Fokker Dr. I Triplane


Model review

Revell 1/48 Fokker Dr. I Triplane (04682)

Box cover and painting guide

Kit

For long I had planned to build Manfred von Richthofen's red triplane. When Revell announced their Fokker Dr. I kit in 1/48 scale which included decals for Richthofen's all red triplane I could not resist anymore. Actually Revell's Fokker Dr. I is a repackage of the excellent Eduard's "Weekend Edition" kit. Revell has changed color of styrene to bright red which is quite understandable when building Richthofen's plane but it is not a good idea. Luckily quality of the styrene is good. Wings of my copy were little bent so I had to straighten them. Fokker Dr. I did not have dihedral angle in it's wings but they were straight. It was also interesting to notice that there was Eduard's logo on every sprue! This Eduard's (Revell) kit is still the best starting point for Fokker Dr. I model in 1/48 scale.

Parts are sharply moulded with finely engraved panel lines and fabric surfaces. Kit's main component's are accurate in shape and in dimensions although some small imperfections can be found. Cockpit is quite simplified and needs some improving. This kit don't include photo-etched parts. I recommend to buy Eduard's PE-sheet where you can get seat-belts and good machine gun cooling grills. Eduard PE-sheet also includes individual instrument faces and some necessary small parts to the cokcpit and to plane's exterior. Although I used Master's Spandau LMG 08/15 machine guns in my model.

Kit's decal sheet includes markings for two planes. Manfred von Richthofen's famous all red Triplane, serial number 425/17, in which he flew his last flight in April 1918. Although von Richthofen's 425/17 was not all red in his last mission. Richthofen's plane as depicted on the painting guide and with "Cross pattée" crosses (Iron cross) was in that livery a week before he was shot down. When "Balkenkreuz" (bar cross) was ordered to national insignias for Imperial German Air Service in April 1918 they were painted also to von Richthofen's all red 425/17 Triplane. At the same time also the rudder of his plane was either painted white or it was changed. The second decal option is lieutenant Ludwig Beckmann's plane in March 1918.

Although kits main components are accurate in shape and well detailed there are some imperfections and flaws that needs to be corrected:

- Landing gear struts are about 1,5 mm too long
- Aluminium panel under the nouse continued behind wing spar which was under the panel
- Behind the under nouse panel there was not a traverse seam
- Underside of the axel wing was flat there was not raised ribs
- Fokker Dr I had straight wings. On my copy the wings had little dihedral angle which I corrected
- Wing spar inspection window is in wrong place on top of the top wing. It has to be relocated forward about one width of the window above the wing spar
- Padding of machine guns back ends differed from that of the kit on Richthofen's plane
- MG barrels did not have support points under the barrels (small bulges on the kit have to be removed)


wheels


Construction

I started building process from engine. I used streched sprue to make spark plugs to the cylinder heads. They were glued in place with CA glue into small holes I had drilled to every cylinder head. I didn't add spark wires because they should have been almost invisible thin in this scale. I also added photo-etched push rods behind the engine, unfortunately they can't be seen at all on a ready model.

Cockpit is quite spartan and needs little improving. I bought Eduard's PE-sheet which includes seat belts, instruments and other helpful stuff to the cockpit. Cable wires on fuselage tubular framework and rudder cables which are clearly visible are made of painted monofilament. Eduard's PE-sheet didn't include altimeter which I borrowed from another PE-sheet and glued to the right side of the cockpit. Eduard's instruction sheet advices to place tachometer to the cross bar in front of the pilot. The right place is down below and above the rudder pedals. Also table of magnetic declination? is situated in front of the pilot in the Eduard's instruction sheet, the right place for it is down below in the left side.

I replaced kits mg barrels with Masters excellent brass barrels and cooling grills. They are almost perfect copy of the real Spandau LMG 08/15 mg. Downside is that the smallest parts are so small that you almost have to use microscope to see them! At least I had to use magnifying glass and it was still hard to work with them.

There has been uncertainty of seat belts attachment points of the Fokker Dr. I. What is verified is that seat belts fastening points are inside of seat edges. Fokker Dr. I's seat belts were probably fastened to front edge of the seat with same bolts that were used to fasten the seat to the triangular tubular frame. Also the seat belts could be attached to the seat, data depends of the source.

Aluminium panel under the nouse continued behind the wing spar opening which was under the panel. Eduard's PE-panel is too short leaving the wing spar visible. I continued the panel with a paper sheet which I glued behind the PE-panel and puttied and sanded the seam invisible. Eduards instruction sheet asks to use photo etched cross seam behind the aluminium panel. Thats not true, there was never that kind of seam in the real plane, only a longitudinal seam under the rear fuselage.

