The Albatros D.VII was an experimental single seat fighter produced during 1917. It had a standard Albatros streamlined fuselage, plywood covered with a wooden frame, but differed from the D.V in three main ways. The D.V was a sesquiplane - its lower wing had a smaller chord (distance from front to back) than the upper wing. On the D.VII the upper and lower wings had the same chord. The D.V and earlier Albatros fighters had ailerons on the upper wing, while the D.VII had ailerons on both the upper and lower wings, with the ailerons on each side connected by a strut. Finally the D.VII was the first Albatros single seat scout to use a V-8 engine. The D.VII made its maiden flight in August 1917, and with a top speed of 127mph was faster than the D.V. The climb rate was also good, but the type didn't enter production. It was followed early in 1918 by the D.IX, which used similar wings but was otherwise less sophisticated.
Engine: Benz Bz IIIb
Span: 30ft 7in
Length: 21ft 8.5in
Height: 8ft 9.5in
Empty weight: 1,386lb
Loaded weight: 1,947lb
Max speed: 127.5mph
Climb Rate: 7 minutes to 6,560ft
Endurance: 2 hours
Armament: Two Spandau machine guns
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Albatros D.VII - History
During the First World War, the Dutchman Anthony Fokker was building aeroplanes in Germany. First, his factory was located at the Johannisthal airfield, near Berlin. In 1913 he moved to Schwerin. A lot of different types were designed and build there, among which were the famous 'Eindecker' series, and the Dr.I triplane. At the end of 1917, Fokker was out the picture as supplier for fighter aircraft. This is the time where the story of the D.VII starts.
Building of the prototype of what was to become the Fokker D.VII started in December, 1917 in the Fokker factory at Schwerin. At that time, Reinhold Platz was working as designer. The designation for this type was V.11, which stands for Versuchsmachine no. 11 (Experimental aircraft No. 11) [LIST OF V-TYPES] . This V.11 had a number of novelties that included a car-type radiator in front of the engine and cantilever wings with no external bracing wires, which made for a very clean appearance.
At the end of January, 1918, the first competition for D class machines was held at Adlershof. In this competition, German pilots from the front flew in new types, to test them, and choose which one would be produced for the front. In this first competition the V.11 came out as the ultimate winner, and was designated D.VII. [LIST OF COMPETING AIRCRAFT]
Anthony Fokker tells in his autobiography that he flew the V.11 before the contest started. He noticed that it wasn't flying too well, and it needed to be changed. So, working all weekend day and night, Fokker and some mechanics lengthened the fuselage and enlarged the vertical fin. Flying it again, Fokker noticed that it was very sensitive on the controls, but further it was flying wonderful.
Fighter Pilot: Hermann Göring
Leutnant Hermann Göring prepares for takeoff in his Albatros D.III, sporting a black fuselage and white nose and tail, while commanding Jagdstaffel 27 in May 1917.
Monday evenings in late 1922, the Cafe Neumayr in Munich played host to a collection of unsavory, lower-middle-class war veterans, rabble-rousers, malcontents and would-be revolutionaries, grumbling over Germany’s anarchic postwar politics. Their radical ambitions would likely have come to nothing if not for a visit that November by a true war hero: Hermann Göring, last commander of “Red Baron” Manfred von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus.” He had come to meet the leader of these National Socialists. “I just sat unobtrusively in the background,” he remembered, as Adolf Hitler expounded on the Nazi route to power. “You’ve got to have bayonets to back up your threats. Well, that was what I wanted to hear. He wanted to build up a party that would make Germany strong and smash the Treaty of Versailles. ‘Well,’ I said to myself, ‘that’s the party for me!’”
For his part Hitler, who had risen no further than lance corporal in the army, needed a big name to set his movement apart from the dozens of political parties rending Germany. “Splendid,” he told supporters when Göring signed up, “a war ace with the Pour le Mérite—imagine it! Excellent propaganda!”
After almost a century there’s so much propaganda about Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring that it’s hard to sift out the truth. His anti-Semitism and weakness for authority figures might well be traced to early childhood. Göring’s elderly father was a German diplomat posted abroad, and Hermann was raised to age three by family friends in Germany. It’s said that on his mother’s return, he slapped her. But thanks to her romantic relationship with their wealthy half-Jewish landlord, Göring’s namesake Dr. Hermann Ritter von Epenstein, Göring enjoyed an aristocratic upbringing in several Bavarian castles. He was teased by schoolmates for his “Jewish father,” whose title (“knight”), like his castles, was purchased rather than inherited. But even when Epenstein took a new mistress and evicted the family, Göring held him in high regard, a sort of life-lesson in Nietzschean will to power.
Prussian military education forged Göring into a promising young infantry officer. In the first days of World War I he led a daring cavalry-style raid via bicycle across the French lines, but in the trenches soon fell ill with rheumatic fever. While he recuperated, friend and fellow lieutenant Bruno Loerzer, training as a pilot in the new German air service, convinced him to become an observer. The story goes that Göring forged transfer papers, in effect deserting his regiment, yet through Epenstein’s intervention was not only spared court-martial but ordered into the air service by Crown Prince Friedrich Wilhelm. Göring found this new kind of war suited his temperament and ambition. “I seem to come alive when I am up in the air and looking down at the earth,” he wrote. “I feel like a little god.”
In a two-seat Aviatik B.II over Verdun, France, Göring and Loerzer quickly gained renown as the go-to reconnaissance team, Loerzer banking low over the target while Göring leaned overboard with a heavy camera. Prince Wilhelm took a personal interest in the two young aviators and awarded both the Iron Cross, First Class, earning them resentment from some of their squadron mates. That didn’t bother Göring, who wrote, “I do not want to be an ordinary person….I want to tower over the human herd, not that I will follow them rather, that everyone will follow me.” Not satisfied with taking photographs, he used a radio telegraph to direct artillery fire onto French positions, dropped bombs over the side of his airplane and fitted a machine gun to the rear cockpit to spray enemy trenches.
