The Scourge of Allied Airmen
With its mid-wing monoplane design and distinct comma tail, Fokker's E-series fighter is of the most recognizable aircraft of World War I. The Fokker E.III Eindecker -- meaning "single wing" -- was born when a machine gun and relatively dependable interrupter gear were mated with an existing airplane.
The E.III deserves a significant place in aviation history, not necessarily because of its aerial prowess, but because it was the first combat aircraft in the world to be equipped with a forward-firing, fixed machine gun synchronized to fire between the propeller blades. Looking back, however, historians note the result was nothing too amazing. The Eindecker was notoriously weak structurally and the firing mechanism was prone to failure _ sometimes causing a pilot to blow off his own propeller! But seen in the context of the air war at the time -- in the last days of 1915 -- the Eindecker meant everything.
German flyers like Max Immelmann and Oswald Boelcke flew these Fokker Eindeckers, hunting Allied machines and developing the groundwork of the fighter tactics that are still employed today.
The Museum's Fokker E.III was built in 1981 by Jim and Zona Appleby.
An Elusive Beauty
Flyers sometimes say that, "If a plane looks good, it's bound to fly good too." The Albatros D.Va might be an exception. While the fighter looks like a winner -- smooth, cigar-like fuselage and beautifully-shaped wings, a Mercedes D IIIa, 160- or 200-horsepower in-line engine and two 7.92mm Spandau machine guns -- the D.Va was the end of a long line of modified designs.
Near the beginning of the run, the Albatros D.I and D.IIs were considered fast, hearty, and well-armed compared to the opponents they met in the skies. In the end, the Albatros model D.Va had lost ground when matched against the more powerful SPAD and S.E.5a or the maneuverable Sopwith Camel. "The D.V is so outdated that one does not risk anything with it," were the harsh words from famous ace Manfred von Richthofen, "And the people at home, for nearly a year, have developed nothing better than the lousy Albatros."
Besides sub-standard performance, the Albatros' "V" wing struts made the lower wing susceptible to flutter, twist, and failure. Note that this version, the D.Va, a small extra support has been designed and installed to extend from the leading edge of the lower wing to help strengthen the union between the wing and the wing strut. Even after the fix, pilots were often instructed not to dive too steeply in the Albatros -- not a morale booster to be sure!
But despite these deficiencies, the Albatros factory was willing and capable of producing large numbers of planes and the war was raging. The result was that, when an Allied pilot encountered a German fighter, it was usually an Albatros. Over 1,500 examples of the D.V and D.Va were made.
The Museum's D.Va's airframe and wings were built by Art Williams in Germany. The final assembly and finish work was completed by Jim and Zona Appleby.
The Pfalz D.XII often flew in the shadow of its very successful contemporary -- the Fokker D.VII. The design of the Pfalz was influenced by the other fighter and they had similar enough characteristics that some Allied airmen, upon seeing the Pfalz for the first time, reported encountering a new kind of Fokker.
The Museum's Pfalz was one of a large group of German aircraft brought to the United States for evaluation after the war. When the tests were completed, this aircraft and another Pfalz were acquired by the motion picture industry. Adorned with strange and menacing paint schemes, they appear in both versions of aviation classic, The Dawn Patrol (1930 and 1938).
Later, the Pfalz was purchased by Colonel G.B. Jarrett for his New Jersey museum. In 1950, the well-worn Pfalz was purchased by collector and stuntman Frank Tallman who had the original fighter restored to flying condition. In 1968, the Pfalz changed hands again, becoming part of the Wings and Wheels collection in Orlando, Florida. Doug Champlin acquired the rare aircraft with its Mercedes D IIIa, 160-horsepower in-line engine and two 7.92mm Spandau machine guns in 1981.
One of the Best
Most experts agree that the Fokker D.VII was the finest single-seat fighter plane of the war. Designed by Reinhold Platz, the prototype was called the VII and was test-flown in a design competition by a number of notable German airmen, including Manfred von Richthofen in January of 1918.
The famous ace found the fighter easy to fly, steady, and sturdy. His recommendation to put the plane into production virtually decided the competition. The Fokker D.VII went into production at many factories, including the Fokker, Albatros, and A.E.G. companies and by late April of 1918, the first D.VIIs arrived to waiting combat units. In July, there were 407 of the type in service and by November the number had climbed to 775. Pilots found that the Fokker had good visibility and was solid, excellent ship to fly. Airmen commented that a Fokker D.VII could make a mediocre pilot into a good one, and a good pilot could become a legend.
