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.

Monday, November 20, 2017

German Ace, Paul Bäumer, "The Iron Eagle"

Bäumer was born May 11th, 1896 in Duisburg Ruhror, Germany. 
Prior to the war he was a dental assistant and at the start of the war, he joined the 70th Infantry Regiment. He served in both France and Russia, being wounded in the arm in the latter. After recovery he transferred to the air service as a dental assistant before being accepted for military pilot training. (Bäumer had his pilot's license when he entered the army.)
By October 1916, he was serving as a ferry pilot and instructor at Armee Flugpark 1 (flight school). His skills and attitude so impressed his superiors that he was, he was promoted to Gefreiter (corporal) February 1917 then in March, he was assigned to Flieger Abteilung 7 and promoted to Unteroffizier (sergeant) on the 29th.

He subsequently received training on single-seater fighters, consequently being posted to fighter duty with Jastal 5 in June 1917. Here he scored three victories as a balloon buster in mid-July before being transferred to the elite Jasta Boelcke.
Bäumer proved to be a natural combat pilot by reaching 18 victories by year end. He was commissioned Leutnant in April 1918.

On May 29th he was injured in a crash, breaking his jaw, and didn’t return to duty until September. His return was outstanding, flying the new Fokker D.VII he added 16 more victories to his tally in September. At war’s end he was credited with 43 victories, ranking ninth among German aces.

Nicknamed "The Iron Eagle", he flew with a personal emblem of an Edelweiss on his aircraft. He was one of the few pilots in World War I whose lives were saved by parachute deployment, when he was shot down in flames.
Bäumer was one of only five recipients to be awarded both the Pour le Mérite and the Golden Military Merit Cross.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The rather unsuccessful Airco DH.5 was designed specifically to replace the obsolete Airco DH.2.

It did, however, have the distinction of being one of the first British fighter designs to include the improved Constantinesco gun synchronizer as well as, one of the earliest biplanes to feature a marked "back-stagger" of its wings.

Captain Geoffrey de Havilland designed the Airco DH.5 hoping to combine the superior performance of a tractor biplane with the excellent forward visibility of a "pusher" type.
The construction was that of a conventional tractor biplane of the time, but the mainplanes were given 27 inches of backward stagger, so that the lower wing was positioned forward of the upper wing.

As the pilot was seated forward of the centre of gravity, the main fuel tank was necessarily behind the cockpit, below the oil tank. An auxiliary gravity fuel tank was fitted over the top mainplane, offset to the right.
The unusual position of the upper mainplane resulted in an unfortunate "blind spot" above and to the rear (the very direction from which a single-seater was generally attacked).
The DH.5 proved inferior to other fighters already in production, and was unpopular and unsatisfactory in service. 
On the other hand, the robustness of its construction, its good performance at low altitude, and the pilot's good forward field of view made the aircraft a useful ground-attack aircraft. In this role, the type served with distinction in the Battle of Cambrai.

The DH.5 has the historical distinction of having formed the initial equipment of No. 2 Squadron of the Australian Flying Corps - the first Australian fighter squadron. Here too it did not prove satisfactory, serving mainly in the ground-attack role until December 1917, when it was replaced by the S.E.5a.

The aircraft ended up being issued to training units but flight instructor’s views were so negative type soon vanished from RFC service.

Monday, November 13, 2017

New Zealand Ace, Clive Collet

Collett was born in Blenheim, New Zealand on 28 August 1886.
Being interested in aviation early on he worked his passage to England and enrolled at the private L&P School at Hendon on 29 January 1915. Here he received a Royal Aero Club Aviator's Certificate and promptly enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps and was commissioned shortly thereafter. 
When his squadron was about to be posted to France he was badly injured in a flying accident in July, and it was another eight months before he got to fly on the Western Front. This was short-lived, however, as his injuries were still troubling him and he was invalided back to England for further treatment. Upon recovery, he was posted to the RFC’s Experimental Station, as a test pilot, at Orfordness, Suffolk in June 1916.
His duties there included undertaking the British military's first parachute jump from an aeroplane, a Royal Aircraft Factory BE.2c, during January 1917.  
July 1917, saw him back in France with the 70th Squadron, which had just upgraded to Sopwith Camels. On 27 July, he became the first RFC pilot to make a confirmed kill with a Camel, before racking up a further six kills over the next 44 days to become New Zealand’s first fighter ace. He would end the year with 12 victories.