By mid-1915, both sides were fixing forward-firing machine guns to single-seat aircraft, and Göring, who had learned to fly, sought to switch to fighters. There weren’t enough of the new Fokker Eindecker monoplanes to go around, however, so he piloted an Albatros C.I two-seater with a synchronized forward-firing machine gun, and on November 16 he and his observer shot down a French Maurice Farman MF.7.
Finally, on September 28, 1916, Göring was assigned to Jagdstaffel (fighter squadron) 7, or Jasta 7, and then reassigned to Jasta 5 in October. His zealous quest for glory achieved frustratingly little until November 2 when, in a dogfight that would enter Nazi mythology, Göring claimed to have single-handedly attacked a giant Handley Page O/100 bomber and set it aflame before some 20 enemy fighters dived from above. Supposedly out of ammo, shot up and grievously wounded, he barely made it back over the lines to crash-land his Halberstadt D.II beside a field hospital. According to that day’s actual field report, however, he likely attacked a Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2d two-seater and wasn’t even credited with the kill. Six Nieuports chased him off with a severe hip wound, to crash on his own field, out of action for six weeks. If Göring had never become a Nazi, likely no more would ever have been heard of it.
In March 1917 Göring transferred to Jasta 26 at Habsheim, which was commanded by his old friend Loerzer, and by May 10 he had raised his score to seven. Now an ace, in mid-May he was assigned his first command, Jasta 27, near Lille, France. It was no easy assignment. “Our fighter aeroplanes were mostly technically inferior to those of the enemy,” remembered one squadron pilot. “…We had only three combat-ready aeroplanes there, instead of the eighteen planned. Thus…the Staffel had no aerial victories at all. When we got Leutnant Göring as Staffelführer, it became better, for not only did he already have seven confirmed aerial victories, but also pleaded our case very energetically to the higher-ups.”
If Göring’s aristocratic upbringing afforded him the favor of nobles in the high command, it also tainted his attitude toward underlings. Fellow fighter pilot Rudolf Nebel remembered that Göring “was very standoffish toward his comrades. He was a good pilot, but disliked by his men due to his high-handed manner.”
“I gathered my officers and pilots about me and impressed on them all of the regulations about flying and fighting as a formation,” Göring remembered. “Then I assigned each one his place in the formation….Now everyone had to show what he could do and what he was good for….This is how I wished to put the Staffel to the test.”
Oberleutnant Bruno Loerzer, commander of Jagdgeschwader III, and his friend and Jasta 27 leader, Göring, flank Anthony Fokker, the Dutch airplane manufacturer whose reputation was largely made by German aces like them. (Aviation History Collection/Alamy)
On June 8, flying an Albatros D.III with a black fuselage and white nose and tail, Göring led 10 aircraft up over Lille. At 13,000 feet over the Lys River, they were attacked by a dozen Nieuport 23 fighters of No. 1 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. “My formation split up too early,” Göring later recalled, “and could no longer fight in a unified way.” One of the Nieuports dived on Göring’s tail. Australian 2nd Lt. Frank D. Slee, on his first mission, later wrote, “I will swear I hit his [Göring’s] machine. I could see my tracer bullets,” but he could not outfly him. Shot down, the Aussie crash-landed behind German lines and was taken prisoner, Göring’s eighth victory.
Switching to a new Albatros D.V biplane, Göring soon doubled that score in Belgium during the Battle of Passchendaele in the fall of 1917. His name was put forward for the Orden Pour le Mérite—the Blue Max—but by that time 20 victories were required and he was denied the honor. “I have been flying at the frontlines for three years without having had a compassionate or homeland command [leave],” he wrote despondently. “Now, I feel a certain exhaustion, especially after the heavy fighting in Flanders.”
The pressure and disappointment may have gotten to him. His frequent wingman, Jewish Lieutenant Willi Rosenstein, recalled, “I had a personal quarrel with Göring, caused by an anti-Semitic remark in front of all comrades in the officer’s Mess at Iseghem, Flanders. I had been compelled to demand its revocation. These circumstances caused me to apply for my transfer to a home defense unit, which was granted after a short time.” Göring brushed off the incident as evidence of Rosenstein’s nervous exhaustion. It was his squadron’s loss: Rosenstein would go on to score nine victories, mostly with Jasta 40c.
Jasta 27 was soon folded into one of the new Richthofen-style fighter wings, Jagdgeschwader III (JG.III), under command of Loerzer, now a 20-victory ace with the Blue Max. Göring, in a new Fokker Dr.I triplane, green with white nose and tail, downed a Royal Aircraft Factory R.E.8 of No. 42 Squadron of Britain’s newly formed Royal Air Force on April 7, 1918, for his 18th victory. No less than the commanding general of the German air service, Ernst von Hoeppner, now recommended him for the Pour le Mérite. Despite still being short of the requisite victories, Göring soon lived up to the award, using a pair of new Fokker D.VIIs to claim a French Dorand AR.1 (more likely a Breguet 14) on June 3, a Spad VII on the 9th and a Spad XIII on the 17th.
Göring, with Manfred von Richthofen’s walking stick, commanded the “Flying Circus”—the late Red Baron’s Jagdgeschwader I. (Library of Congress)
With 21 victories to his credit, Göring was invited to Berlin in July to attend tests of new aircraft prototypes. Among those present was Richthofen’s successor as JG.I commander, Captain Wilhelm Reinhard, whose death in a flying accident at the event shocked everyone (see sidebar, below). Who would assume Germany’s most prestigious fighter command? JG.I consisted of Richthofen’s handpicked top guns, many with more victories than Göring: Erich Löwenhardt (with 35), Ernst Udet (40) and even the Red Baron’s younger brother Lothar (29). All three had served as squadron leaders, all three wore the Pour le Mérite, all three might have expected to take over JG.I. Though Lothar was out of action, wounded, Udet and Löwenhardt were already vying for the top slot when word came that it had gone to Göring. Udet supposedly remarked, “My God, they have chosen an outsider.”