Wings are moulded in one piece. Wings leading and trailing edges has molding flash which has to be sanded away. The flash is due to mis-alignment of the moulds. Upper wings inspection window is in wrong place on top of the upper wing. It has to be sanded away and relocated forward about one width of the window above the wing spar. Fokker Dr I had straight wings. On my copy the wings had little dihedral angle which I corrected.

Landing gear struts are about 1,5 mm too long which affects plane's appearance on the ground. Easiest way to correct this is to drill holes through axell wings top side through landing gear struts attachment points so there is no need to shorten the struts. Also the axel should be changed to straight type at this stage. Axel wings underside was flat without any raised ribs which has to be sanded away. I added small service hatches of paper to underside of the axel wings both ends. Fitting of parts and easiness of building this kit is quite good, but this don't include the landing gear. I had big troubles when gluing landing gear struts to the axell wing and then the struts to the fuselage. I would like to have seen more robust and easier to assemble landing gear.


Painting

First a few words about the red styren of this kit. Red is quite logical color if you are building Red Baron's red plane. Unfortunately it's not that simple. Light passes easily through the red styrene on thinner parts for example wings trailing edges, elevators and rudder. I recommend all parts to be painted with dark grey primer before starting building process. I didn't use grey primer on my model but istead painted all exterior surfaces with Hu 60 Red and sprayed three coats of Revell's Clear Varnish on top. After I had attached decals it was an unpleasant surprice to notice that the lower wings national markings were dimly visible through the wing's upper surface in normal lighting. I had to spray one additional layer of red paint to upper surface of the lower wings and to underside of the top wing. And all those clear varnish layers too! As I said before, it's very important to prime this kit before building!

There's lot of information available of Fokker Dr. I's painting schemes and colors on the internet and in literature. Next little about Manfred von Richthofen's all red 425/17. Most experts agree that 425/17 was painted red on the factory. Under the red paint there was not Fokker's typical streaked scheme. The red paint was brushed over clear doped linen (CDL). From preserved pieces of the 425/17 underside fabric can be seen that undersides of the plane was first painted light blue on the factory and then overpainted with red. Under the national insignias (crosses) there was not white areas but the crosses were painted directly over the red.

According to latest knowledge von Richthofen's all red 425/17 was dark red and likely semi-gloss. On my model the overall color is Humbrol's HU 60 tinted with Revell's R 36 on some places. I also used darkened HU 60 shade on some places. Before the clear varnish I dry-brushed the model with whitened HU 60. Three coats of Revell's R 1 clear varnish was sprayed before the surface was glossy. After decals were in place I brushed the model with Future floor wax. Then panel lines were washed and XtraColor's satin varnish was sprayed.

Engine's basic color is steel, I used Revell's R91. Cylinder's are washed with matt black wash. Engine's intake pipes are copper and were painted with Revell R93.

Front fuselage tubular framework, control stick with it's actuating bar and rudder pedals bar are green gray, similar to RLM 02, I used XtraColor X201.

Propeller is laminated birch and walnut in seven layers. Birch is painted with Humbrol HU 70 and walnut is painted with Revell R 383. The lighter shade was first sprayed with airprush and the darker walnut shade was painted freehand. The propeller was lastly sprayed with orange tinted clear varnish.

Insides of the fuselage are clear doped linen (CDL) color, I used a mixture 2/1 of Humbrol HU 103 /Revell R 5. Triangular covering on sides of the front fuselage and cockpit's floor are plywood. I used Humbrol HU 71 as a base color on which I brushed Burnt Sienna artist color to make "wood effect".

Fokker Dr.I's pilot seat was plywood and the back rest was aluminium. Inside of the back rest was covered with light fabric or with leatherette. According to some photographic evidence inside of the back rest of MvR's 425/17 would have been light fabric. Backside of the back rest is painted with Humbrol HU 27001 Aluminium and inside was painted with linen color that is HU 103 whitened with white 2/1.



Paints used on the model:
The first figure which indicates sheen level of a color on FS number is dropped off. X=XtraColor, LC=LifeColor, HU=Humbrol, R=Revell, WEM=White Ensign Models. (Between brackets alternative paints).