Allied aviators began to dread the appearance of the angular fighters with their "coffin noses." Because the Fokker stayed very controllable at high altitudes, pilots often were able to make the D.VII "hang on its prop" and blast away at higher-flying Allied machines as they tried to escape. Many British flyers said those "straight wings" seemed to be everywhere.
At the end of the war, the feared Fokker D.VII was the only airplane mentioned specifically by name in the Armistice Agreements.
The Museum's reproduction aircraft was started by the noted aircraft replica builder, Joe DeFiore. After buying the basic steel-tube fuselage from DeFiore, Doug Champlin shipped it to Jim and Zona Appleby, who later completed the aircraft for Museum display. Equipped with an original Mercedes water-cooled engine and two 7.92mm Spandau machine guns, it is authentically painted in the unique lozenge-pattern camouflage of the period and carries the attractive winged-sword emblem of Germany's 40-victory ace, Rudolf Berthold.
The Snipe was specifically built around the newly developed 230-horsepower Bentley rotary engine. Used as a replacement to the legendary Sopwith Camel, the Snipe had mighty big shoes to fill.
Arriving for combat in late in the conflict, only two Royal Air Force and one Australian Flying Corps squadrons were equipped with Snipes by November, 1918. Flyers who got the rare chance to pilot a Snipe in combat said it was an amazing plane. British pilot H.A. Van Ryneveld called it, "vastly superior to any scout at the front."
On October 27, 1918, Canadian ace Major W. G. Barker got the chance to back up all the talk with action. He was at the controls of a Snipe when he suddenly found himself alone and cornered by 15 German Fokkers. In the ensuing epic air battle, Barker amazingly managed to shoot down four of his attackers and, though badly wounded, use the Snipes exceptional traits to escape the balance of his angry foes.
The Museum of Flight's example of the Snipe was built by Richard Day of Colonia, New Jersey. Completed in 1982 and powered by a Continental 220-horsepower radial engine and armed with two .303-inch Vickers machine guns it represents a Snipe in postwar Royal Air Force service.
The Nieuport 24 is part of the famous line of French fighter aircraft established by Edouard de Niéuport. A preeminent Allied airplane type, the Nieuport fighters were flown by many famous aces including Mannock, Ball, Bishop, Lufbery, Nungesser, and Guynemer.
Unlike many of the models that came before it, the Type 24 was more streamlined and had a rounded fuselage instead of the slab sides seen on earlier machines. The 24s were not only used by France, but also by Russia, Belgium, Italy, and Britain. The United States purchased a number of 24s to use for flight training.
The Museum of Flight's Type 24 was built from original plans in by a number of enthusiasts in Washington State. Ron Ochs finished the plane in 1992. First flown in 1995, the Nieuport is powered by a Le Rhône engine originally installed in a Thomas-Morse Scout plane.
The plane wears the markings of the Nieuport 24bis flown by French ace Paul Tarascon. After a plane crash in 1911, Tarascon's foot was amputated. But at the outbreak of war, he volunteered to fly and was known as l'as la jambe de bois (the ace with a wooden leg).
The name of Tarascon's plane, Zigomar, comes from a group of film serials popular before the war.
The Berg Scout
The Austro-Hungarian branch of the German Aviatik company produced "B-type" reconnaissance biplanes in the early years of the war. In 1917, the firm's designer, Julius von Berg, created a two-seater C.I and a single seat D.I fighter. The D.I, often known as the "Berg Scout," was the first Austrian-designed fighter plane ever built.
Berg incorporated some interesting traits into his strange-looking airplane. When two side radiators on some of the early Aviatiks weren't getting the job done, the large car-type unit was built into the nose. And the plane's fuselage was constructed quite narrow and deep, with the pilot sitting high in his seat. With the pilot's eyes just below the level of the top wing, the Aviatik offered good visibility in most directions.
The D.I had excellent flying characteristics and could climb very well. Early versions had thin wings that had to be redesigned because they broke and deformed during flight. The strengthened versions had no such trouble even when going through violent aerial maneuvers.
