Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Junkers J.I (manufacturer's designation J 4) was a German "J-class" armored sesquiplane.

Developed for low-level ground attack, observation and Army cooperation. It is especially noteworthy as being the first all-metal aircraft to enter mass production; the aircraft's metal construction and heavy armour was an effective shield against small arms fire over the battlefield.
It was an extremely advanced design for the period, with a single-unit steel "bathtub" running from just behind the propeller to the rear crew position acting not only as armour, but also as both the main fuselage structure and engine mounting in one unit. Engine access was provided by armored steel panels, one on either side of the nose. The armour was 5 millimetres (0.20 in) thick and weighed 470 kilograms (1,040 lb). It protected the crew, the engine, the fuel tanks, and radio equipment, when fitted. The flight control surfaces were connected to the aircraft's controls by push-rods and bellcranks – not with the usual steel cable control connections of the era as push-rods were less likely to be severed by ground fire.

There was a significant size difference between the upper and lower wings – the upper wing had a total area of 386.3 sq ft, over double the total area of the lower wing – 147.3 sq ft. This is a form of biplane known as a Sesquiplane.

The aircraft had two fuel tanks with a total capacity of around 32 US gal. The main tank (divided into two parts for redundancy) was supplemented by a smaller, 7.9 US gal "gravity tank". This was intended to supply fuel to the engine by gravity feed in the event of an engine fuel pump failure; it contained enough fuel for thirty minutes on full power. There was a manual fuel pump for use when the gravity tank became exhausted.

The aircraft could be disassembled into its main components: wings, fuselage, undercarriage, and tail, to make it easier to transport by rail or road. A ground crew of six to eight could reassemble the aircraft and have it ready for flight within four to six hours. The wings were covered with 0.0075 inch aluminum skin which could be easily dented, so great care had to be taken when handling the aircraft on the ground.

The J.I was well liked by its crews, although its ponderous handling earned it the nickname "furniture van". The aircraft first entered front service in August 1917. They were used on the Western Front during the German Spring Offensive of 1918.

The aircraft could be fitted with two downward-firing machine guns for ground attack, but they were found to be of limited use because of the difficulty of aiming them. The J-Is were mainly used for army co-operation and low-level reconnaissance. They were also used for dropping ammunition and rations on isolated or cut-off outposts that could not be easily supplied by other means.

The production at Junkers works was quite slow, because of poor organization. Only 227 J.4s were manufactured before production ceased in January 1919. At least one was lost to ground fire, shot down by a French anti-aircraft machine gun that was firing armour-piercing rounds, although this was apparently an isolated event as some sources claim none were lost in combat. Some were lost in landing accidents and other mishaps.

Only one relatively complete aircraft survived, bearing German military serial number J.I 586/17. It is preserved at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

American made Handley-Page bombers to be flown across the Atlantic.

The following is a copy (as written) of an article printed in the AERIAL AGE WEEKLY, July 15th, 1918.

Titled: Flying Bombing Planes Across the Atlantic.(editorial in the New York Times)

The shortcut to acceptance by the War Department of Mr. William H. Workman’s plan to build 10,000 Handley-Page bombing aeroplanes and fly them over the Atlantic to the Western Front is to take across at once, or as soon as arrangements can be made, one of the most powerful standard planes made by the British company. An exhibition plane (of British design American in construction) made its debut with striking success at the Elizabeth N. J. on Saturday in the presence of Assistant Secretary Crowell and Mr. John D. Ryan, head of the Aircraft Production Board. With a wing spread of 100 feet and driven twin Liberty motors of 400 horsepower, this great machine, carrying six persons, one of them Major General William L. Kinly, Chief of the Department of Military Aeronautics, functioned as smoothly as a scout plane and attained a speed of 90 to 100 miles per hour. Well might Assistant Secretary Crowell call it “ a magnificent performance.” And it was particularly a triumph for the Liberty motor, which is so well thought of in England that the makers, it is said, will never be able to deliver enough of these engines to our ally. But the question remains could the Handley-Page bombing machines be flown across the Atlantic--let us say, in flocks? And if that were practicable, would it pay? Every hour of life of an aeroplane motor on the Western Front is precious, It has been said, that while some motors have lasted 300 hours in operation, the average is much lower. Mr. Gutzon Borglum says that “the life of an engine is somewhere between 50 and 150 hours.” The wear and tear of forty-odd hours’ flight from America to France should not be disregarded by the enthusiasts. Whatever it was, it would not be saved by transportation in the usual way. A ship carrying planes and engines might be torpedoed, it is true: on the other hand, some of the bombing machines attempting the Atlantic passage would never reach the other side.
Mr. Workman is indiginet because the War Department is cool toward his project. It cannot be indifferent to his bombing plane as a terrible war weapon: certainly not after the exhibition given at Elizabeth…………..