Dark Red FS - HU 60 (R 36) All exterior surfaces
Clear Doped Linen (CDL) FS - HU 103 + HU 34 (2 parts HU 103 /1 part HU 34) All Interior fabric surfaces
Greenish grey FS - X 201 (RLM 02) Fuselage tubular framework
Plywood / wood FS - HU 71 + R 382 + R 1 (clear varnish) Propeller
Aluminium FS - HU 27001 (X 501) Ammunition boxes and fuel tank
Steel FS - R 91 Engine
Middle Grey FS - WEM ACS10 AMT-1 Tyres
Brown khaki FS - R 380 Seat padding
Copper FS - R 93 Engine's intake pipes

Decals
On my model I used kit's decals which were technically good. They settled down well with Micro Soll. Compared to reference photos and with naked eye it seems that the national crosses are too small on rudder and on fuselage. It seems that the black crosses are right sized but the white border around them is too narrow. Register markings on sides of the fuselage are too small. Number "I" is too high behind the "DR". It should be little shorter than the "DR". It is quite easy to correct. Also there should not be a dot before the "DR". I noticed this crosses size problem just after I had fixed part of them. I decided to go with kits decals, it would have been too difficult to remove them anymore and the flaw was quite minor. If you are planning to build this kit I recommend to buy aftermarket decals for it.

Conclusion

Good and accurate kit with nice surface detailing. More laborious than I expexted. Lot of very small and fragile parts which demanded a lot of accuracy when assembling them in places. It was a little bit excruciating experience to assemble the upper wing and the landing gear. But finally everything went well. I didn't like Revell's red styrene. All parts should be primed with dark color to prevent light to get through of thin parts before starting to build this kit. Best Fokker Dr. I in this scale. (from Eduard's moulds, now Revell's).

Photos from different stages of the work
Hold mouse cursor over thumbnail for a while before clicking !




History

Source: Wikipedia: Fokker Dr. I

Design and development

In February 1917, the Sopwith Triplane began to appear over the Western Front. Despite its single Vickers machine gun armament, the Sopwith swiftly proved itself superior to the more heavily armed Albatros fighters then in use by the Luftstreitkräfte. Fokker-Flugzeugwerke responded by converting an unfinished biplane prototype into the V.4, a small, rotary-powered triplane with a steel tube fuselage and thick cantilever wings, first developed during Fokker's government-mandated collaboration with Hugo Junkers.

Initial tests revealed that the V.4 had unacceptably high control forces resulting from the use of unbalanced ailerons and elevators. Instead of submitting the V.4 for a type test, Fokker produced a revised prototype designated V.5. The most notable changes were the introduction of horn-balanced ailerons and elevators, as well as longer-span wings. The V.5 also featured interplane struts, which were not necessary from a structural standpoint, but which minimized wing flexing. On 14 July 1917, Idflieg issued an order for 20 pre-production aircraft. The V.5 prototype, serial 101/17, was tested to destruction at Adlershof on 11 August 1917.

Operational history

The first two pre-production triplanes were designated F.I, in accord with Idflieg's early class prefix for triplanes. These aircraft, serials 102/17 and 103/17, were the only machines to receive the F.I designation and could be distinguished from subsequent aircraft by a slight curve to the tailplane leading edge. They were sent to Jastas 10 and 11 for combat evaluation, arriving at Markebeeke, Belgium on 28 August 1917.

Richthofen first flew 102/17 on 1 September 1917 and shot down two enemy aircraft in the next two days. He reported to the Kogenluft (Kommandierender General der Luftstreitkräfte) that the F.I was superior to the Sopwith Triplane. Richthofen recommended that fighter squadrons be reequipped with the new aircraft as soon as possible. The combat evaluation came to an abrupt conclusion when Oberleutnant Kurt Wolff, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, was shot down in 102/17 on 15 September, and Leutnant Werner Voss, Staffelführer of Jasta 10, was killed in 103/17 on 23 September.

The remaining pre-production aircraft, designated Dr.I, were delivered to Jasta 11. Idflieg issued a production order for 100 triplanes in September, followed by an order for 200 in November. Apart from minor modifications, these aircraft were almost identical to the F.I. The primary distinguishing feature was the addition of wingtip skids, which proved necessary because the aircraft was tricky to land and prone to ground looping. In October, Fokker began delivering the Dr.I to squadrons within Richthofen's Jagdgeschwader I.

Compared to the Albatros and Pfalz fighters, the Dr.I offered exceptional maneuverability. Though the ailerons were not very effective, the rudder and elevator controls were light and powerful. Rapid turns, especially to the right, were facilitated by the triplane's marked directional instability. Vizefeldwebel Franz Hemer of Jasta 6 said, "The triplane was my favorite fighting machine because it had such wonderful flying qualities. I could let myself stunt — looping and rolling — and could avoid an enemy by diving with perfect safety. The triplane had to be given up because although it was very maneuverable, it was no longer fast enough."

