era in Flight
- Crew: 2
- Length: 7.3 m (24 ft 0 in)
- Wingspan: 9.9 m (32 ft 6 in)
- Height: 2.3 m (7 ft 6 in)
- Wing area: 35.40 m² (164 ft²)
- Empty weight: 760 kg (1,680 lb)
- Loaded weight: 1,032 kg (2,275 lb)
- Powerplant: 1 × Lycoming GO435-B air cooled, 160 kW (220 hp)
- Maximum speed: 220 km/h (119 kn, 137 mph)
- Rate of climb: 5.6 m/s (1,100 ft/min)
- Wing loading: 158.9 kg/m² (13.8 lb/ft²)
- 250 kg (551 lb) dummy bomb mounted along center line of fuselage
- 4× 50 kg (110 lb) dummy bombs mounted near wingtips
- Kurzenberger, Richard H. (2003). The Exciting Life of an Emigre. Trafford Publishing.
- Langhurst, Louis F. (August 1974). "7/10 Stuka Project Report". Sport Aviation.
- Langhurst, Louis F. (December 1975). "Stuka Project Update". Sport Aviation.
- Langhurst, Louis F. (October 1979). "Stuka Over Oshkosh!". Sport Aviation.
- Langhurst, Louis F. (1983). Military Aircraft Replicas: A New Era in Flight. Lourene Ventures.
- Sammons, Mitch (March 2008). "The Langhurst Stuka". Warbirds, Vol. 31, no.2.
- 7/10 Stuka Project Report / Sport Aviation Aug. 1974
- Stuka Project Update / Sport Aviation Dec.1975
- Stuka Over Oshkosh! / Sport Aviation Oct. 1979
- PM Magazine video interview & aerial footage, 1980 on YouTube
- Northern Maine International Airshow
- Jeff Willoughby's 5/8-scale Replica Stuka Project
- Vladimir Nesonov's 3/4-scale Stuka