Sunday, December 24, 2017

German Ace, Albert Dossenbach

He was born on June 5th, 1891 at Sankt Blasien in the Grand Duchy of Baden. Dossenbach was a medical student when World War I began. He promptly joined the Imperial German Army and almost immediately became a lance corporal. His valor and dedication to duty was obvious. He won the Iron Cross Second Class, the First Class Iron Cross, the Military Merit Order and saw him commissioned as a leutnant in the first five months of the war.

In early 1916, he transferred to the Luftstreitkräfte where he trained in Poznan and in Cologne, and graduated from Jastaschule in June.
His first assignment as a pilot was in June to FA 22, a reconnaissance unit flying on the Western Front. With Leutnant Hans Schilling as his observer/gunner in an Albatros C.IlI reconnaissance aircraft. Quickly he began to rack up victories and by the 27th of September, 1916, his tally was eight. However, they were shot down during their eighth victory, with Dossenbach suffering burns that sidelined him.

Dossenbach's valor earned him further honors, the Knight's Cross of the House Order of Hohenzollern, the Baden's Karl Friedrich Military Merit Order and the Pour le Merite before the end of 1916; it was the first Pour le Merite of only two ever awarded to a two-seater pilot.

On February 9th, 1917 he was transfered to the famed Royal Prussian Jasta 2 (Jasta Boelcke) to train as a fighter pilot. Upon graduation, in February 1917, he was appointed to command Royal Prussian Jasta 36. He began the new squadron's victory list by scoring five times during Bloody April, 1917.
On 2 May 1917, Dossenbach was wounded during a bombing raid; the wound removed him from command. Upon recovery, he requested his return to active duty. As a result, he took command of Royal Prussian Jasta 10 in June 1917 and turned balloon buster for his 15th and final victory that month.
On July 3rd, 1917, his plane was set afire during a dogfight and Dossenbach departed the flaming wreckage falling to his death.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Ansaldo SVA

The Ansaldo SVA (named for Savoia-Verduzio-Ansaldo) was a family of Italian reconnaissance biplane aircraft of World War I and the decade after. 
Originally conceived as a fighter, the SVA was found inadequate for that role. Nevertheless, its impressive speed, range and operational ceiling gave it the right properties to be an excellent reconnaissance aircraft and even light bomber.

Production of the aircraft continued well after the war, with the final examples delivered in 1918. Two minor variants were produced, one with reconnaissance cameras, the other without cameras but extra fuel tanks.
The SVA was a conventionally laid-out unequal-span biplane - however, it was unusual in featuring Warren Truss-style struts joining its two wings, and therefore having no transverse (spanwise) bracing wires. The plywood-skinned fuselage had the typical Ansaldo triangular rear cross-section behind the cockpit, transitioning to a rectangular cross section going forwards through the rear cockpit area, with a full rectangular cross section forward of the cockpit.

Eleven Ansaldo SVA were involved in the "The Flight over Vienna" by flying for over 1,200 km in a round trip from the squadron's military airfield in Due Carrare to Vienna. It was a propaganda flight, inspired by Italian poet and nationalist Gabriele d'Annunzio (front seat above), and was carried out on August 9, 1918, by the 87th Squadriglia (squadron) La Serenissima, all bearing the Lion of St Mark painted on their fuselage sides as the squadron's insignia.
They flew over Vienna and dropped a total of 400,000 propaganda leaflets 50,000 of which were written by D'Annunzio himself.

"S. Pelagio, 08/09/18: crews after the flight to Vienna. From left Allegri, Ferrarin, Freemasons, Finzi and Palli sat in SVA"

credits to

Sunday, December 17, 2017

American Ace, Francis W. Gillet

Gillet was born November 28th, 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland.
America had just entered the war when Gillet graduated from the University of Virginia in the spring of 1917. In May he entered the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of Illinois for preliminary flight training but impeded by his youth from becoming an officer in the U.S. Army, he obtained a honourable discharge. He promptly then crossed the border into Canada and enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps of Canada using the name Frederick W. Gillet.
2nd Lieutenant Gillet received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate 7017 on 29 December 1917. Upon completing his training in England, he was posted to 79 Squadron in France on 29 March 1918.