As Hemer noted, the Dr.I was considerably slower than contemporary Allied fighters in level flight and in a dive. While initial rate of climb was excellent, performance fell off dramatically at higher altitudes because of the low compression of the Oberursel Ur.II, a clone of the Le Rhône 9J rotary engine. As the war continued, chronic shortages of castor oil made rotary operation increasingly difficult. The poor quality of German ersatz lubricant resulted in many engine failures, particularly during the summer of 1918.

The Dr.I suffered other deficiencies. The pilot's view was poor during takeoff and landing. The cockpit was cramped and furnished with materials of inferior quality. Furthermore, the proximity of the gun butts to the cockpit, combined with inadequate crash padding, left the pilot vulnerable to serious head injury in the event of a crash landing


Wing failures

On 29 October 1917, Leutnant der Reserve Heinrich Gontermann, Staffelführer of Jasta 15, was performing aerobatics when his triplane broke up. Gontermann was fatally injured in the ensuing crash landing. Leutnant der Reserve Günther Pastor of Jasta 11 was killed two days later when his triplane broke up in level flight. Inspection of the wrecked aircraft showed that the wings had been poorly constructed. Examination of other high-time triplanes confirmed these findings.

On 2 November, Idflieg grounded all remaining triplanes pending an inquiry. Idflieg convened a Sturzkommission (crash commission) which concluded that poor construction and lack of waterproofing had allowed moisture to damage the wing structure. This caused the wing ribs to disintegrate and the ailerons to break away in flight. In response to the crash investigation, Fokker improved quality control on the production line, particularly varnishing of the wing spars and ribs, to combat moisture. Fokker also strengthened the rib structures and the attachment of the auxiliary spars to the ribs. Existing triplanes were repaired and modified at Fokker's expense.

After testing a modified wing at Adlershof, Idflieg authorized the triplane's return to service on 28 November 1917. Production resumed in early December. By January 1918, Jastas 6 and 11 were fully equipped with the triplane. Only 14 squadrons used the Dr.I as their primary equipment. Most of these units were part of Jagdgeschwadern I, II, or III. Frontline inventory peaked in late April 1918, with 171 aircraft in service on the Western Front.

Despite corrective measures, the Dr.I continued to suffer from wing failures. On 3 February 1918, Leutnant Hans Joachim Wolff of Jasta 11 successfully landed after suffering a failure of the upper wing leading edge and ribs. On 18 March 1918, Lothar von Richthofen, Staffelführer of Jasta 11, suffered a failure of the upper wing leading edge during combat with Sopwith Camels of No. 73 Squadron and Bristol F.2Bs of No. 62 Squadron. Richthofen was seriously injured in the ensuing crash landing.

Postwar research revealed that poor workmanship was not the only cause of the triplane's structural failures. In 1929, National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) investigations found that the upper wing carried a higher lift coefficient than the lower wing — at high speeds it could be 2.55 times as much. The triplane's chronic structural problems destroyed any prospect of large-scale orders. Production eventually ended in May 1918, by which time only 320 had been manufactured. The Dr.I was withdrawn from frontline service as the Fokker D.VII entered widespread service in June and July. Jasta 19 was the last squadron to be fully equipped with the Dr.I.

Surviving triplanes were distributed to training and home defense units. Several training aircraft were reengined with the 75 kW (100 hp) Goebel Goe.II. At the time of the Armistice, many remaining triplanes were assigned to fighter training schools at Nivelles, Belgium, and Valenciennes, France. Allied pilots tested several of these triplanes and found their handling qualities to be impressive.

Experimental engines

Several Dr.Is were used as testbeds for experimental engines. One aircraft, designated V.7, was fitted with the Siemens-Halske Sh.III bi-rotary engine. The V.7 exhibited exceptional rate of climb and ceiling, but it proved difficult to handle. Serial 108/17 was used to test the 118 kW (160 hp) Goebel Goe. III, while serial 469/17 was used to test the 108 kW (145 hp) Oberursal Ur. III. None of these engines were used on production aircraft.