To command did not require a high score Reinhard only had 12 victories when the Red Baron personally chose him as successor, and 20 at the time of his death. Still, on July 14 Göring took up his new command with a note of proper humility, telling the assembled aces, “…there are no better fliers in all the world than those I see before me now. I hope I shall be worthy of your confidence and your trust.” JG.I adjutant Karl Bodenschatz wrote in his diary, “The new commander has got off to a good start.”
All that changed on July 18, however, when Göring took off with the Flying Circus. Reinhard had been in the habit of leading only on the ground, in the air handing off to one or another of the top aces and letting formation tactics unravel to a “free hunt,” with every man for himself. The aces set about racking up their own scores, leaving lesser pilots to fend for themselves—the kind of dogfight that had seen the Red Baron himself killed. No longer. Göring told Bodenschatz, “The peacocks need to be plucked before they fall over their own feathers.” Assembling the top guns, he decreed that their seconds-in-command would lead the squadrons, while they flew as Göring’s wingmen.
On that day, the Allies, having held off the last German offensive along the Marne River, launched their counteroffensive. In his D.VII 324/18, yellow with a red nose, Göring led JG.I to intercept Allied bombers over Neuilly, but held his squadron leaders back while their men attacked, only then turning loose the big guns. Losing just two of their own, JG.I scored 13 kills, including two by Löwenhardt and one by Göring, his 22nd victory. “I attacked some Spads,” he recalled. “I pressed one downward and, in a turning battle, shot it down.”
On the ground the Germans began a retreat that would continue to the end of the war, but in the air JG.I enjoyed a new era of success. Having scored its 500th kill shortly after Göring’s arrival, in the four months of his command the fighter wing added 144 more, despite the loss of Löwenhardt (killed, with 54 victories) and Lothar von Richthofen (wounded again, with 40). Udet, becoming Göring’s friend, raised his tally to 62 and would be the highest-scoring surviving German ace. Göring, famously flying an all-white D.VII, finished the war with an official score of 22, of which at least 18 can be confirmed from Allied losses.
For Germans troops at the front, the war’s end was shockingly abrupt, marked by mutiny, rebellion and revolution. General Erich Ludendorff, chief of staff, would blame final defeat on the German army being “stabbed in the back” by unpatriotic civilians, socialists, Bolsheviks, Republicans and Jews, which explained everything to right-wing, militaristic Germans like Göring. The fighter wing commander refused to surrender JG.I’s aircraft either to the enemy or mutinous German troops his men deliberately crashed them and sabotaged their guns. The night JG.I was disbanded, Göring raised a glass to his surviving pilots. “The forces of freedom and right and morality will win through in the end,” he told them. “We will fight against these forces which are seeking to enslave us, and we will win through. Those same qualities which made the Richthofen Squadron great will prevail in peacetime as well as in war. Our time will come again.”
On December 18, 1918, Göring attended a meeting at the Berlin Philharmonic, where officers invited to support the revolutionary government were told to leave their insignia and decorations at home. Göring arrived in full regalia, including his Pour le Mérite, and told the crowd: “The ones who are to blame are the ones that stirred up the people, who stabbed our glorious army in the back. I ask everyone here tonight to cherish a hatred, a deep and abiding hatred for these swine who have outraged the German people and their traditions. The day will come when we will drive them from our Germany.”
As his Germany sank into chaos, Göring moved to Denmark and Sweden, where he met his future wife, the Baroness Carin von Kantzow. Yet he felt himself drawn homeward to “wipe out the disgrace of Versailles—the shame of defeat, the [Danzig] corridor right through the heart of Prussia.” Of the hodgepodge of German political parties squabbling for power, Nazism reeled him in. “I joined the Party because it was revolutionary, not because of the ideological stuff,” Göring later explained. “…The thing that attracted me to the Nazi Party was that it was the only one that had the guts to say ‘to hell with Versailles,’ while the others were smiling and appeasing. That’s what got me.”
What got him, and what he made of it, are two different things. The war hero Göring became head of the Nazi stormtroopers, founded the infamous Gestapo secret police and authorized the “Final Solution,” which slaughtered six million Jews—a fat, pompous morphine addict who drove Udet to suicide and bungled the air war over Europe until his top pilots rebelled, Hitler repudiated him and Göring finally faced justice as a war criminal. Yet to the end he defied the prosecutors, interrogators and psychiatrists trying to understand him.
“All nonsense,” he told them at Nuremberg of his many biographies, shortly before he took cyanide and cheated the hangman. “Nobody knows the real Göring.”
Fate Picks Göring
The pace of World War I air warfare required constant innovation, so in mid-1918 the German air service staged a competition at Adlershof in suburban Berlin to evaluate new fighters to succeed the Fokker D.VII. Germany’s best aircraft factories submitted prototypes, including the Pfalz D.XII, Fokker E.V, Junkers D.I and Siemens-Schuckert D.IV. One of the most advanced designs came from the Zeppelin company’s Claude Dornier. His Zeppelin-Lindau D.I was in many ways ahead of its time: an all-metal monocoque (stress-bearing skin) fuselage, cantilever torsion-box wings and even a jettisonable external fuel tank. Its upper wing was attached to the fuselage by just four cabane struts, with neither support wires nor interplane struts. Rushed through design and construction to meet the competition deadline, a prototype was sent by train to Adlershof. The frontline fighter pilots in attendance are said to have looked with distrust on that upper wing design, and their misgivings were not misplaced reportedly a Zeppelin factory hand had discovered its attachment points were weak, but his warning was either never received or ignored.