No.79 Squadron was flying the Sopwith Dolphin, a type Gillet had not flown before. The "negative stagger" wing arrangement gave him a bit of trouble at first. He quickly became acclimated to the Dolphin and was soon honing his combat skills. He scored his first victory on August 3rd, destroying a kite balloon north of Estaires. He accounted for two aircraft towards the end of the month, then another balloon and six more aircraft in September, a balloon and five aircraft in October, and four aircraft in November, three of them early on the morning of the 10th, the day before the armistice. All were assessed as destroyed, which was extremely unusual, as most aces had numerous "out of control" credits.

Credited with 20 aerial victories, in a period of four months, he was the highest scoring pilot flying the Sopwith Dolphin, and the second highest scoring American ace. (those credits included fourteen Fokker D.VII)
He was appointed acting-captain on 14 October 1918, and served for a short time as the commanding officer of his squadron.

His decorations include two awards of the British Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Belgian Croix de Guerre.

Gillet’s Distinguished Flying Cross citation read;
When attacking a kite balloon, a two-seater guarding it advanced to engage him; Lieut. Gillett shot the machine down, and, turning to the balloon, which was being rapidly hauled down, he dropped two bombs at the winch and fired a drum into the balloon, which deflated but did not catch fire. In addition to this two-seater, this officer has accounted for two other machines and a kite balloon.
When adding a Bar to the Distinguished Flying Cross, that citation read;
A pilot of great dash and skill who, since 3rd August, has destroyed twelve hostile aircraft. On 29th September, when on low-line patrol, he attacked three Fokkers, driving down one, which fell in flames.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Naglo D.II quadruplane

The Naglo D.II was the only fighter built by Naglo Bootswerft of Spandau Berlin, and it was designed by Ing. Gnädig, who at the time was an employee of Albatros Flugzeugwerke and it partly reflected the Albatros influence. (Gnädig would later be fired by Albatros for doing so)
It was one of the few quadruplane designs of World War I. The three upper wings were all similar, having constant chord, squared tips, no sweep and the same 29.5 foot span. Giving the craft a total wing area of 241 square foot.
The lowest of these was attached to the lower fuselage, the middle one to the upper fuselage with a cutout for downward vision. Inboard N-form interplane struts held the upper plane high over the fuselage in place of a cabane.

Outboard there was one more N-interplane strut between each wing, four in all. Ailerons were fitted on all three upper wings. The fourth wing, lowest of all, was quite different, much shorter in span. It was mounted independently of the other three, fixed to a dorsal keel extension and braced on each side with a V-strut from about mid-span to the root of the wing above. When the aircraft was parked, the wing was close to the ground and not far behind the undercarriage wheels.
It was powered by a 160 hp Mercedes six-cylinder water-cooled engine, with a large, domed spinner which was blended into the round, converging contours of the fuselage. The engine's cylinder heads and exhausts were exposed above the fuselage, which overall appeared similar to that of the Albatros D.V and may have been based upon it.
It had a conventional single axle undercarriage, the axle fixed to the lower fuselage with a pair of V-struts, and with a typical tailskid.

The first flight occurred May 1918 when the D.II was type tested. It took part in the second D-type contest at Adlershof in mid-1918 and received complimentary comments on its build quality. However at the request of Albatros’ R. Schubert, the aircraft was rejected. Only one was built. (Schubert was one of the Albatros D series designers)

Sunday, December 10, 2017

German Ace, Xavier Dannhuber


Dannhuber was born January 27th, 1891, in Gars am Inn, Bavaria.
Little has been recorded regarding his early years in The Great War from what I have found he transferred from ground forces to the bombing unit Kagohl 6. When the four of the Kagohls were disbanded and reformed as 24 Schutzstaffeln, he requested transfer to a fighter unit, being placed at Jasta 26 on July 1917.
One must assume he had pilot experience as he shot down an observation balloon near Vlamertinghe on August 12th 1917 to start his victory string. He promptly went on to score on the 17th, and again on the 21st. By September’s end he became an ace.
October he saw 5 more victories to bring his count to ten on the 17th.
On the 18th, Dannhuber took a bullet through his upper arm while being shot down, which removed Dannhuber from action until 7 November.

He returned to action in a different squadron, Jasta 79, where he ended 1917 by taking command of the jasta in December.
On February 11th, 1918, he was severely injured when he crashed a Pfalz D.IIIa during a test flight at Thugny airfield.

Recovering from his injuries, he resumed command of Jasta 79b on October 9th 1918. Five days later, on October 14th, exactly one year since his last victory, he scored his final triumph. He shot down a new Sopwith Dolphin near Bohain, France.

