Monday, December 26, 2016

René Paul Fonck

Colonel René Paul Fonck (27 March 1894 – 18 June 1953) was a French aviator who ended the First World War as the top Allied fighter ace, and the highest-scoring survivor of the war. When all succeeding aerial conflicts of the 20th and 21st centuries are also considered, Fonck still holds the title of "all-time Allied Ace of Aces". 

As a boy growing up in the foothills of the Vosges, he was fascinated by stories of men and their flying machines. Yet when he was conscripted in August 1914, he refused to serve in the French Air Service, choosing instead to go to the trenches. By early 1915, he had changed his mind and began his flight training in a Penguin at Saint-Cyr. Displaying an inherent talent for flying, he was soon serving with Escadrille C47, flying an unarmed Caudron on reconnaissance missions over the lines.

Spad Vll
In April 1917, after more than 500 hours of flight time, Fonck was assigned to Spa 103. Flying the SPAD VII, he developed a reputation for studying the tactics of his opponents and conserving ammunition during a dogfight. On two separate occasions, he shot down six enemy aircraft in one day.
He received confirmation for 75 victories (72 solo and three shared) out of 142 claims. Taking into account his probable claims, his final tally could conceivably be nearer 100 or above. He was made an Officer of the Legion of Honor in 1918 and later a Commander of the Legion of Honor after the war.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Etrich Taube

  R to L, Rittmeister Meyer, Professor Meyer and Ltn Guidp Scheffer 1915

Austrian aviation pioneer Igo Etrich developed the Etrich Taube which became one of the first aircraft to be built in large numbers. The Taube (dove in German) is also known by the names of the various later manufacturers who build versions of the craft. There were well over a dozen companys that built Taube copies.

Pictured above is a Jeannin Taube (Jeannin Stahltaube) which is a version with steel tubing fuselage construction.

For the first months of WW1, Taubes flew with the Central Powers armies in the role of scout aircraft. As new Allied aircraft began arriving at the front, the unarmed Taubes began to seem frighteningly unmaneuverable and sickening slow to their German flyers. The Taube was soon transferred to the role of training student aviators.

The Taube was very popular prior to the First World War, and it was also used by the air forces of Italy and Austria-Hungary. Even the Royal Flying Corps operated at least one Taube in 1912. 

The design provided for very stable flight, which made it extremely suitable for observation. In addition, the translucent wings made it difficult for ground observers to detect a Taube at an altitude above 400 meters. 

The Taube's first hostile engagement was on November 1, 1911, Giulio Gavotti, an Italian aviator, using pistols and 2 kg (4.4 lb) grenades dropped the world's first aerial bomb from his Taube monoplane over the Ain Zara oasis in Libya. 
The Taube was also used for bombing in the Balkans in 1912–13, and in late 1914 when German 3 kg (6.6 lb) bomblets and propaganda leaflets were dropped over Paris. 
Taube spotter planes detected the advancing Imperial Russian Army in East Prussia during the World War I Battle of Tannenberg.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Josef Carl Peter Jacobs

Related image
Members of Jasta 7 in front of that Staffel- Führer's Fokker Dr.I triplane. From left: Uffz Peisker, Fwbl Paul Hüttenrauch, Fwbl August Eigenbrodt, Fwbl Sicho, Ltn Willi Nebgen, Ltn Josef Jacobs (wearing his Pour le Mérite at the centre of his collar), Ltn Bannenberg, Uffz Jupp Böhne, Ltn Wirth, Ltn Rath and unidentified.

Josef Carl Peter Jacobs (15 May 1894 – 29 July 1978) was a German flying ace with 48 victories during the First World War. His total tied him with Werner Voss for fourth place among German aces.
Jacobs learned to fly before the war and when war broke out he joined the Imperial Air Service receiving his training at Darmstadt.
His first assignment on the front was flying observation planes but soon he received transfer to 
Fokker Staffel West and flying a Fokker E.III.
His first victory, although unconfirmed, came in February of 1916 when he downed a French Caudron, He achieved his first official victory on May 12th, when he shot down a two-seater Caudron crewed only by its pilot.

Fokker Staffel West was renamed Jasta 12 in October 1916. Shortly thereafter he requested a transfer to Jasta 22, which was at the time was under the command of his good friend, Oberleutnant Erich Hönemanns. 