The Zeppelin-Lindau D.I's upper wing was attached to the fuselage with just four cabane struts. (National Air and Space Museum)
When other pilots hesitated to fly the D.I, Hermann Göring, commanding officer of Jasta 27, volunteered. By all accounts he wrung it out right over the heads of the assembled high command. According to biographer Leonard Mosley, who knew Göring personally, “To use an old fighter pilot’s term, he ‘beat up’ the airfield at practically nought feet, both right side up and upside down. He looped and spinned and yawed, and, finally after a particularly awe-inspiring flight down the airfield on canted wings, he brought it to a landing and leaped out, laughing with delight at the expressions on the faces of the spectators.”
Accusations that Göring somehow tampered with the aircraft are unfounded. Both Leutnant Kurt Schwarzenberger, chief test pilot for the experimental fighter division, and Leutnant Constantin Krefft, technical officer of Jasta 11 and Jagdgeschwader I, demonstrated the D.I after Göring without mishap. All agreed that with its 160-hp Mercedes D.III engine, the D.I was a superior design.
Then Manfred von Richthofen’s successor, JG.I commander Wilhelm Reinhard, took over. He immediately climbed to over 3,000 feet, but the previous workouts must have overstressed those cabane struts. As he came back down, observers were horrified to hear a crack and see the airplane’s top wing rip off. With no parachute, Reinhard rode the D.I down and was killed on impact.
A replacement D.I, with strengthened struts and 185-hp BMW engine, participated in the third fighter competition just before war’s end, but its top speed of 124 mph was by then judged too slow. In 1921 the U.S. Army and Navy bought two for evaluation. America’s Curtiss P-1 Hawk and Boeing Model 15 fighters would owe more to the older Fokker D.VII, however, and the D.I’s primary role in aviation history was as Göring’s ride to destiny.
For additional reading, frequent contributor Don Hollway suggests: Hermann Göring: Fighter Ace, by Peter Kilduff and Hermann Goering in the First World War, by Blaine Taylor.
This feature originally appeared in the January 2019 issue of Aviation History. Subscribe today!
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The Fokker D VII was one of First World War’s best fighters. After the aircraft won the German fighter competition in January 1918, large construction contracts were awarded to Fokker, and its main competitor, Albatros, was required to manufacture D VIIs under licence. The Fokker D VII rapidly became the premier fighter of the German air force. Well-liked by its pilots and much feared by its opponents, the D VII’s famous reputation was built during a remarkably short life from January to November 1918.
The D VII was strong and very manoeuvrable, simple to fly for the novice aviator, and had excellent control characteristics at very slow speeds. It could hang on its propeller and shoot upwards while other aircraft would stall and spin away. Unlike many other contemporary aircraft, it remained agile in the thin air near its service ceiling . Singled out for destruction in the Armistice Agreement, D VIIs were smuggled out of Germany into Holland after the war. Anthony Fokker “arranged” that those trains carrying D VIIs would be too long for the sidings at the Dutch border. Inspections would therefore have to be quick in order to unblock the main line.
Mercedes Engine History
W hen introduced this engine was too powerful for most aircraft and was not put into service until 1916 with the Albatros series of single seat aircraft. Originally rated at 150 hp, by the war’s end this unit produced 217hp @ 1,750 rpm. Following the design philosophy first introduced by Daimler with the D.1 of 100hp, the Mercedes provided a robust, light and powerful design. The ‘D’ series engines are water cooled, in-line six cylinder, upright engines. Early engines had three sets of paired cylinders. With the introduction of the D.III, the design changed to individual cylinders allowing for more economic repair. Cylinders are machined steel with two piece fabricated steel water jackets. Each cylinder is bolted to the upper crankcase with four studs that engage flanges on each cylinder base.
The crankcase is cast in two halves split along the crankshaft centreline. The upper half is quite complex providing the top half of the main bearing journals, mounts for the twin magnetos, plenum for the carburettors and mounts for the vertical jackshaft that drives the camshaft and ancillaries. In addition, each of the six engine mounts are cast into the upper case. Some late model engines also had a mount for a generator cast onto the port side, at the rear. The bottom half is the primary reservoir for the wet sump lubrication system. With the D.III series the sump sloped to the rear where the oil pump is situated unlike the D.I and D.II that had a centralized sump cavity and pump. There is an external oil tank that allows for a replenishment of the oil.
The D.III engine line utilised a series of common elements:
1. Overhead camshaft with rocker fingers operating directly onto the single inlet and exhaust valves. The camshaft was driven by the crankshaft using a series of bevel gears and a vertical jackshaft at the rear of the engine. Ancillary equipment, while changing position over the variants, were all driven from the jackshaft. These ancillaries included: oil pump water pump magnetos compression release.
2. Individual steel cylinders bolted to the upper crankcase. In an era of cast iron or iron lined aluminium cylinders, the use of steel created a much lighter cylinder. Each cylinder had a sheet steel water jacket that enclosed it. Water jackets were interconnected with flexible lines to provide a continuous water flow system.
3. Dual ignition and dual sparkplugs driven by 2 Bosch magnetos. One magneto was used for the port side plugs and the other for the starboard side. Most D.III engines used ZH6 model magnetos.
4. Cast iron pistons with drop forged steel domes that were threaded and then welded into place. Since the bore did not change over the D.III range, this allowed for a straight forward approach to an increase in compression by only having to manufacture a new dome. Rings were accommodated in the cast iron piston skirt.
