Monday, February 27, 2017

Captain Percy Wilson

Captain Wilson of No. 28 Squadron RAF by his Sopwith Camel biplane, Florence..jpg

Captain Percy Wilson was posted to No. 28 Squadron RFC to fly the Sopwith Camel single-seat fighter on the Italian Front. Operating over the province of Treviso he gained his first of seven aerial victories on 25 January 1918, destroying an enemy reconnaissance aircraft over San Fior di Sopra. On 4 February he destroyed an Albatros D.V fighter near Motta, and another reconnaissance aircraft over Nervesa on 27 February, being appointed a flight commander the same day. On 1 April 1918, the Army's Royal Flying Corps was merged with the Royal Naval Air Service to form the Royal Air Force, and his unit became No. 28 Squadron RAF. Between 3 and 19 May Wilson accounted for three more D.V fighters and an observation balloon.

On 1 November 1918 he was awarded the Bronze Medal for Military Valour by Italy.

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Wilson was awarded the Military Cross on 16 September 1918. His citation read:
Captain Percy Wilson, RAF.
"For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in destroying six enemy aeroplanes and driving down three more out of control. He also destroyed an enemy balloon, which fell in flames."

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

The WWl Triplane

Reproduction Fokker Triplane DR.l

Most likely the best known World War One aircraft is the Fokker Triplane DR.l, however triplanes would have become a mere footnote in the history books were it not for the fact that one of them, Richthofen’s red Fokker Dr.I, has become the most publicized. (of his 80 victories only 19 were while flying the DR.l) 
The triplane only saw brief usage, roughly from early-1917 to mid-1918. 

In basic theory an airplane with one wing is more aerodynamically efficient than an airplane with multiple wings and although many of the earliest aircraft were monoplanes, they were found to possess some very dangerous characteristics. The problems were mainly structural rather than aerodynamic.

A series of fatal accidents involving wing failures in early monoplanes resulted in a ban on them by the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in the summer of 1912.

 French Morane-Saulnier N
The earliest successful fighter planes, the
 French Morane-Saulnier N and the German Fokker E.I, were monoplanes configured with the cockpit directly over the wing. From that position, the pilot enjoyed unlimited visibility to every quarter except downward, in which direction he could see nothing at all. 
In combat, the pilot who saw his adversary first was usually the victor.

German Fokker E.I

On the other hand, in biplanes the pilot sat with one wing directly below him and another directly overhead, impairing his vision in both directions. During World War 1 the emphasis was on pilot visibility, rate of climb and maneuverability.

In the spring of 1916, Herbert Smith, the chief designer at Sopwith, began work on an aircraft that could climb faster, fly higher, maneuver as well as if not better than its predecessors and, if possible, afford better visibility. Surprisingly, the prototype that emerged from the Sopwith hangar on May 30, 1916, was a triplane.

Sopwith Triplane

The benefit of the triplane format was an improvement in climb rate and ceiling. Since the wing area was divided by three, the wings could be built with a narrower chord in relation to their span. As a bonus, the narrow-chord wings above and below the pilot interfered less with his view than the wider wings of a monoplane or biplane. Moreover, the middle wing was mounted in line with the pilot’s eyes, so that he could easily see around it.
Its top speed of 117 mph was reasonably good for its day, but its rate of climb, 5,000 feet in 4 1/2 minutes, was considered phenomenal. It also had a ceiling of more than 20,000 feet, higher than that of most German planes, which gave the British fighter a significant tactical benefit — the ability to attack with a height advantage. In the event that a Sopwith Triplane was attacked, the pilot could simply execute a climbing turn that no German fighter could follow.
The first fully equipped squadrons of Sopwith Triplanes began to make their appearance at the front early in 1917, by the Royal Naval Air Service. 

No discussion of this fighter can neglect mentioning the five famous black-nosed Triplanes of B Flight of No.10 Naval Squadron led by Flight Cmdr. Raymond Collishaw .

Collishaw's Sopwith
Between June 1 and July 28, 1917, Black Flight shot down 86 enemy aircraft for the loss of one man captured and two killed by anti-aircraft fire.
That incredible record was achieved despite the fact that Black Flight was operating against the very best pilots the Germans had, Jagdstaffel (Jasta) 11, commanded by Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen.
Suddenly the British had a machine that could out fly anything the German air service had.