Collett was accounted an aggressive pilot by fellow ace than James McCudden, who noted that Collett "...used to come back shot to ribbons nearly every time he went out."

On 23 December 1917, Collett was killed test-flying a captured German Albatros over the River Forth, when it inexplicably dived into the water. McCudden believed "something flew off the bonnet of the engine and stunned him, for he was seen to dive straight into the water without attempting to recover himself."

Prior to his death he was awarded the Military Cross and a Bar.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Salmson-Moineau S.M.1

The Salmson-Moineau S.M.1 A3 was designed by René Moineau for the Salmson company.
I was developed from 1915 to meet the French military A3 specification, which called for a three-seat long range reconnaissance aircraft with strong defensive armament. 

The S.M.1 was unconventional, powered by a single Salmson 9A liquid-cooled radial engine mounted in the fuselage powering two airscrews mounted between the wings with a system of gears and drive shafts. This layout was chosen by Moineau to minimise drag. The twin airscrew layout allowed a wide field of fire for the two gunner-observers, one seated in the nose and one behind the pilot. Both gunners operated ring-mounted flexible 37 mm APX cannon built by Arsenal Puteaux. The airframe itself was relatively conventional, the boxy fuselage mounted on a system of struts between the wings. The undercarriage included a nose wheel, intended solely to prevent the aircraft nosing over, and a tail skid.

The aircraft was tested in early 1916 and was sufficiently successful to receive an order for 100 aircraft. In service the S.M.1 was not successful. The nose-wheel undercarriage would collapse if misused and this caused many accidents. The complicated transmission system was difficult to service in the field and the performance of the aircraft was poor. It appears that around 155 S.M.1s were built in total. The type was largely withdrawn from service in 1917 but a small number of aircraft remained in use until late 1918. Some S.M.1s were supplied to the Imperial Russian Air Service, but they were no better liked in Russia. 

A single S.M.2 S2 aircraft, with an additional Salmson 9A engine in the nose driving a conventional tractor airscrew, was tested with poor results, due to inadequate engine cooling, in 1918.

Monday, November 6, 2017

German Ace, Bruno Loerzer

Loerzer was born January 22th, 1891 in Berlin.
He was a cadet with the Baden 112th Infantry Regiment followed by attending Military School in Potsdam..After graduation he returned to his old unit as a Leutnant 1913. He was interested in early aviation and after taking flying lessons, at his own expense, he volunteered for and was accepted for service with the air corp.
Like most he first flew two seater observation missions. His observer was an old friend from the 112th RGT, Hermann Göring, who flew as Loerzer's observer from 28 October 1914 until late June 1915.

Transferring to fighters, Loerzer flew with two Jagdstaffeln in 1916 and scored his first victories in March of 1916. He was wounded shortly afterwards. Upon recovery he returned to his old unit and by the end of October his tally reached 20 victories.

 May 1918 members of Jasta 26 Loerzer is in the middle."  

In February 1918, he took command of the newly formed Jagdgeschwader III, the third of Germany's famed "flying circuses." Leading Jasta 26 and three other squadrons, with the help of Hermann Dahlmann as adjutant and wingman, Loerzer proved a successful wing commander.
Receiving the new new BMW-engined Fokker D.VII in late spring, JG III cut a wide swath through Allied formations in the summer of 1918, and his own score mounted steadily. He achieved his last ten victories in September when he reached his final score of 44 victories. Shortly before the armistice, he was promoted to Hauptmann (captain).

He was awarded the Iron Cross, the Cross of the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern and the Pour le Mérites.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Letord reconnaissance/bomber aircraft.

French aviation industrialist Émile-Louis Letord manufactured a number of military aircraft during the First World War. Letord produced a family of planes which were all very similar but varied in role and engines.

All the aircraft used the basic design of the Letord Let.1 which was primarily a long-range reconnaissance aircraft. Later versions, designated Let.2 through Let.7 were used in a variety of roles, including bomber and bomber escort. 

All were three-bay biplanes of unequal span with prominent and characteristic negative stagger on their wings. They were powered by twin engines mounted on short struts on the lower wing in tractor configuration, and had fixed tailskid undercarriage. Many of the subtypes were also equipped with a nosewheel to protect the aircraft and its crew from "nosing over" accidents while landing. The pilot sat in an open cockpit, with tail gunner in an open position amidships, and a third crewmember in an open position in the nose where he could act as gunner, observer, and bomb-aimer. Standard armament was of a defensive nature with the exception being the Let.6, it had the military designation CA.3 and featured a 37 mm Hotchkiss gun. It was considered an escort fighter.