5. Self starting utilising the Bosch hand starting magneto situated within the cockpit.
6. Average weight of 660 lbs.
7. Long stroke engines with a bore of 140mm and stroke of 160mm.
8 . One dual Mercedes twin jet carburettor. The carburettor is mounted on the port side of the engine. Later models of carburettor were larger in depth. On the Fokker D VII this necessitated a modification to the port upper engine bearer strut requiring relocation outboard of the primary welded cluster. This is one of the identifiers to the age of a specific D VII airframe.
9. Carburettor mixture pre-heating was designed into the intake system. While warm mixtures will reduce the power output this was not as critical as the prevention of icing at the altitudes where these engines thrived. The lower crankcase design allowed for the passage of air through the openings in the case into the intake. Like many good engineering practices this single solution had two benefits: it warmed the intake charge to prevent icing and cooled the oil in the wet sump. To further assure an even mixture, the carburettor body is water jacketed.
10. De-compression setting. On the rear top of camshaft is fitted a de-compression lever. This was provided to ease the starting of what was considered a high compression engine. When rotated, the lever slightly rotated the camshaft allowing for a slight opening of the valves which would reduce the compression. This was a manual lever not accessible from the cockpit.
E arly engines like the Daimler are fascinating. Internal Combustion engines were quite new as was aviation. Many aspects of what we consider to be current engine technology were unheard of then. Even so, it is interesting to see how little some concepts have changed. For example, the overhead camshaft was not common. Most engines used pushrods to actuate valves. If you inspect the exposed valve train of a WWI Daimler and then look at a current straight six BMW engine you will see the same type of rocker valve actuation. Rocker arms running directly off the cam lobe and on to the valve stem. Following is a table showing the genesis of the D series engines from Daimler.
Note: When researching historical power output levels, there are discrepancies based upon the information source and how they evaluated the engine. Imperial Air Service ratings for in-line engines were all calculated at 1,400 rpm and do not necessarily indicate maximum output. These are the values shown below.
Mercedes Aero Engines D.I to D.IIIau
Introduced in 1913
central oil pickup and sump
water pump at bottom of rear accessory stack
Introduced in 1914
central oil pickup and sump
water pump at bottom of rear accessory stack
Introduced late 1914
rear oil pickup and sump
water pump mid height on rear accessory stack
rear oil pickup and sump
water pump at bottom of rear accessory stack
200hp high altitude version
rear oil pickup and sump
water pump at bottom of rear accessory stack
new fuel blend
Engine Starting Process (completed by ground crew)
- Turn ignition switch to Off
- Retard Ignition
- Throttle closed
- Decompression lever to De-compress (lever pointing down)
- Hand rotate the propeller 6 revolutions. This will draw a fresh fuel mixture charge into each cylinder
- Close de-compression lever
- Magneto switch to M1 (start)
- Rapidly turn the Hand Start Magneto - Engine will fire
- Idle at 200-250 rpm for 5 to 10 minutes
- Slowly increase revolutions to 600 rpm
- Magneto switch to M2 and check for rpm drop (magneto check)
- Magneto switch to 2 and move ignition advance lever to mid position
- When running cleanly, fully advance ignition and check full throttle against rpm reading
- When engine checks are complete, idle at 300 – 350 rpm until the pilot is in the airplane
T he Daimler engines were considered to be reliable and robust engines. Easy to run and light on maintenance compared to the rotary engines of the day. These strong in-line engines allowed pilots to focus more on flying and combat and less on engine handling. While rotary engines were strong, light and powerful in the early years, the more powerful they became, the more torque they generated and the more skilled a pilot needed to be in order to control his aircraft.
Survivors and reproductions
The widespread acquisition of the D.VII by Allied countries after the Armistice ensured the survival and preservation of several aircraft. One war prize was captured in 1918 when it accidentally landed at a small American airstrip near Verdun, France. Donated to the Smithsonian Institution by the War Department in 1920, it is now displayed at the National Air And Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Two other American war prizes were retained by private owners until sold abroad in 1971 and 1981. They are today displayed at the Canada Aviation Museum, in Ottawa, Ontario, and the Militaire Luchtvaart Museum in Soesterberg, The Netherlands, respectively. The latter aircraft is painted in fictitious Royal Netherlands Air Force markings.
A former Marine Luchtvaartdienst D.VII was discovered in a German barn in 1948. This aircraft is now displayed at the Deutsches Museum in Munich, Germany.
Both Canada and France also acquired numerous D.VII aircraft. A former war prize, one of 22 acquired by Canada, is displayed at the Brome County Historical Society, in the Knowlton suburb of Lac-Brome, Quebec. This unrestored Albatros-built example is the only surviving D.VII that retains its original fabric covering. Of the aircraft sent to France, examples are today displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, England, and the Musée de l'Air et de l'Espace in Paris, France.
Many D.VII reproductions have also been built. Some reproductions are powered by the Ranger inline six-cylinder engine. A few aircraft, both static and airworthy, feature vintage Mercedes D.IIIa engines.
Fokker D.VII – Specifications, Facts, Drawings, Blueprints
The legendary Fokker D VII was one of history’s greatest fighter aircraft. Its reputation was so formidable that the 1918 Armistice terms specifically authorized confiscation of all D VIIs by Allied forces.
By December 1917 the German High Command witnessed control of the air slipping irrevocably back into Allied hands. The following January they announced competition for a new fighter craft to employ the excellent Mercedes D III engine.
The Fokker D.VII carried the standard armament of the period, two synchronised 7.92 mm Spandau machine-guns, with 500 rpg, fixed over the top-decking in front of the pilot and firing between the propeller blades.
No less than 60 prototypes appeared at Aldershof as planned, but events were dominated by a machine entered by Anthony Fokker. His D VII model, designed by Reinhold Platz, was a conventional biplane of exceptionally graceful lines. Its wings were constructed from wood, and the fuselage consisted of a tube steel structure covered by fabric. But first and foremost, the Fokker D VII was extremely maneuverable, especially at high altitudes. With such striking performance, it was decided to rush Fokker’s invention immediately into production without further delay. An estimated 1,000 were constructed by Fokker, in concert with Albatros and AEG.