The Museum of Flight's Aviatik is an extremely rare original. Part of series 101, the fighter was built by Thöne and Fiala, in Vienna -- one of five manufactures that made the aircraft during the war. After the plane was located and purchased in Europe by Art Williams, it was discovered that it had been, at one time, operated by the Berg Company and owned by the Berg estate.
Doug Champlin acquired the fighter in 1978 and completed it in Arizona. Included in the restoration were an intricate hand-built radiator, and rare Austro-Daimler 160- to 225-horsepower in-line engine, and two equally rare Schwarzlose 8mm machine guns.
One of the best Allied fighters of World War I, the S.E.5 was considered fast, strong, and simple to fly. Flyers who commonly had nothing good to say about the designs of the Royal Aircraft Factory, had to admit that the S.E. was pleasantly different.
Though well-liked, the S.E. still had its quirks -- flyers found that the fighter was difficult to land, or at least, difficult to land in one piece. The S.E.5 wasn't as maneuverable as the Camel but was much more faithful, with docile handling characteristics that wouldn't kill a novice airman.
In the improved version, the S.E.5a, designers continued to amend annoyances and create one of the war's most venerable fighting machines. Many of Britain's most famous aces, including Mannock, Bishop, and McCudden, flew the S.E.5a into combat.
The Museum's S.E. was one of three aircraft reproductions began by Bobby Strahlmann, Tom Davis, and Gil Bodine in Florida in 1971. It has a Hispano-Suiza 8B water-cooled V-8 power plant along with one .303 Vickers and one .303-caliber Lewis machine gun This aircraft was completed in 1988 and carries the paint scheme of American ace George Vaughn, who served with the Royal Flying Corps.
The Museum's Fokker D.VIII is a full-scale reproduction of one of the rarest Fokker fighters of World War I. The aircraft's unusual parasol-monoplane configuration was perhaps the most advanced of the war. Designed by Fokker's great engineering genius, Reinhold Platz, the D.VIII was a highly maneuverable aircraft with great pilot visibility and pleasing flight characteristics and would have been a formidable opponent had it not been so late in entering the war.
Arriving to combat in August 1918, the swift and nimble fighter's meaningful service time at the front was delayed while a wing structure problem, which caused three planes to crash, was rectified. By the time the D.VIII was again placed in service, it had very little time to prove itself in combat before the war ended. If the war has continued into the winter of 1918-19, the "Flying Razor," as the D.VIII was called by British airmen, would have replaced the Fokker D.VII as the preeminent German fighter.
After the war, D.VIII fighters obtained by Italy as part of reparations where still being flown as late as 1925. Today, only a single authentic D.VIII exists (in the Museo Dell'Aeronautica Gianni Caproni in Trento, Italy).
This reproduction aircraft was built during the 1960s by E. O. Swearingen of Worth, Illinois. Swearingen reviewed the surviving aircraft in Italy and later corresponded with Platz in order to authenticate the accuracy of his work. Following the aircraft's completion by Swearingen, it was flown for sport. During 1980, Doug Champlin purchased the aircraft. It is still equipped with the Warner radial engine that Swearingen used. Plans exist to someday re-equip the D.VIII with an authentic Oberursel rotary engine.
One can't look at the Sopwith Triplane without generating a whole list of questions. Though similar to the Pup, the Triplane, of course, has three wings. German flyers who encountered "Tripes" noted a few differences between the biplanes they were used to tangling with and these new "three-wingers." Triplanes could turn around -- and bring its gun to bear -- in a startlingly short amount of time. And if things got too rough for a Triplane flyer, he went up, and up, and up! And no one could follow him.
The "Tripehound's" small-cord wings offered a good field of vision compared to biplane fighters. Structurally, the Triplane was strong enough to not have the mess of rigging seen on many other airplanes of the time. And the Tripe's maneuverability was helped by the fact that each of the plane's wings was designed with an aileron.
The Museum's aircraft, built by Carl Swanson, with a Clerget, 110 h.p. rotary engine and one .303-inch Vickers machine gun. This plane carries the markings of Canadian ace Sub-Lieutenant Mel Alexander. He was part of the famous all-Canadian "Black Flight" Naval Squadron led by Flight Commander Raymond Collishaw. In June and July of 1917, Black Flight shot down 86 enemy aircraft and lost only three flyers of their own.