... lethal to inexperienced pilots...
Take the case of the Bf 109. Let's take the E model specifically:
- No forward visibility during TO nor landing.
- Combined weak landing gear with a steep approach angle.
- Prone to aileron snatch at landing speeds.
- Very heavy stick forces depending on how trim was set. If set for level flight, could not hold a dive. If set for hands-off dive, you may never pull out.
- Loss of aileron response at high speed.
- No rudder trim at all.
- Very marginal structural strength (due to lightweight design). You could snap the plane in a hard turn.
Another problem that the 109 had (and which it shared with the Spitfire) was the narrow undercarriage track, something the P51 resolved by having the gear retract inward. The Spitfire had better rudder authority at low speeds that compensated somewhat, although the forward view was every bit as bad as the 109, which was the reason for the Spitfire's characteristic descending turn onto "final" to the numbers. They didn't motor in from a distance, instead it was a "run & break" and a very tight circuit to touchdown. With the sorts of engines up front, view was a luxury. From experience with Tiger Moths and Stampes I've no doubt that they lined up from a turn, picked a landmark to one side of the nose and tried to keep it there as power was applied and the nose came up (both gyroscopic events that would turn the a/c). With all that power on tap their problems would have been even greater because everything happens more quickly.
Inexperienced pilots put straight into 109s were apparently as likely to trash the aircraft in ground loops as they were to damage the aircraft in other ways. Putting such pilots into any high performance machine is asking for trouble, and any unforgiving tendencies are amplified, but if that machine is built lightly it just adds to the problem. The RAF guys were helped by grass airfields that allowed them just to turn into the wind and go, anybody confined to a runway would have their hands extra-full in crosswinds.
The 109's lightweight design must have had consequences for everything else. Control surfaces create stresses through their hinges (it's possible on a Stampe to overstress the rudder post if for example you sideslip in one direction and quickly switch to the opposite direction of slip - and they're built for aeros
), so larger more authoritative surfaces can be limited by the structures they are attached to. The 109s had tailplane bracing for strengthening and flutter. In combat, the 109s were at a great disadvantage in dogfights against the Spitfire and needed to adopt swoops and climbs away rather than get into a turning situation. Fuel injection helped 109s against the early Spitfire, which couldn't even go inverted without a twitch to slosh fuel into a small auxiliary tank - a dead giveaway in combat; the 109s could zoom climb away using their attack speed.
All of these beasts were optimised for the airborne mission, and interacting with the planet was where the compromises, if any, were made (such as visibility in fighter aircraft that pilots worked around). This ties in to Galaxyflyer's post somewhat. I guess the GeeBee racer would be an extreme case in point of the same ethos - break a record and we'll worry about getting down safely later! Pilots tended to compensate for the inherent problems with particular aircraft, and it is only things like modern requirements for spacing and such that force crews to deviate from what works for the aircraft (granted the B17 crew in this instance were given discretion to do whatever they thought best).
In the Tiger Moths I flew as a younger guy (in the 70s, and Stampes in the 80s) the reliability of Gypsy Majors etc was not taken for granted and in those aircraft we always approached the airfield at altitude until we could make the glide if we had to, especially since those old biplanes don't really have a glide ratio worthy of the name. If traffic considerations don't give you room for manoeuvre you have a problem, and you resolve it by telling ATC what your intentions are before you execute them, "like it or not".