Corgi AA38310 German Fokker Dr.1 Triplane Fighter - Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, Jasta 11, Cappy Aerodrome, France, April 21st, 1918 (1:48 Scale)
"The important thing in aeroplanes is that they shall be speedy."
- Baron Manfred Von Richthofen
The Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker (triplane) was a World War I fighter aircraft built by the company of Anthony Fokker, and designed by Reinhold Platz. It became most famous as the plane of the Red Baron, Manfred von Richthofen.
In April 1917, the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) introduced the Sopwith Triplane. Their debut was sensational and they swiftly proved to be superior to the Albatros and Halberstadt scouts then in use by the German Air Service. Soon the German pilots were clamouring for a triplane of their own. The majority of the German aircraft manufacturers, including Pfalz, AEG, DFW, Schutte-Lanz, and Euler, responded with new triplane designs. Most displayed little promise, though limited production of the Pfalz Dr. I was undertaken.
Fokker responded with the V.3, a small rotary-powered triplane with a tubular steel frame fuselage and thick cantilever wings. Fokker found several deficiencies in the V.3, particularly regarding control forces. Instead of submitting the V.3 for a type test, Fokker produced a revised prototype designated V.4. The most notable changes were horn-balanced ailerons and elevators, as well as wings of increased span. The V.4 also featured interplane struts, which were not necessary from a structural standpoint, but which had the effect of minimizing wing flexing. The V.4 proved highly manueverable and much superior to the triplane prototypes submitted by other manufacturers. The rudder and elevator controls were powerful and light. Rapid turns were facilitated by the triplane's directional instability. The ailerons were also light, but not very effective.
After a type test, an immediate production order ensued. The V.4 prototype was intentionally destroyed in static structural tests. The two pre-production examples, designated F.I, were delivered in the middle of August 1917. These were the only machines to receive the F.I designation. Delivery of production machines, designated Dr.I, commenced in October of that year.
Pictured here is a 1:48 scale replica of a German Fokker Dr.1 triplane fighter that was piloted by Wolfram Freiherr von Richthofen, who was attached to Jasta 11 on April 21st, 1918.
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Historical Account: "That Fateful Day" - As he prepared for his first combat patrol, novice fighter pilot Wolfram von Richthofen was keen to impress his famous cousin, the famed 'Red Baron' and the flight leader for the mission. Although suffering from fatigue and combat stress, Manfred von Richthofen was the consummate professional and the safety of his fellow airmen was of paramount importance to him.
As the Fokker DR.1 fighters of Jasta 11 climbed away from Cappy aerodrome on April 21st, 1918, Wolfram had been given strict instructions to stay out of trouble should the formation encounter the enemy, staying on the periphery of the action and experiencing what the melee of a dogfight looked like.
As his comrades later engaged in combat with the Sopwith Camels of RAF No.209 Squadron, Wolfram did as instructed, but found himself under attack by one of the Camels, which had also been loitering on the edge of the fighting, an aircraft which was flown by the similarly inexperienced Wilfred 'Wop' May.
Taking immediate evasive action, the Camel sped past his triplane, with the incident attracting the attention of his famous cousin - Manfred von Richthofen pursued the Camel which seemed destined to become his 81st victim. Wolfram von Richthofen would survive the encounter to become a fighter ace in his own right, however, this meeting of two novice pilots over the trenches of the Western Front would ultimately claim the life of the world's most famous airman.
Having just led an attack against two British RE8 reconnaissance aircraft above the Somme battlefield, Manfred von Richthofen re-joined the rest of Jasta 11's Fokker triplane fighters, in time to lead a further attack against a formation of Sopwith Camels from No.209 Squadron RAF. Displaying all his legendary flying skills, the Red Baron attacked the enemy aircraft, whilst at the same time keeping an eye on his cousin Wolfram, a novice pilot who had been instructed not to engage in combat.
On seeing that one of the Camels had attacked Wolfram's triplane, he broke away from the dogfight and went to his aid, quickly positioning himself on the tail of the Sopwith fighter. Clearly flown by an inexperienced pilot, the Camel was the mount of young Canadian airman Wilfred 'Wop' May, who realizing his error, dived at high speed for the ground and the safety of Allied lines.
Flying perilously close to the ground and narrowly missing the church steeple at Vaux-sur-Somme, May knew that if he pulled up, he would fall to the guns of the ace pilot behind him, but as the high ground of Morlancourt Ridge approached, he had no option.
Miraculously, his aircraft was not peppered with bullets and the Triplane giving chase was seen to rear up and make a forced landing in a nearby field - although he didn't know it at the time, May was being hunted by Manfred von Richthofen and whilst he had managed to escape with his life, the famous Red Baron had not been so fortunate and lay dead in the cockpit of his red Fokker Triplane.