Easy flier: The Fokker D.VII was considered a fairly easy aircraft to fly – an important consideration, since, by the summer of 1918, pilots were being rushed to the front after a bare minimum of training.
“We got into a dogfight with the new brand of Fokkers… we put up the best fight of our lives, but these Huns were just too good for us.” Lieutenant John M. Grider British pilot’s diary entry on first encountering the Fokker D.VII.
By 1918, German pilots were desperate for a single-seat fighter to replace their outdated Albatroses and Fokker Dr.I triplanes. After evaluation trials held at Adlershof, Berlin, at the end of January, the Fokker D.VII was selected for mass production, and the first models arrived at the front the following April. Hard-pressed Jastas (fighter squadrons) greeted their new mounts with relief and enthusiasm. German pilot Rudolf Stark wrote: “The machines climb wonderfully and respond to the slightest movement of the controls.” Their impact on the fighting peaked during the summer of 1918, by which time some 40 Jastas were flying D.VIIs, many of them with BMW engines that gave substantially better performance than the original Mercedes power plants. Operating in skies crowded with Allied aircraft of all kinds, D.VII pilots achieved exceptional kill-rates. For example, one squadron, Jasta Boelcke, scored 46 confirmed victories in a month for the loss of only two of its own pilots. The BMW-powered D.VII was especially effective at high altitude – its pilots were among the first to be issued with experimental oxygen equipment, as well as parachutes. Flying high gave the D.VII the initial advantage in encounters with Allied fighters and also allowed it to hunt down the Allied reconnaissance aircraft, which depended on altitude for safety. About 1,500 D.VIIs were delivered before the end of the war in November 1918.
Fokker’s chief designer, Reinhold Platz, had been working on a series of experimental planes, the V-series, since 1916. These planes were characterized by the use of cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker’s government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers. Junkers had originated the idea in 1915 with the first all-metal aircraft, the Junkers J 1, nicknamed Blechesel (“Sheet Metal Donkey” or “Tin Donkey”). The resulting wings were thick, with a rounded leading edge. This gave greater lift and more docile stalling behavior than conventional thin wings.
Late in 1917, Fokker built the experimental V 11 biplane, fitted with the standard Mercedes D.IIIa engine. In January 1918, Idflieg held a fighter competition at Adlershof. For the first time, frontline pilots would directly participate in the evaluation and selection of new fighters. Fokker submitted the V 11 along with several other prototypes. Manfred von Richthofen flew the V 11 and found it tricky, unpleasant, and directionally unstable in a dive. In response to these complaints, Reinhold Platz lengthened the rear fuselage by one structural bay, and added a triangular fixed vertical fin in front of the rudder. Upon flying the modified V 11, Richthofen praised it as the best aircraft of the competition. It offered excellent performance from the outdated Mercedes engine, yet it was safe and easy to fly. Richthofen’s recommendation virtually decided the competition, but he was not alone in recommending it. Fokker immediately received a provisional order for 400 production aircraft, which were designated D.VII by Idflieg.
Fokker’s factory was not up to the task of meeting all D.VII production orders. Idflieg therefore directed Albatros and AEG to build the D.VII under license, though AEG did not ultimately produce any aircraft. Because the Fokker factory did not use detailed plans as part of its production process, Fokker simply sent a completed D.VII airframe for Albatros to copy. Albatros paid Fokker a five percent royalty for every D.VII built under license. Albatros Flugzeugwerke and its subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), built the D.VII at factories in Johannisthal (designated Fokker D.VII (Alb)) and Schneidemühl (Fokker D.VII (OAW)), respectively. Aircraft markings included the type designation and factory suffix, immediately before the individual serial number.
Some parts were not interchangeable between aircraft produced at different factories, even between Albatros and OAW. Additionally each manufacturer tended to differ in nose paint styles. OAW produced examples were delivered with distinctive mauve and green splotches on the cowling. All D.VIIs were produced with the lozenge camouflage covering except for early Fokker-produced D.VIIs, which had a streaked green fuselage. Factory camouflage finishes were often overpainted with colorful paint schemes or insignia for the Jasta, or the individual pilot.
Albatros soon surpassed Fokker in the quantity and workmanship quality of aircraft produced. With a massive production program, over 3,000 to 3,300 D.VII aircraft were delivered from all three plants, considerably more than the commonly quoted but incorrect production figure of 1,700.
In September 1918, eight D.VIIs were delivered to Bulgaria. Late in 1918, the Austro-Hungarian company MÁG (Magyar Általános Gépgyár – Hungarian General Machine Company) commenced licensed production of the D.VII with Austro-Daimler engines. Production continued after the end of the war, with as many as 50 aircraft completed.
Many sources erroneously state that the D.VII was equipped with the 160 hp Mercedes D.III engine. The Germans themselves used the generic D.III designation to describe later versions of that engine. In fact, the earliest production D.VIIs were equipped with 170-180 hp Mercedes D.IIIa. Production quickly switched to the intended standard engine, the higher-compression 134 kW (180 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü. It appears that some early production D.VIIs delivered with the Mercedes D.IIIa were later re-engined with the D.IIIaü.