At Jasta 22, due to his experence, he was primarily assigned an instructors role, although still flying combat. He remained at this assignment thru June of 1917 at which time he was given command of Jasta 7. (above picture, with Jacobs' black Fokker Dr.l)

Jacobs was awarded the prestigious "Pour le Merite" when he reached a score of 24 victories. At the close of the war he was the 2nd ranking surviving German ace (after Ernst Udet), an amazing accomplishment in itself as he had flown during the entire war without serious injury. His total tally for the war eventually reached 48 aircraft and balloons.

Jacobs' 30 victories in the Dr.l (Fokker triplane) exceeded all other German aces. Manfred von Richthofen's red Dr.l made the the plane famous and Werner Voss' heroic last battle added to it's mystique, but no other pilot matched Jacobs skill in handling the Fokker Dr.l triplane.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

On this date in 1916, Jasta Boelcke was named.

In honor of Oswald Boelcke, the German Emperor renames Jasta 2, Jasta “Boelcke,” the first such honor ever to be bestowed on a German Air Force unit.
Oswald Boelcke, together with Max Immelmann, inspired the reorganization of the German air force into the Luftstreitkräfte.

August 30th 1916 he was appointed to form and command Royal Prussian Jagdstaffel 2, selecting his own pilots which included Manfred von Richthofen and Erwin Böhme.
Boelcke is considered one of the most influential patrol leaders and tacticians of the early years of air combat.

He was the first to formalize rules of air fighting, focusing especially on discipline and sticking together in attacks as well as practice. He shared his experience summarized in a set of rules now known to us as the 'Dicta Boelcke'.

Jagdstaffel 2 became the first squadron to establish local air superiority by intercepting a British bombing raid, from then on Boelcke's squadron rose to fame unknown before. In the first four months of its existence, September-December 1916, achieves a record of scoring 86 victories while losing only 10. Jasta Boelcke would end the war with 333 victories plus 3 balloons and a loss of 33 airmen.

Boelcke lost his life on 28th of October, 1916, in a mid-air collision while he and Erwin Böhme were attacking the same aeroplane.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Count Francesco Baracca

Count Francesco Baracca was Italy's top fighter ace of World War I, credited with 34 aerial victories.

After Italy's entry into the war in May 1915, Baracca, a then cavalry officer, was sent to Paris to train with the Nieuport two-seater aircraft. Upon his return in July, he was assigned to the 8th Squadron Nieuport. The Italian pilots soon found the Nieuport 10 were too slow, with too slow a rate of climb and almost useless against the better equipped enemy.
When the Nieuport 11 single-seat fighter with Lewis guns entered service in April 1916 Baracca scored his first victory, bringing down an Austrian Hansa-Brandenburg C.I. This was also Italy's first aerial victory in the war.
This first victory featured his favorite manoeuvre, which was to zoom in unseen behind and below an enemy and fire his machine gun from short range.
Baracca now piloting the Nieuport 17 scored his second victory, an Austrian Lohner over Gorizia on 23 April 1916. Flying the Nieuport 17 and then, from March 1917, the SPAD VII, he scored well in both aircraft on his way to being Italy’s top ace.

Baracca adopted, as a personal emblem, a black prancing horse on his aircraft in tribute to his former cavalry regiment. (The emblem he wore on his plane of a black horse prancing on its two rear feet inspired Enzo Ferrari to use the symbol of the Scuderia Ferrari racing team since 1929, and of Ferrari automobiles since they began manufacture.)

Baracca remained a modest, sensitive man conscious of his duty and compassionate to both his squadron comrades and to his defeated enemies. He would try to visit his victims in hospital afterwards, to pay his respects, or he would place a wreath on the grave of those he killed.

Baracca's friend Fulco Ruffo di Calabria nearly ended Baracca's career—and life—in June 1917. Ruffo di Calabria burst out of a cloud firing in a head-on pass at an enemy airplane, and barely missed Baracca. Later, on the ground, Baracca assured his companion, "Dear Fulco, next time, if you want to shoot me down, aim a couple of meters to the right. Now let's go for a drink and not talk of it any more!"

Although not documented, it is believed Baracca was killed by ground fire while on a strafing mission near the Montello area on June 19, 1918. A monument in his memory was later built on the site.

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Thursday, December 8, 2016

The P.B.31E Nighthawk

Built by the Supermarine Aviation Works Ltd., the Nighthawk, was a prototype anti-Zeppelin fighter with a crew of three to five and an intended endurance of 9–18 hours. It was first flown in February 1917 with Clifford Prodger at the controls.

