Pfalz D.VIII: On a hyperbolic trance.

The D.VIII was produced by the Pfalz company near the very end of WW1 as one of their latest and greatest fighter aircraft. With their usual tradition of fine workmanship, it had a lovely streamlined light wooden fuselage tailored to house the 200hp Siemens-Halske Sh.III The latter was a splendid geared 11-cylinder rotary engine which gave the D.VII outstanding performances, specially a 120 mph top speed. Ordered into production by the Idflieg, only a token number (circa 40) entered service prior to the end of the war.

One of them wearing the colourful markings of the Jasta 14. By the way, a sublime replica made yesterday its maiden flight thanks to the great Mikael Carlson. That “Wotan” four-bladed bolted propeller….

Albatros Dr.I: It didn’t add up.

The Dr.I was the very pragmatic way the Albatros Flugzeugwerke tested the qualities of the Triplane configuration in the middle of the craziness. They just took one of their D.V and replaced its two wings with three and compared it with the standard D.V. That’s it. The results were negligible; no production followed.

What an awfully uninspired wing structure. A real sin.

Mauser C96: Bewitching Broomhandles.

Spellbinding ten Mauser C96 semiauto-pistol gunner “battery” tested -it seems- by the Austro-Hungarians during WW1. Sometime before the end of 1918: that tubular ring turret was fitted to all two-seaters until then. It was replaced later by wooden gun rings. The aircraft is hard to identify; to me it looks like a Brandenburg C.I, but don’t take my word for it. The C.I (type LDD) was a very effective single-engine recon aircraft designed by a young Ernst Heinkel and produced in considerable numbers in Austro-Hungary.

Imagine to reload that clip-fed nightmare. This contraction remains me, as a Spaniard, the Meroka close-in weapon system (CIWS).

Berkmans Speed Scout: Buy Them From “Joe”.

This lovely fighter was the brainchild of two brothers: Maurice and Emile Berkmans. Built in 1916/7, the Speed Scout had an clean wooden laminated monocoque fuselage, a dated wing configuration and was powered by a 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape. In 1918 the Scout was tested by the Army Aviation Section with encouraging results, yet further development was discontinued because of the end of WW1.

Fight or pay; well-known photo, but I couldn’t resist the ironic hilarity.

Pfalz Dr.I: Well-nigh irresistible.

This neat Dr.I was Pfalz’s contribution to the “Triplane Craze”. In essence the Pfalz company took on of their D.VII biplane fuselages and added triplane wings. They chose to power the result with the imposing 160 hp Siemens-Halske rotary engine enclosed in a very decorative aluminium cowling. The aircraft was tested in Oct.1917 by, among others, Von Richthofen as a possible Fokker Dr.I‘s replacement. The Pfalz Dr.I displayed adequate performances, but not an easy handling and the engine was also suspect. No large scale production was ordered, although the Bavarian government acquired a limited number (10?) which saw some service with their units.

Pretty nifty design through and through. Those twelve cooling vents on the cowling sure gave it real character.

Savelyev 1916 Quadruplane: Step by step.

Vladimir Fedorovich Savelyev loved quadruplanes. His first one was built when he was chief engineer of the 2nd fleet “helped” by mechanic Wladyslaw Zalewski in 1916. They used the fuselage of a French old Morane F monoplane with its 80hp Gnôme attached to four wings which progressively increased their span from bottom to top. The aircraft flew reasonably well, but more power was wanted; a 100hp Gnôme Monosoupape took care of that. So equipped and with minor modifications -or maybe a new aircraft(?)-, the quadruplane performed numerous flights, some of them in anger.

Adorable, don’t you think?

Fokker D.III: When skill & manners mattered.

The D.III was one of those barely decent biplane fighters produced by the Fokker company right after their monoplanes became hopelessly obsolete. Powered by the stunning, but dubious Oberursel U.III two-row rotary engine, the two-bay winged D.III like it’s older biplane brothers proved to be just too slow. It also still employed the already archaic wing-warping control system. And add to all that Anthony Fokker’s usual decease: poor quality control. They appeared at the frontline in the summer of 1916, but soon were relegated to the less demanding areas. More than two hundred were produced.

In this delightful artwork, the always chivalrous Oswald Boelcke meets his 20th victim, Captain R E Wilson (32 Sqn RFC), on 2 Sept. 1916. He achieved seven victories with the D.III (352/16), but was adamant in his dislike.

Western Electric type 1-A helmet: Calling Dr. Love.

The type 1-A was the first flying helmet incorporating radio-telephone equipment. It saw very limited use during the final year of WW1. The helmet was conceived to be employed with a face mask incorporating a microphone assembly. The latter’s development proved troublesome and, as we can see here, our model has resorted to a conventional hand-held mike.

A dandy and kinda avant-garde outfit. I do love it.

Salmson-Moineau S.M.2: Rien ne va plus.

Not having enough with his already clumsy S.M.1 A3, René Moineau thought maybe more was better and decided to try the bimotor formula. Like in the S.M.1, this contraction had a water-cooled Salmson 9A radial engine in the middle of the fuselage connected to outboard propellers through shafts and gears but an additional Salmson 9A was added in the nose driving a conventional tractor propeller. The two engines were now cooled by enlarged radiators placed in both side at the middle of the fuselage. All that had a price: the weight rose and the upper wing span had to be increased; undercarriage needed strengthened too. All that just for starters: we are talking about a massive modification. Named the S.M.2, a single aircraft was built in 1918 as two-seat (instead of three) intended for the ground attack role. Tested with poor results: it was even less satisfactory than the original.

Ravissant échec.

Short Type 184: It didn’t come short.

First flown in 1915, the Short Admiralty Type 184 floatplane became the workhorse of the RNAS during all WW1. Developed from previous designs, but improved and decently powered the resulting aircraft was able to fulfil at last with some confidence its recon, bombing and torpedo duties. In fact, as a torpedo-bomber, the 184 achieved a measure of fame being the first aircraft to sink a ship using such device during the Dardanelles campaign.

One of those lanky, yet somehow elegant 184’s at work here.