Aeroplane Aviation Archive — Issue 33 The World’s Fastest Aircraft

(Jacob Rumans) #1

19 20



reated by Fokker’s highly talented
design team, the D.VII proved
to be one of the best scouts in
service with either side. Proof of the
 ghter’s formidable reputation came
when the victorious Allies speci cally
stated in the surrender terms dictated to
Germany that all surviving D.VIIs had to
be handed over.
The D.VII made use of some of the
revolutionary structural features  rst seen
in the Fokker DrI almost a year earlier,
namely thick-section high-lift wings
each built up on two wooden box-spars
and dispensing with  ying, landing and
incidence wires. The fuselage, however,
retained the typical Fokker wire-braced
welded steel-tube primary structure. One
of the key features of the D.VII was its
reworked Mercedes D III engine, which had
been installed in most German  ghters
from 1916 onward. The version developed
for the Fokker  ghter, however, was the
IIIaü, which boasted higher compression
that saw its 160hp soon increased to 180hp.
When the rst examples of the Fokker
D.VII reached the frontline, German  ghter
units were  rmly on the back foot against
their Allied opponents, who were ying
better machines in greater numbers.

Fokker D.VII

Left: Fokker-built D.VIIs of Saxon Jasta 72
show o their individual insignia in
this impressive line-up on Bergnicourt
aerodrome, near Rethel, north Reims, in July

  1. First in line is the ‘M’-marked aircraft
    of Sta elführer Karl Menckho , a war
    survivor credited with 39 victories – a large
    number of these claimed with the D.VII.

Fokker D.VIIf
Max Speed: 125mph (200km/h)
Engine: BMW IIIa
Power: 185hp
Length: 22ft 9.7in (6.95m)
Wingspan: 29ft 2.3in (8.90m)
Height: 9ft 2.25in (2.75m)
Armament: 2 x 7.92mm Maxim
LMG 08/15 ‘Spandau’
machine guns
Max T/O weight: 2,006lb (910kg)
Range: Endurance of
1.5 hours

German  ghter
pilots immediately
warmed to the inherent
structural soundness
of the D.VII. Many of
the D.VII’s virtues lay in its cantilever wing,
whose thicker airfoil and high aspect ratio
gave it a lift coecient of 1.1, compared
to 1.0 for its great rival the SPAD XIII, and
consequently a superior rate of climb.
Once in service, many pilots thought
the aircraft would benet from a better
engine – and later in 1918 it got two.
Mercedes produced the 200hp IIIaüv, but
it was the Fokker D.VIIf, powered by the

Above: Fokker D.VII of Max Holtzem of Jagdsta el 16b at St Marguerite, France,
summer 1918. The D.VII was armed with two 7.92mm LMG 08/15 ‘Spandau’
synchronised machine guns. The gun butts protruded into the cockpit at near eye
level, and the pilot aimed these weapons using a ring-and-bead sight at the very end
of the weapons.

Below: White Knight – Fokker-built D.VIIf 5125/18 was the personal aircraft
of Oblt Hermann Göring, the  nal Kommandeur of JG I during World War 1.
By the time this photograph was taken in late September 1918 Göring had
claimed his 22nd, and last, victory. The formidable Fokker D.VII is widely
regarded as the  nest German  ghter aircraft of World War 1 and turned many of its
pilots into aces.

The need for speed
The fastest German machine of World War 1, the Fokker D.VII had the ability to turn a
mediocre pilot into a good one and a good pilot into an ace. Such was the increase in
performance of the BMW Fokker D.VIIs that everyone was keen to get them as quickly
as possible. One such individual was Oblt Hermann Göring, the nal Kommandeur
of JG I, who stated: ‘I noticed how much of a performance advantage I enjoyed in my
BMW-engined ghter over the other Mercedes-engined machines of my Stael. I gave
a second BMW machine to Ltn Heinrich Drekmann, and we carried out many patrols
together. We now used to cross the lines at a height of 5,900 metres, which had not
been possible with other engines, and we could stay at this altitude six to twelve miles
behind the enemy lines without being spotted. Our  ghts began mostly with surprise
attacks, giving us tactical advantage that usually resulted in victory.’

185hp BMW IIIa, that exhibited the best
performance, especially at altitudes of
18,000ft or above. Regarded by those that
 ew it, and its foes, as the best all-round
 ghter of World War 1, the D.VII earned
this accolade by being a fairly easy, yet
responsive, ghter to y. It was forgiving,
yet extraordinarily responsive; its stall was
straightforward and it spun reluctantly. The
 ghter remained under full control when its
adversaries stalled and spun, and it could
‘hang on its propeller’ at angles up to 45
degrees and remain a stable gun platform,
allowing pilots to pepper their opponents
from below with machine gun  re.
The arrival of the D.VII in the frontline in
the spring of 1918 was eagerly anticipated
by the Jagdieger, who were struggling
to deal with vastly superior Allied aircraft
types. One of the leading proponents of
the new Fokker scout was World War 1’s
ranking ace, Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr
von Richthofen. He was killed in action on
21 April – just days before his unit received
production examples of the Fokker  ghter.
Men such as Ernst Udet and Paul Baümer
cut a swathe through Allied formations,
the latter pilot’s parent unit, JG III, being
credited with 130 victories over RAF
aircraft in September 1918 alone after the
Geschwader had been issued with BMW-
engined D.VIIfs. Baümer would nish the
war with a score of 43.
The D.VII allowed the German  ghter
force to remain a constant threat to Allied
air operations right up until the Armistice
brought an end to World War 1. Precise
production  gures for the D.VII have been
lost, but it is thought that 3,200 were
ordered and 1,720+ delivered before the
end of hostilities.

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