The Nighthawk had six-bay swept quadraplane wings and a biplane tailplane with twin fins and rudders. The fuselage filled the gap between the second and third wings; the cockpit, which carried up to the top wing "turret", was enclosed and heated.

 For armament, a 1½-pounder (37 mm) Davis gun mounted above the top wing with 20 shells, and two .303 in (7.7 mm) Lewis guns. 

It had a trainable nose-mounted searchlight, power for the searchlight was provided by an independent petrol engine-driven generator, possibly the first instance of a recognisable airborne auxiliary power unit

Along with the intended long endurance, it was suggested it would be able to patrol at low speeds and await the Zeppelin.
Although touted as being able to reach 75 mph (121 km/h), the P.B.31E prototype only managed 60 mph (97 km/h) at 6,500 ft (1,981 m) and took an hour to climb to 10,000 ft (3,048 m), which was totally inadequate for intercepting Zeppelins. Given the Anzani engine's reputation for unreliability and overheating, it is unlikely that the aircraft would have delivered the advertised endurance either. Wikipedia

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Voisin Type 3

On the morning of October, 5, 1914, French Sergeant pilot Joseph Frantz and mechanic Corporal Quenault in their Voisin biplane spotted a German Aviatik flying at about 3500 ft. He closed on until Quenault found the range and opened fire with a light machine gun. The Aviatik dove away, but Frantz followed, Quenault firing intermittently. The Voisin overshot the quarry; the Aviatik pilot banked and tried to run; Franz reversed and got behind him.
As he tried to climb away, Quenault poured rounds into the German. The Aviatik, riddled with bullets, fell into a dive. Plunging into a copse of trees, it exploded. Thus ended history's first recorded air duel. The unlikely-looking Voisin had prevailed. 

The Voisin pushers performed a variety of missions in the war: reconnaissance, artillery spotting, training, day and night bombing, and ground attack. They were slow and with their pusher configuration, defenseless from the rear. Nonetheless, these rugged and reliable aircraft played a role throughout the war, used as trainers and for night missions after they became obsolete for front-line, daytime missions. By , Mar. 2007. Updated April 16, 2012.

The Voisin was also known as the 'Chicken Coop' because of its profusion of struts and wires.

Manufactured in 1914 by the French company, Compagnie Gabriel Voisin, it was designated as a Light Bomber. It had a 53 foot wingspan and was powered by a 120-horsepower water cooled Salmson M9 engine
Armament was one Hotchkiss M1914 machine gun and 288 pounds of bombs.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Werner Voss

On this day in 1917, the German flying ace Werner Voss is shot down and killed during a dogfight with British pilots in the skies over Belgium, on the Western Front during World War I.

Voss, born in 1887, enlisted as a cavalry soldier in 1914, but soon transferred to the Luftstreitkrafte or German Air Service, where he was posted to the Jasta 2 squadron, commanded by the renowned pilot Oswald Boelcke. After serving as a wingman to Manfred von Richthofen—the ace pilot later known as the Red Baron—Voss quickly established a reputation as a leading pilot in his own right, and a rival to Richthofen. By May 1917,Voss had amassed 28 victories in the air, earning the prestigious Pour le Merite award.

At Richthofen’s request, Voss was attached to his own squadron, Jasta 10—known as the “Flying Circus.” He earned another 14 victories there before September 23, 1917, when he was involved in a dogfight with the renowned British 56 Squadron “B” Flight—including the ace pilots James McCudden and Arthur Rhys Davids—above the Western Front in Belgium. Though Voss skillfully eluded his pursuers for some 10 minutes in his silver-grey Fokker triplane, he was shot down by a British attack and crashed north of Frezenburg. As McCudden later observed: “I shall never forget my admiration for that German pilot, who single handed, fought seven of us for ten minutes. I saw him go into a fairly steep dive and so I continued to watch, and then saw the triplane hit the ground and disappear into a thousand fragments, for it seemed to me that it literally went into powder.”

The attack was generally credited to Davids, who also shot down the German pilot Carl Menckhoff when the latter came to Voss’ aid. Menckhoff survived the fight—one of the best-known aerial dogfights of World War I—to lead his own squadron throughout the end of the war. As for Voss, his bravery and skill was celebrated posthumously on both sides of the line. In James McCudden’s words: “His flying is wonderful, his courage magnificent and in my opinion he was the bravest German airman whom it has been my privilege to see.”