By the summer of 1918, a number of D.VIIs received the “overcompressed” 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa, the first product of the BMW firm. The BMW IIIa followed the SOHC, straight-six configuration of the Mercedes D.III, but incorporated several improvements. Increased displacement, higher compression, and an altitude-adjusting carburetor produced a marked increase in speed and climb rate at high altitude. Because the BMW IIIa was overcompressed, using full throttle at altitudes below 2,000 m (6,700 ft) risked premature detonation in the cylinders and damage to the engine. At low altitudes, full throttle could produce up to 179 kW (240 hp) for a short time. Fokker-built aircraft with the new BMW engine were designated D.VII(F), the suffix “F” standing for Max Friz, the engine’s designer. Some Albatros-built aircraft may also have received a separate designation.
BMW-engined aircraft entered service with Jasta 11 in late June 1918. Pilots clamored for the D.VII(F), of which about 750 were built. However, production of the BMW IIIa was very limited and the D.VII continued to be produced with the 134 kW (180 hp) Mercedes D.IIIaü until the end of the war.
D.VIIs flew with different propeller designs from different manufacturers. Despite the differing appearances there is no indication these propellers gave disparate performance. Axial, Wolff, Wotan, and Heine propellers have been noted.
The BMW-engined D-VII had the highest ceiling of any (operational) pursuit aircraft of the war.
The most admirable quality of the D-VII may have been the fact that it maintained its performance advantage right up to the limit of that performance and did not degrade long before that limit was reached. It was also an easy aircraft to fly. . .forgiving to the novice, and one that made average drivers seem more qualified than they actually were.
The only plane the D VII didn’t have manoeuvrability on was the Sopwith Camel and that’s only with regards to right turning. Anyways mostly the D VIII was up high where the Camels were mostly low.
The D VII (BMW) was faster than the Fokker Dr 1, could climb better at higher altitudes, shared the same advantages of the advanced airfoil design. In short it had it all on the Dr 1 except manoeuvrability, which it didn’t need since its enemies on the allied side were not as manoeuvrable as the D VIII. In addition it was much easier to fly, take off and land than the Dr 1 which in the general scheme of things makes for a superior pursuit force overall.
Later on, Hermann Göring complained about the problem caused by the unbalance of having some D.VIIs with the BMW motors and the rest having Mercedes motors. He stated, when engaging the high flying allies the Jasta was basically reduced to half engagement strength, since the BMW powered D.VIIs would leave the Mercedes powered D.VIIs in their wake.
V 21: Prototype with tapered wings
V 22: Prototype with four-bladed propeller
V 24: Prototype with 179 kW (240 hp) Benz Bz.IVü engine
V 31: One D.VII aircraft fitted with a hook to tow the V 30 glider
V 34: D.VII development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine
V 35: Two-seat development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine and undercarriage fuel tank
V 36: D.VII development with 138 kW (185 hp) BMW IIIa engine and undercarriage fuel tank
Fokker D.VIIs being accepted and being delivered are two different things.
1. When the acceptance flight was made at Schwerin-Gorries Airfield by the Army pilot it is the date listed on the acceptance sheets.
Germany - 1917 Albatros D.VII
I hope you all are having a great weekend. Today I am going to go back to the topic of experimental Albatros aircraft. During the later years of the war Albatros Flugzeugwerke worked feverishly to produce a viable aircraft to enter mass production. Most of their new designs never entered production. The company's fighter designs were eclipsed by new lighter more cost effective aircraft produced by Fokker Flugzeug-Werke GmbH. Albatros was still one of the major producers two seat aircraft in the late days of the war, however they never able to design mass produced single seat fighter again.
Experimental Albatros Aircraft of 1917
Albatros D.VII - 1917
Some purists will take me to task for this profile. The only pictures I have found were black and white photos. In them the aircraft surface looked decidedly crude. I admit I have smoothed the lines of the plane and the color is conjectural. It may be a case of fools rush in where angels fear to tread. But at least I gave it a try. If anyone has more information please contact me so it is not so much of a stab in the dark.
Fokker DVII Build Story
T here are as many reasons for taking on a project as there are methods to complete it. In the case of movie props. one source is the original article, another is to build a replica. Time constraints and deadlines sometimes dictate the style and construction methods. In the case of the Fokker DVII built for “The Blue Max” film. We can safely say the aircraft was built to an airworthy standard in a very short period of time! At the Vintage Aviator Ltd we are responsible for the operation and maintenance of a number of WW1 aircraft, including the Fokker DVII built in France for the 1966 film “The Blue Max”. The original constructors of this machine, Rousseau Aviation, Dinard Airport France, did a marvelous job at creating a flying aircraft replica for the film, however years of use and several owners later have taken it’s toll. This aircraft was airworthy when it arrived here in New Zealand but we wanted to restore it and add more details that would make it a more accurate replica.
After having flown the DVII for several hours here in NZ we became aware of its shortcomings rather quickly, it just didn’t perform like the legendary fighter it represented. The airplane was heavy and the engine seemed a bit tired and the fabric covering was clearly a quick attempt at “fake” printed lozenge. Each pilot that had the chance to fly it liked it, but all made the same general comments “It feels heavy”, “It wont climb”, and “I cant catch the SE.5a or the Camel”.
T he decision was quickly made to give the DVII a bit of a face lift. After all of our airshow commitments had passed we started to disassemble the aircraft and see what could be done to improve its performance and looks. Since this airplane is a replica that doesn’t use an original engine nor original construction we had a great deal of leeway on what we could do.
In all fairness to the original constructors, this aircraft has been around for a while and has been used in several films, it served it’s purpose and did a fantastic job. The sheer fact the airplane has been in service for nearly 45 years could add to it’s lack of performance, propellers have been changed, the engine was starting to get tired, repairs have been made and the airframe was getting heavier as planes seem to do when they age! With the dismantled aircraft in our workshop we could remove the fabric and inspect all of the individual components. The construction slightly different to the original, ribs are made of thin plywood and the spars appear to be solid laminated lengths of spruce. The trailing edge has been cut out of timber rather than the original wire trailing edge that gives many Fokker aircraft that distinctive “scalloped” look. Wing tip bows are made of massive chunks of ash that have been steamed to shape them. In an effort to make sure this aircraft was back in the air before too long we set a deadline to “return it to service” so that we didn’t end up rebuilding everything or spending too much on it! It was quickly determined that the wings were in good shape and only minor repairs were needed. We removed some weight from the wingtip bows and sealed the entire structure to protect it from moisture.
