Pfalz D.VIII Article & 3-View
July 1973 American Aircraft Modeler
Airplanes and Rockets visitor, Peter C., of the UK, contacted me
about scanning information from a vintage copy of American Aircraft
Modeler. Peter requested the 3-view drawing of the Pfalz D.III biplane
(by Mr. Björn Karlström) that appeared in the July 1973 edition.
I did him one better by also scanning and OCRing the text of the
accompanying article. Enjoy.
The Bavarian Woods
A brief history of Pfalz. / by Patricia T. Groves
the Imperial German Military Air Service of the German Army struggled
underway in October 1912, not only was it blessed with the usual
general staff firmly entrenched in 19th Century military tradition,
it had Bavaria, too.
In 1871, after negotiating a generous
political and economic settlement to bolster its basically forest
and farmland economy, Bavaria entered the German Empire. Also retaining
more sovereign rights than any of the other member states, the characteristically
independent-minded Bavarians kept control over their own railway,
telegraph and postal systems, a separate diplomatic service, as
well as their own military administration. Thus, whenever Bavarian
soldiers were involved, Germany heard a lot of heavy breathing in
Shortly after the German air arm came into
being, the Bavarian Air Ministry-endeavoring to insure control over
the equipment its flying service would use-turned to its own industry.
And, in a section of Bavaria known as The Palatinate (in German,
die pfalz1), it found the Everbusch brothers
striving to get into aeronautics.
On slim financial footing Alfred, Ernst and Walter Everbusch had
hoped to acquire license for production of the Albatros. When these
negotiations fell through, the Bavarian government stepped in and
helped secure production rights from the Otto airplane works for
their pusher biplane. With this initial security plus additional
guidance from Gustav Otto, the Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke G.m.b.H. opened
its factory at Speyer am Rhein in July 19132.
But pusher aircraft had a limited future, and since the company
wasn't ready to produce its own design, Alfred Everbusch looked
around for a more promising airplane. In early 1914 he acquired
license from Morane-Saulnier of Frarice to produce their Type H
monoplane and Type L parasol. Walter, the youngest of the Everbusch
brothers, then enrolled in Morane-Saulnier's flying school near
Paris. After graduating in July 19 4, e served as a test pilot for
Pfalzl 's death in June 1916.
With the onset of WWI in August
1914, German militarists figured that an unprepared enemy would
wrap things up in a hurry, and so
the use of aircraft wasn't
seriously considered . But, when the enemy unexpectedly dug in its
heels, the German General Staff was forced to take another look
at its aviation potential. At this time there were 30 German air
units plus four Bavarian - all of which looked better on paper3.
In reality, they were under strength and poorly equipped, having
a few airplanes that could be considered "combat ready."
By this time the Pfalz company had built three of the Morane
monoplanes, three of the parasols and were nearly ready to deliver
three Otto pushers to Bavarian air units. Although still not ready
to produce their own design, they were acquiring a cram course in
aircraft construction and beginning timid innovations on the Morane
In the early months of the war they produced the
Pfalz A.I and A.II aircraft which differed little from the original
Morane Type L. Going into limited production with the A.I (80 hp
Oberursel engine) and A.II (100 hp Oberursel), the company expanded
and opened a flying school using some of these machines to train
Bavarian pilots, while others of the aircraft went into front-line
service on reconnaissance or escort duty4.
taking the Morane Type Hand modifying it to a shoulder-wing mono-plane,
the Pfalz E.I (with Fokker synchronizing gear) became the first
of the company's airplanes to carry a machine gun. In outward appearance
its box-like configuration strongly resembled the Fokker monoplane.
However, in contrast to the welded steel tube Fokker, the Pfalz
E had a completely wooden skeleton. About 60 of these aircraft were
followed by a series of variants.
With the production of
each airplane, the Pfalz company increasingly injected its own ideas
and construction techniques. Ernst and Walter were giving flight
demonstrations to combat pilots, while, back at the plant, company
engineers were improving on available designs. By April 30, 1916
over 100 of their aircraft were in operational use. But the end
of the 'eindecker' contract was in sight.
Since August 1914
the exigencies, the attritions, the point-counterpoint needs of
war forced design engineers to think in terms other than aerodynamic
esthetics and purity. By the end of 1916 (with the era of powered,
manned flight but thirteen years Old), the immediate need was for
engine power and the rugged maneuverability of the biplane fighter.
One of the greatest influences in aircraft design was the
appearance of the Nieuport 17 on the Western Front in March 1916.
Produced by the French, British, Belgians and Italians, the Nieuport
enjoyed an Allied exclusivity until its appearance from the other
side of the lines, one day, sporting the Cross Patee. Introduction
of the Siemans-Schukert "variant" acknowledged the universality
of the Nieuport design.
In the summer of 1916 the Pfalz company
built a biplane whose heritage was strongly rooted to past company
aircraft. Test flown, it was found to be lacking. However, a few
months later the factory obtained license and contract to build
the L.F.G. Roland D.1 biplane.