The popular and influential Richthofen and other German airmen were stunned by the performance of the new triplanes. As a result, the Inspectorate of Aviation immediately issued a demand for triplanes (Dreidecker). Soon, virtually every aircraft company in Germany was enthusiastically testing at least one new triplane prototype.
Fokker responded with two pre-production triplanes were designated F.I. The two aircraft were sent to Jastas 10 and 11 for combat evaluation, arriving at Markebeeke, Belgium on 28 August 1917.

Fokker DR.l
Richthofen first flew one on 1 September 1917 and shot down two enemy aircraft in the next two days. He reported to the 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.
Command issued a production order for 100 triplanes in September, followed by an order for 200 in November.

Unfortunately, both the Fokker DR.l and the Sopwith Triplane were plagued with chronic structural problems from the beginning. Roughly only 150 Sopwith Triplanes were built during the war and production of the DR.l is thought to be about 320. By June of 1918 the DR.l was replaced by the D.Vll biplane and the Sopwith Triplane was replaced by the Sopwith Camel.

Fokker D.Vll

Sopwith Camel

As a side note; Fokker produced 320 DR.l compared to 3,300 D.Vll and Sopwith produced about 150 Triplanes compared to 5,490 Camels. 

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Nieuport Monoplanes

Nieuport I
Édouard Nieuport was the owner of a small company which produced ignition components for the automobile industry, he became involved with aviation through working on the electrical equipment of Henri Farman's Voisin biplane. In 1908, along with brother Charles, he started constructing their first aircraft, a small single-seat monoplane powered by a 20 hp (15 kW) Darracq engine and succeeded in making some brief straight-line flights in it during 1909, but the aircraft was destroyed in the floods which struck Paris in January 1910.

In 1911 the brothers introduced the Nieuport II. It was noted for the extreme simplicity of its design and the finish exhibited in its structure.
The little Nieuport looked quite modern, with its monoplane design, all-inclusive streamlined fuselage. The pilot and passenger sat close together, with only their heads and shoulders visible above the fuselage, essentially a modern cockpit for the day.

It had a joystick controlled rudder plus elevator tail unit, while foot pedals operated the wing warping for lateral control, the pedals moving a torque tube which ran diagonally backwards to the rear v-strut of the undercarriage, where the warping wires were attached.
The wheeled undercarriage consisted only of three V’s of steel tube, of streamline section, connected to a single longitudinal skid, thus diminishing drag to a noteworthy degree.
A variety of engines were experimented with before the Nieuport brothers developed their own 2-cylinder horizontally opposed engine. Later versions of the Nieuport II were fitted with various radical engines.

On May 12 of 1911, Édouard , sets the recognized absolute speed record of 74.415 mph in a monoplane powered by a 28-hp engine. On June 16, he will push the speed record to 80.814 mph.
In September tragedy struck and Édouard was killed in a crash while demonstrating his aircraft to the military.

The company was then purchased by Henri Deutsch de la Meurthe, a famous supporter of aviation development. The name was changed to Société Anonyme des Établissements Nieuport. Charles Nieuport stayed on as chief designer and development of the existing designs were continued. Charles would die in a crash landing barely a year later on, January 24, 1913.

The Nieuport monoplane gave birth to several versions ending with the 
They would remain in production into 1914 with many used as a trainer during World War One by French flying schools.

Nieuport III

Nieuport IV

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Adolphe Célestin Pégoud

Eighteen year old Pégoud joined the French Army in 1907. Discharged on 13 February 1913, he immediately began flight schooling. He was a natural and earned his pilot's certificate within a month.

Using a sacrificed aircraft, Pégoud was the first pilot to make a parachute jump from an airplane. During the jump, he observed the unexpected a loop-like trajectory of the aircraft and was convinced he could reproduce and control the same in flight. After landing, Pégoud addressed reporters: "I've seen him (the unmanned craft), alone, looping the loop. So you see that this is possible. Also, I will try!"

As a test pilot for Louis Blériot, he devoted himself to this goal with a Blériot model XI monoplane in a series of test flights exploring the limits of airplane maneuvers. He would also be the first accomplish an inverted flight on the first of September, 1913.

Pégoud became a popular instructor of fledgling French and European pilots.

At the start of World War I, Pégoud volunteered for flying duty and was immediately accepted as an observation pilot. February 1915, he and his gunner were credited with shooting down two German aircraft and forcing another to land.

Soon after he was flying single-seat aircraft and in April claimed two further victories. His sixth success came in July. 

Pégoud was the first pilot to achieve ace status of any sort, for which he was awarded with Croix de Guerre.

On 31 August 1915, while intercepting a German reconnaissance aircraft, Pégoud was shot down and killed by one of his pre-war German students, Unteroffizier Walter Kandulski. Pégoud was 26 years old.