The only award I see listed for him is the Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Ponnier L.1 Scout

Prior to the Great War the basic military aircraft design was the monoplane. When the Schneider Trophy of 1913 was won by a British biplane, the Sopwith Tabloid, the French government encouraged French aircraft designers to consider the possibilities of that wing configuration for military craft. 
One response was, Avions Ponnier. They redesigned their unsuccessful Ponnier D.III monoplane and designated it the Ponnier L.1. The L.1 and D.III used the same basic fuselage.
For reasons unclear, the L.1 was powered by a 50 hp Gnome rotary engine rather than the more powerful than the 160 hp Gnome in the D.III. Engines were mounted on tubular steel extensions of the main wooden, rectangular in cross section, fuselage. Four ash longerons interconnected by struts and braced by wires. The fuselage was aluminium covered ahead of the cockpit, extending to a partial, oil deflecting cowling around the upper half of the rotary engine. Behind the single seat open cockpit, the fuselage was fabric covered.

Ponnier D.lll

As on the Ponnier monoplanes there was no fixed fin but just a rounded, flat topped rudder. The tailplane was mounted on top of the fuselage and like the D.lll carried separate elevators; together they formed a horizontal rectangular tail. All the tail surfaces were steel tube structures.

The L.1 was a single bay biplane with a pair of tall, parallel interplane struts with flying and landing wires on each side. There was mild stagger and dihedral, with the lower wing having a slightly smaller span. The upper wing had a deep cut-out to provide some upward vision for the pilot, who sat under the wing just aft of mid-chord. The undercarriage was of conventional design on a pair of V-struts to the lower fuselage longerons. Of note is the long tailskid, mounted well forward.
Ponnier had hoped for military orders but none came.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Irish Ace, Edward "Mick" Mannock

Born May 24th 1887, in Aldershot, Hampshire, England. 
At age twelve, his father abandoned the family leaving them destitute. Halting his education, he sought work to help the family's finances. Moving through a variety of menial jobs, he ultimately trained and found work as a telephone engineer. In February 1914, Mannock's employer, the National Telephone Company, sent him to Turkey to assist with a project. With the outbreak of World War I he found himself held in a detainment camp for several months.
While there, he was beaten and kept in solitary confinement after making multiple escape attempts. 

Finally repatriated in April 1915, he immediately enlisted in the Royal Engineers and then Royal Army Medical Corps. He moved services again and in 1916 joined Royal Flying Corps(RFC). Despite a congenital defect that left him virtually blind in his left eye, 2nd Lieutenant Mannock received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate at Beatty School, Hendon in November 1916

After completing his training he was assigned to 40 Squadron RFC. He got off to a slow start with his peers and also with the Nieuport scout but would soon prove himself as an exceptional pilot, scoring his first victory on May 7th 1917. Mannock went into combat on the Western Front participating in three separate combat tours. 

In February 1918, he was reassigned to 74 Squadron as a flight commander, scoring thirty six victories with an S.E.5a before replacing William Bishop as the commanding officer of 85 Squadron in July 3rd 1918. Here he quickly scored nine more victories.

Days after warning fellow ace George McElroy about the hazards of flying low into ground fire, that fate befell Mannock and he was killed in action dogfighting too close to the ground on 26 July 1918.
Mannock, with 61 victories, was among the most decorated men in the British Armed Forces. He was honoured with the Military Cross twice, was one of the rare three-time recipients of the Distinguished Service Order, and was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

The French Dorand AR reconnaissance aircraft.

By 1916 French Colonel Dorand, who headed the French STAé recognized that the Farman F.40 was obsolete with respect to performing daytime reconnaissance. He therefore had formulated a requirement for a 2-seat reconnaissance aircraft of the tractor configuration. Farman declined to produce the aircraft so production of these aircraft was turned over to the state-owned French Army Aircraft Establishment (or S.T.Aé.) factory at Chalais-Meudon, near Paris. Captain Georges Lepère of the French Army Aircraft Establishment would oversee the design and manufacturing. The result was the A.R. 1 and A.R. 2 (Avion de Reconnaissance).

The AR was characterized by backward-staggered three-bay wings and angular all-moving tail surfaces. The pilot sat beneath the leading edge of the upper wing, with the observer's cockpit being under the trailing edge, and there were cut-outs in both wings to improve the latter's field of view. Rather unusually for a single-engine tractor biplane of the era, the lower wing was not directly attached to the fuselage, instead being somewhat below it, supported by struts.

There was a window and camera opening on the floor of the observer's cockpit. Four bomb cells were located between the pilot and the observer which permitted storage of four 120mm bombs. The pilot had a 7.7mm Vickers gun fixed on the starboard side of the fuselage. The observer had one or two Lewis Guns on a movable mount.
They were initially powered by a 160 hp Renault. Later versions had a 190 hp Renault 8Gd or a 240 hp Loraine 8A engine.