Whereas previous Pfalz aircraft
had typical flat-sided, fabric-covered fuselages, the Roland design
(showing Albatros lineage) featured a smoothly rounded contour.
This contract would initiate the classic shape and construction
technique that, in the future, would identify the Pfalz. The first
Roland D.1 (Pfalz) passed its proving flights in January 1917, and
a small production run gave Pfalz engineers lead time to develop
an original design.
By June 1917, after extensive testing
at Germany's Adlershof flight test center, the Pfalz D.III became
the company's first real production aircraft. With an oval, tapering
monocoque fuselage giving it a sleek torpedo-like exterior, the
Pfalz D.III was constructed in two halves over molds (like the early
Deperdussins). Plywood bands, 9 cm wide, were laid in opposite directions
over a minimum frame. After the two halves were mated, the whole
structure was covered in a thin fabric and doped5.
It was a technique they'd improve on as time went by.
these early day monocoque constructions, although stronger, were
heavier than conventional aircraft. But, never having been a strong
ore-producing country in the first place, Bavaria hadn't developed
a large cadre of metal workers.
both the men and materials required for conventional aircraft construction
had to be "imported," when inevitable war time Shortages combined
with an unimpressive priority in the distribution of German goods,
the Pfalz company made use of locally available lumber and developed
home-grown talent. Since Pfalz was responsible only to the Bavarian
government, rather than the German Directorate of Aircraft Production,
this gave them greater freedom to operate-which, in turn, was followed
by an inherent parochialism. Nevertheless, in the four years of
the company's existence, it became a full-fledged partner in the
Empire's aviation industry.
As the war grew hotter, pilots
on either side battled to counter increasingly sophisticated aerobatics
above the war zones, while engineers at home strained to produce
new possibilities in engine and aircraft design. Over the next year,
with the exception of a quick pass at a triplane and a momentary
flirtation with a Rumpler C.IV, Pfalz concentrated on improving
its D.III and D.IIIa biplane and getting into full-scale production.
By November 1917 the company had a design staff of 15 engineers
under Chief Engineer Rudolph Geringer and 11 new fighters were in
various stages between drawing board and maiden flight.6 In the
factory, the workers were busily expanding their expertise in monocoque
When the January 1918 Fighter Biplane Competitions
were announced, Pfalz selected three biplane variants to send to
the Adlershof trials: the popular Mercedes-powered D.IIIa, a graceful
D.VI (110-hp Oberursel) and an even structurally stronger Siemens-Halske
powered D.VII. However, losing out to Fokker in these competitions,
Pfalz then prepared to meet the May/June trials head-on.
Entering their D.VIII (in three different engine versions) and a
D.XII (two different engines), the company received a small production
order. By August 1918, both the D.VIII (160-hp Siemens-Halske) and
the D.XII (160-hp Mercedes) were in front-line service. And by now,
the Pfalz company had 2,600 employees and was producing close to
200 aircraft a month.
Working up to the last minute, the
final Pfalz single-seat biplane variant (a D.XV) was tested on 4
November 1918. But, with the Allied armies closing in, the handwriting
was on the wall. Orders soon went out from the German High Command
to destroy all military and industrial records to keep them from
falling into Allied hands. (In 1945 this same order went out again.
Fortunately for historians, in both instances, a little luck and
a little fudging kept this from being carried out to the extreme.)
Since the city of Speyer fell under French occupation (where
it remained until 1930), the 5½-year-old Phalz Fleugzeug-Werke produced
its last air-plane at the peak of its career. With the signing of
the Armistice . and de-mobilization, Phalz airplanes were among
the 15,000 aircraft and 27,000 engines to hit the post-war bonfire.
Only a few known Pfalz D.XIIs are in museum care today
1. Pronounced: Pfalts, Fahlz,
fallts (or, as a last resort) faults.
2. Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke
Gesellschaft mit beschrankter Haftung roughly translates
to Pfalz Aircraft, Limited.
3. Peter Gray & Owen Thetford,
German Aircraft of the First World War
York: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1970). page ix.
M. Grosz and Egon Kruger, PFALZ-The First Detailed Story of the
and its Famous Planes (West Roxbury,
Mass.: World War I Aero Publishers, Inc., 1964) page 3.
Woodhouse, Textbook of Applied Aeronautic Engineering
(London: T. Werner Laurie, Ltd., ca 1919), page 21l.
M. Grosz, The Pfalz D.XIl (England: Profile Publications, Ltd.,
Number 199), page 3.
Note to the Potential Builder: All
the above contain a good supply of black and white photos for construction
data, notes on the flying qualities of the aircraft, etc. See also
Jane's 1919 for construction drawings and the Kenneth Munson books
for color information.
The discontinuity in the middle is due
to the page wrapping into the stapled fold area.
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Posted October 31, 2010
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