Some 1,500 aircraft were ordered by the Aéronautique Militaire between all the variants, with something like 300 actually produced before the end of the war.

Let.1 – initial reconnaissance version with Hispano-Suiza 8A engines
Let.2 – similar to Let.1, with Hispano-Suiza 8Ba engines
Let.3 – bomber version with Hispano-Suiza 8Ba engines
Let.4 – reconnaissance version with Lorraine-Dietrich 8A engines
Let.5 – bomber version with Lorraine-Dietrich 8B engines
Let.6 – (military designation CA.3) escort fighter with 37mm cannon and Hispano-Suiza 8Be engines
Let.7 – bomber version with Lorraine-Dietrich engines

Monday, October 30, 2017

German Ace, Fritz Rumey

Rumey was born March 3rd, 1891, in Königsberg, Germany. A pre-war infantryman with the Prussian 45th Infantry regiment, he saw action at the Eastern Front. Subsequently in August 1915 he applied for aviation duty and completed an observer's course and served with Fliegerabteilung (Artillerie) 219. Later he was accepted for pilot training and when he completed his training, he was sent to France in early 1917, serving for a brief period with Jasta Boelcke, and then went to Jasta 5 on 10 June 1917.

His first victory was a British observation balloon in on July of 1917. He was wounded in August and again in 24 September but still managed five victories by year's end.
Early 1918 saw him with a string of 18 single victories and by September 27th he had run his score to 45 victories.
Rumey along with Josef Mai and Otto Könnecke, the three accounted for scored 40% of the squadron's successes. They were known as "The Golden Triumvirate".

There are conflicting accounts of Fritz Rumey's death.
One theory was that he was killed after a mid-air collision with a SE5a, in which the top wing of his Fokker D.VII was damaged causing his plane to spin out of control as he bailed out. The spin caused his parachute to open incorrectly when he threw it from the cockpit.
Another suggests that he was actually shot down, while Rumey's squadron comrades believed that his full throttle diving pursuit of an RAF SE5a caused the fabric to peel off the upper wing of his aircraft.
Whichever account is true, when he jumped from his damaged machine, his parachute failed entirely, sending the 27-year-old ace plummeting to his death.

Fritz Rumey's tally of 45 victories was almost entirely over enemy fighter planes. He shot down more enemy scouts (35) than von Richthofen.

His awards were; he Iron Cross and the Pour le Mérite.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Armstrong Whitworth & Company quadruplanes, F.K.9 and F.K.10

In late 1915, Armstrong Whitworth & Company’s management was exploring the idea of the construction of a two-seat quadruplane as a private venture. Frederick Koolhoven, the chief designer of Armstrong Whitworth was given the task and by mid-summer of 1916 the first prototype, the F.K.9, made its maiden flight.

It was powered by a 110 hp Clerget 9Z engine. It had a shallow fuselage, with the wings joined by plank-like interplane struts, similar to those used by the Sopwith Triplane.
Initial trials suggested a number of modifications, including new wings with larger ailerons, an enlarged fin, a redesigned engine cowling and increased undercarriage track. 

Some modifications were made and the F.K.9 was officially tested in November-December of the same year at the Central Flying school.

After evaluation at the Central Flying School in late 1916, a production order for 50 was placed by the RFC for a modified version, the F.K.10.
The production F.K.10 had a new, deeper fuselage, a new tail and powered by 130 hp Clerget 9B or Le Rhône 9J engine. However it retained the wing design of the F.K.9.

The production aircraft showed improved performance but was inferior to the Sopwith 1½ Strutter, which was already in service as a successful two-seat fighter.
Only five were built of the RFC order, with a further three built for the RNAS. They were not used operationally and the design was not developed further.

Monday, October 23, 2017

British Ace, George “McIrish” McElroy

McElroy was born at Donnybrook, County Dublin, Ireland.. to Samuel and Ellen McElroy. He enlisted promptly at the start of World War I in August 1914, and served as a corporal in the Motor Cyclist Section of the Royal Engineers when he was first commissioned as a second lieutenant in May 1915.

He was severely affected by mustard gas and was sent home to recuperate. After recuperation he relinquished his commission in the Royal Irish Regiment when awarded a cadetship at the Royal Military Academy, where he graduated in February 1917. Shortly afterward he was seconded to the Royal Flying Corps and trained as a pilot at the Central Flying School, and appointed a flying officer on June 28th. On August 15th he joined No. 40 Squadron RFC, where he benefited from mentoring by Edward Mannock. He originally flew a Nieuport 17, but with no success in battle. By the year's end McElroy was flying S.E.5s and claimed his first victory on December 28th.