W hen building any aircraft raw materials are of prime importance. The selection of materials based on strength weight and availability. It became apparent that during the construction of the DVII the selection of materials to build the aircraft out of must have been strongly influenced perhaps dictated by the time frame. For instance the decision to make “streamlined tube” out of several round tubes had to have been because the builders could not source appropriate sized streamlined tube in a hurry. This method of construction added a huge amount of weight to the plane and was far more labor intensive. The cabane strut “tripods”, interplane struts and landing gear struts were all built up of many pieces of tubing rather than single streamlined tubes. These make shift streamlined tubes were built up of at least two whole round tubes of different sizes and then tacked together with two more sections of round tube split in half! Each conglomerate of steel tubing was then wrapped with fabric to give it a finished streamlined airfoil shape. These parts alone were several times heavier than a similar part made out of a single sreamlined tube. In order to replace these built up struts we positioned the overhauled wings in place on the fuselage and rigged the airplane, partially fabricating the new struts in situ.
T he tail surfaces were also constructed out of materials that deviated a great deal from the original. Since many sets of drawings and much research has been made into the Fokker construction it would be foolish to imply the builders were simply not aware of the original construction. The original constructors also mentioned that they had access to one of the surviving original Fokker DVII’s housed in the French Musee de l’Air at Chalais Meudon. Once the tailplane was stripped of fabric we decided to see why it was so heavy. We have already restored seven Fokker Triplanes and have a tremendous experience with Fokker tailplanes. The DVII tailplane just felt wrong! The easiest way to check the material would be to cut into it and see how thick the steel tube was. after one slice we discovered it was more like pipe!
This would explain the huge lead weights attached to the engine mount, these were needed to counterbalance the heavy tail and maintain a reasonable center of gravity. We were shocked when we removed the weights and set them on our scales. The two weights totaled nearly two hundred pounds! Part of this was necessary to compensate for using a lighter more modern air cooled engine, a gipsy queen, instead of the heavier liquid cooled Mercedes engine which would have originally been used.
A new tailplane was in order, some parts were reused and incorporated into our new chromoly structure. While we were working on the tail section we decided to install a proper tailskid in place of the tailwheel that was fitted. We knew that a tailskid must have been installed when the airplane was built, it appeared in the film with one, and all the mounting points and bungee attachments were already in place. Fitting a tailskid was easy.
M oving forward from the tail, we found the structure to be well preserved and in incredibly good condition, all that was required was stripping the paint and removing some unnecessary turnbuckles. The Fokker style fuselage is of welded steel construction, having wire bracing in each “bay”. In this replica each wire brace had two turnbuckles, we elected to liberate some of these turnbuckles for future use elsewhere and to reduce weight once again. The steel structure was stripped and repainted and all new hardwire bracing installed with half as many turnbuckles. The floorboards were heavy old oil soaked fiberboard that was beginning to delaminate so we replaced these with aircraft plywood and thin aluminum “heel plates” to help prevent the wood from wearing away. The seat, control stick assembly and rudder bar was a complete unit removed from a Stampe biplane, this unit was restored and reinstalled after minor modification to the brake master cylinders.
I n an effort to make the DVII look more authentic we installed a set of our reproduction aircraft guns, in this case LMG 08/15 “Spandau” machine guns. We removed the makeshift windscreen and added ammo chutes, fuel gauge, fuel filler and various doors and access panels that an original aircraft would have. Again to our amazement, this airplane had a huge fuel tank entirely made out of steel turn plate, it weighed a ton. We decided to make a lighter aluminum tank with a slightly smaller volume, this even gave the pilot more room for his legs.
Forward of the firewall we focused our efforts on cleaning up plumbing and wiring since the engine installation was functional and in fairly good order. Upon inspection only a few brackets showed distress form years of service, these were repaired by welding or replaced and the newly overhauled Gipsy queen set in place so that new cowlings could be made. The replica already had slightly modified cowls to hide the modern engine and disguise it looks, these could be improved on. We chose a late model Fokker Built aircraft to replicate, this necessitated making new cowlings with proper louvers and a reshaping of the fiberglass nose bowl.
Heavy Steel Landing Gear
T he last major item to overhaul was the landing gear. Like everything else, this was heavy and made of steel. Original Fokker landing gear was carefully designed to be both strong and lightweight. Instead of the original style riveted aluminum box section this landing gear was made of Steel with access holes cut with a torch! Now it may not have been pretty but it sure worked well. The entire landing gear and axle assembly was replaced and as a result a weight savings of nearly sixty pounds was realized. After building the more authentic Fokker style landing gear one could see why a simpler version was used, the aluminum box section was difficult to construct and certainly took much longer than the simple welded version, and in the end it is completely hidden by the large fairing between the wheels.
Only with a replica aircraft could we have the leeway to experiment with restoration and reconstruction on this level. However, with the time constraints involved, TVAL had to discover methods of reconstruction that wouldn’t involve total rebuilding and painstaking hours of work. With the overall facelift that the Fokker DVII received, including quite a drastic weight loss with the tailplane, fuel tank and landing gear replaced, we became confident that this would increase the aircraft’s performance in the sky, not to mention more leg-room for the pilot! Now with brand new Spandau guns and printed fabric replacing the previous painted lozenge, the new Fokker DVII is surely close to it’s former glory as a renowned fighter of speed and maneouverability, surely capable of once again catching the Se5a and the Camel.