The AR.1 had a wingspan of 43.5 ft, and used frontal radiators, while the AR.2 was a slightly smaller aircraft, with a wingspan of 39.4 ft, and wing mounted radiators. All these types had "A.2" added to their names in French service, indicating that they were two-seater reconnaissance aircraft.

The first of the thirteen squadrons which flew Dorands on the Western Front received their aircraft in the spring 1917. Five other French squadrons used the type on the Italian Front. These aircraft were withdrawn from the combat units in early 1918.

In 1917 the American Expeditionary Force ordered the Renault-engined varieties of the Dorand, these were delivered in December 1917 thru the following February. The Americans operated these types on the Western Front for the first half 1918, until replacing them with the Salmson 2. They were greatly disliked by the American pilots who contended that the design stood for "Antique Rattletraps". After being retired from fighting duties, the surviving examples were used as trainers. All in all, the Dorand AR-types didn't have a particularly distinguished career in either French or American service.

A small number of Dorand AR.1s were also supplied to Kingdom of Serbia, which operated these aircraft in four squadrons from April 1918 onwards.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Welsh Ace, James Ira Thomas "Taffy" Jones

Jones was born on 18 April 1896 at Woolstone Farm, near St. Clears, Carmarthenshire.
In 1913, while working as a clerk, Jones enlisted with the 4th Welsh in the Territorial Army. Jones was in London studying Wireless and Cable Telegraphy when the First World War started. Awaiting call-up, Jones joined the fledgling Royal Flying Corps, and after training joined No. 10 Squadron RAF as an 1st Class Air Mechanic in the wireless section.
He was posted to France in July 1915, and by January 1916 he was flying combat missions as an observer/gunner on BE-2's, winning his Observer's brevet in October 1916.

He returned to England for pilot training in May 1917 and received Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate on the Maurice Farman biplane at Military School, Ruislip on 26 August 1917. He was posted to 74 Squadron in early 1918 where he remained until the end of the war. 

Jones may have been short in stature, 5’ 4”, but he made up for it with his skillful tactics, marksmanship and high courage. However, for some reason he developed an unfortunate habit of crashing aircraft while attempting to land. Regardless, he recorded all of his 37 victories, flying a S.E.5a, in just three months.

Jones later volunteered to fight the Bolsheviks and was posted to the Archangel front but saw no further air combat. After the Armistice he became Commanding Officer of No. 74 Squadron until it was disbanded in 1919.

Jones was once quoted; "My habit of attacking Huns dangling from their parachutes led to many arguments in the mess. Some officers, of the Eton and Sandhurst type, thought I was 'unsportsmanlike' to do it. Never having been to a public school, I was unhampered by such considerations of form. I just pointed out that there was a bloody war on, and that I intended to avenge my pals."

Throughout his service with the 74th he won several awards and decorations; being awarded the Military Cross, the Distinguished Flying Cross and bar, the Distinguished Service Order and the Military Medal. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Dornier-Zeppelin D.I

Named Zeppelin D.I (Do) in orgional German documents the aircraft has been referred to postwar as the Dornier D.I or Dornier-Zeppelin D.I, it was developed by Claude Dornier while working for Luftschiffbau Zeppelin at their Lindau facility.
It was a single-seat all-metal stressed skin monocoque cantilever-wing biplane fighter,

The Dornier D.I was one of several designs by Claude Dornier to have an all-metal stressed skin monocoque structure, and it was the first fighter to feature such construction and although production was cancelled prior to the completion of any production versions, it was also the first aircraft with these features to go into production. To reduce the hazards of inflight fires, it also had an external fuel tank, which, according to some sources may have been jettisonable, and thick-section cantilevered wings for improved aerodynamics.

The Dornier Do H Falke was developed from it, but had an enlarged upper wing and dispensed with the lower wing.

Seven prototypes were built as part of the development program. Luftstreitkräfte pilots evaluated the type in May and June 1918 and again in October. German ace Wilhelm Reinhard was killed on 3 July 1918 after a structural failure, while it was supposed to have been grounded for structural improvements. There were reports of heavy aileron controls and poor climb performance at higher altitudes. After being fitted with a more powerful BMW engine that boosted the climb rate to 16,000 ft from 25 minutes to 13 minutes.

An order was placed for 50 aircraft either in October or November. The airframes for this order were roughly 50 percent complete when production was halted due to the end of World War I.

One of the prototypes was shipped to the Wright Aeronautical Company, who fitted it with a licence-built Wright-Hisso H-3 engine. It was evaluated by the United States Navy with the designation Wright WP-1. It performed well, but the Navy considered the monoplane fighter too advanced for its needs.