The same German crew later dropped a funeral wreath behind the French lines.

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Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Infamous Three Gun Fokker Eindecker E.lV.

The Fokker E.IV was essentially a lengthened Fokker E.III with a more powerful engine that was intended to enable the Eindecker to carry two or three machine guns, thereby increasing its firepower and providing redundancy if one gun jammed, which was a common occurrence at the time.

In September 1915 Anthony Fokker demonstrated the new model fitted with three forward-firing machine guns, mounted to fire upwards at 15° but failure of triple-synchronization gear caused damage to the propeller.

Oswald Boelcke, along with others, evaluated the E.IV at the Fokker Schwerin factory in November. He and other pilots discovered that mounting the much heavier engine onto the Eindecker airframe did not produce the aircraft Fokker was hoping for.

The increased inertial and gyroscopic forces of the spinning mass, of the larger engine, made the E.IV less manoeuvrable than the E.III. Not only that but the new engine was notoriously unreliable. It worked well when new but after only a few hours of operation it would loose power.

The removal of the left-side gun and reverting to just a pair of forward firing guns is believed to have been suggested by Oswald Boelcke. Dual forward firing synchronized machine guns became the standard armament for production E.IVs, as well as all future German D-type biplane fighters.

The E.IV was a troubled design from the beginning and never achieved the success of the E.lll and would soon be outclassed by newer designed French and British fighters.

It has been written that Max Immelman may flown a three gun E.lV in combat but today most historians now believe that no three gun Eindeckers ever made it into combat.

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Karl Bolle

Karl Rittmeister Karl Bolle.jpg

When WW1 broke out Bolle enlisted in the 7th von Seydlitz Kürassier Regiment and was sent to fight on the Western Front. In 1915 his regiment was transferred to the Eastern Front and by the end of the year, he had been awarded the Iron Cross, second class.
He transferred to the air service in February 1916, undertook his initial training at Johannistal, Germany, then was forwarded to Fliegerschule 5 in Hannover. Later he was transferred to Jasta I where he trained to become a fighter pilot. 

The standard German practice was to be trained initially at a Fliegerschule (Pilot Replacement Unit) and serve initially in a two-seater unit and then later transfer for training as a fighter pilot at a Jastaschule (experienced squadron) where they would be closely tutored by experts with frontline experience. They also had access to captured British and French fighters to familiarize themselves with their opponent's aircraft.

At any rate, upon completion, he was assigned to the bombing group Kagohl IV in July, 1916.
Bolle was wounded in October, 1916 in combat with five French fighters. He crash landed within friendly lines and despite his own injury dragged his injured observer safely out of the shell-fire directed at their downed aircraft. 

Karl Bolle.jpg

Bolle recovered and in July 1917 he was posted to Jasta 28 and scored 5 victories before assuming command of Jasta 2 as an Oberleutnant on 20 February 1918. In August, having downed 28 opponents, he was promoted to Rittmeister and received the Military Merit Cross, the Royal House Order of Hohenzollern and the Blue Max. 
Bolle finished the war with 36 victories.


Fokker Dr1 413-17 With Karl Bolle getting ready for flight of Jasta 2 Boelcke..jpg

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Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Caudron G.4

A French twin engine biplane, widely used during World War I as a bomber aircraft. It was the first twin engined aircraft in service in any numbers with the French.
Designed by René and Gaston Caudron as an improvement over their single engined Caudron G.3. The aircraft employed wing warping for banking. First built in 1915 the G.4 was also manufactured in France, England and Italy.The G.4 was in use in BelgiumFranceFinlandItaly, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

The G.4 entered service with the French Aéronautique Militaire in November 1915.  The Caudron G.4 was used to carry out bombing raids deep behind the front line, being used to attack targets as far away as the Rhineland. When Germany developed a fighter force increasing losses led to its withdrawal from day bombing missions. The French, in the autumn of 1916, used the aircraft solely for night bombings.

The British Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) also used the G.4 as a bomber, receiving 55, of which twelve were licence built by the British Caudron company and the remainder supplied from France. Number 4 and 5 Wing RNAS using the G.4 for attacks against German seaplane and airship bases in Belgium. It was finally replaced in RNAS service by Handley Page O/100 aircraft in the autumn of 1917. 
Italian G.4s proved successful in operating in the mountainous Alpine fronts, where its good altitude capabilities proved useful. 
The G.4 was also used by the Imperial Russian Air Force for reconnaissance purposes.