Postwar

Three triplanes are known to have survived the Armistice. Serial 528/17 was retained as a testbed by the Deutschen Versuchsanstalt für Luftfahrt (German Aviation Research Institute) at Adlershof. After being used in the filming of two movies, 528/17 is believed to have crashed sometime in the late 1930s. Serial 152/17, in which Manfred von Richthofen obtained three victories, was displayed at the Zeughaus museum in Berlin. This aircraft was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid during World War II. In 1932, Fokker assembled a Dr.I from existing components. It was displayed in the Deutsche Luftfahrt-Sammlung in Berlin. In 1943, the aircraft was destroyed in an Allied bombing raid. Today, only a few original Dr.I artifacts survive in museums.

Replica and reproduction aircraft

Large numbers of replica and reproduction aircraft have been built for both individuals and museums. Bitz Flugzeugbau GmbH built two Dr.I replicas for use in Twentieth Century Fox’s 1966 film The Blue Max. Because of the expense and scarcity of authentic rotary engines, most airworthy replicas are powered by a Warner Scarab or Continental R-670 radial engine.[36] A few, however, feature vintage Le Rhône 9 or reproduction Oberursel Ur.II rotary engines.

Variants

V.4 - Initial prototype
V.5 - First production prototype
V.6 - Enlarged prototype with Mercedes D.II engine
V.7 - Prototype with Siemens-Halske Sh.III engine

Operators

German Empire, Luftstreitkräfte



Fokker Dr. I Triplane technical data

Engine 110 hv:n Oberursel Ur.II, 9-cylinder, air cooled rotary radial engine
Dimensions Span (topwing) 7,20 m; lenght 5,77 m; height 2,95 m
Weights Empty weight 406 kg; max take off 586 kg
Performance Max. speed 185 km/h at low altitude
Ceiling 6095 m
Rate of climb 5,7 m/s
Armament 2 x Spandau LMG 08/15 7.92mm synchronised machine guns, 500 rounds /gun
User / manufacturer Imperial Germany / Fokker Flugzeugwerke mbH, Schwerin in Mecklenberg
Range 300 km
Production 320


Manfred von Richthofen

Lähde: About.com Military History

The most famous air ace of the First World War, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von Richthofen was born on 2 May 1892 in Breslau.

The son of Major Albrecht von Richthofen, a Prussian nobleman and his wife, Kunigunde, he enrolled at age 11 at the military school at Wahlstatt, and then attended the Royal Military Academy at Lichterfelde. He was a better athlete than he was a scholar, and applied his horseback riding skills to become a cavalry officer. He was commissioned in April 1911 in the 1st Regiment of Uhlans Kaiser Alexander III, and promoted to Lieutenant in 1912.

Richthofen served briefly in the trenches before transferring to the German Air Force in May 1915. The star pupil of Oswald Boelcke, Richthofen learnt quickly and achieved immediate success. He took his first solo flight after only 24 hours of flight training, on 10 October 1915. A month after receiving his first Albatros, Richthofen had scored six 'kills' against Allied aircraft.

A cool and precise hunter, Richthofen's flamboyance was expressed mainly in his brightly painted aircraft, a Fokker DR-1 Dridecker. His success in the air led to his being named der Rote Kampfflieger by the Germans, le petit rouge by the French, and the Red Baron by the British.

Richthofen was appointed commander of the Flying Circus in June 1917. Comprised of Germany's top fighter pilots, the new unit was highly mobile and could be quickly sent to any part of the Western Front where it was most needed. Richthofen and his pilots achieved immediate success during the air war over Ypres during August and September.

After scoring 80 confirmed kills, Richthofen was finally shot down as he flew deep into British lines in pursuit of Wilfrid May on 21 April 1918. Although Canadian flyer Arthur 'Roy' Brown - who was flying to May's aid - was officially credited with the victory, controversy remains over who actually shot Richthofen down; other evidence suggests he was hit by a single bullet fired by Australian gunners in the trenches. In any event, Manfred von Richthofen crashed into a field alongside the road from Corbie to Bray. He was 25. He was survived by his brother Lothar, also a noted ace.

A British pilot flew over the German aerodrome at Cappy and dropped a note informing the Germans of Richthofen's death. Buried in France by the British with full military honours, Richthofen's body was later exhumed and reburied in the family cemetery at Wiesbaden.


Sources:

  • The Aerodrome, Aces and Aircraft of World War 1
  • Pienoismallit.net
  • Aeroscale: Dual Combo Fok. Dr.I (1:48) by Stephen T. Lawson
  • big scale models.com
  • Osprey Aircraft of the Aces 40: Fokker Dr. I Aces of World War 1
  • Wikipedia: Fokker Dr. I
  • About.com Military History
  • Main Page