McElroy proved to be an extremely aggressive dog-fighter who ignored often overwhelming odds, and his score soon grew rapidly. By February 18th he had run his string up to 11. At that point, he was appointed a flight commander with the temporary rank of captain, and transferred to No. 24 Squadron RFC.
He continued to steadily accrue victories by ones and twos. By the end of June he had ran his tally to 30.
In July, he added to his score almost daily, a third balloon busting on the 1st, followed by one of the most triumphant months in the history of fighter aviation, adding 17 victims during the month.

McElroy's continued apparent disregard for his own safety when flying and fighting could have only one end. On July 31st, after his 47th victory, he took to the sky for the last time. He failed to return from this flight and was posted as missing. Later it was learned that McElroy had been killed by ground fire. He was 25 years old.

McElroy's awards were; 
Military Cross with two bars, he was one of only ten airmen to receive the second Bar. 
Distinguished Flying Cross with one bar.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Somewhat unusual, the SPAD S.A carried its observer in a nacelle ahead of both wing and engine.

The S.A, first flown in 1915, was the first aircraft produced by SPAD following its reorganization from the pre-war Deperdussin company. The chief designer, Louis Béchereau, had been involved in designing that firm's successful monocoque racing monoplanes, and many design details were carried over from the Deperdussin aircraft.

The aircraft was designed to carry its pilot in the normal position but the observer was in a streamlined nacelle ahead of the propeller. This configuration was an attempt to combine the advantages of the tractor and the pusher types, giving the observer a clear field of view to the front and sides without the drag penalty of the typical pusher. While not originally designed explicitly as a gunner's position, early combat experience had shown a need for forward-firing machine guns. But mechanisms to allow a gun to fire through the propeller were not yet available, and the observer's nacelle on the S.A represented a temporary solution.
Communication between the pilot and the observer was nearly impossible.

The observer nacelle vibrated badly and, in multiple cases, parted company from the rest of the aircraft while in flight. Like many pushers, it also put the observer at risk of being crushed in even a relatively mild crash or "nose-over". 
A British evaluation of the type suggested "it would be expensive in observers if flown by indifferent pilots".
The S.A had a short and inauspicious career in the French Aviation Militaire, and it was quickly replaced in service by less dangerous aircraft. Contemporary sources indicate that it was seldom used. In total around 100 of the S.A were built, including prototypes, and the Imperial Russian Air Service operated the some 57 of those for a period of time, due to a shortage of available aircraft.

In spite of its lack of success, the design brought valuable experience to Béchereau and his team. The successful S.VII fighter was a direct development of the A series.

Monday, October 16, 2017

German Ace, Heinrich Gontermann

Gontermann was born February 25th, 1896 in Siegen, Southern Westphalia. His father, a cavalry officer, pushed him towards a career in the military. After leaving school, Heinrich enlisted into the cavalry in August 1914 and in the spring of 1915, he was given a field commission as Leutnant and later that year he applied for a transfer to the newly formed German Army Air Service. After some delay he was finally accepted for pilot/observer training, and in late spring of 1916 he was posted to Field-Abteilung 25 where he flew both as a pilot and as an observer on AGO C.Is.
Gontermann proved to be a natural pilot and was sent to Jastaschule (Fighter School), graduating on November 11th, 1916. 3 days later after being posted while on patrol over Morval, France.

There was a lull in his scoring until March 1917, when he scored regularly, becoming an ace on the 24th. By the end of Bloody April, 1917, Gontermann had scored 17 victories including 5 balloons. On 26 April 1917, he brought his victory total to 17 victories.

Gontermann was also promoted to Staffelführer (commander) of Prussian Jasta 15 four days later, and here he went on to score 22 more victories. His total victory count would be 39 which included 18 balloons.

On October 30th Gontermann was making a test flight in the new Fokker Dr.I. He was anxious to try this new airplane, despite misgivings about it. After a few minutes, he tried aerobatics at 700 meters altitude. He pulled out of the second loop and dived into a left turn. The upper wing collapsed and broke completely off. His airplane plunged into the ground and he received life ending injuries.

Gontermann had been awarded; the Pour le Mérite, the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern, the Military Order of Max Joseph and the Iron Cross, 1st and 2nd class.