Sunday, May 22, 2011

Germany - 1916 Albatros D.III

I hope you all had a great weekend. I spent mine getting a website up and running for friends. In between I was cranking out a new series of four Albatros D.III and eight D.V profiles and integrating them into my aviation history site galleries. I took time do do some cooking satisfy my creative side and feed my belly. I may be sleep deprived but I'm well fed. The much touted end of the world as we know it came and past without a bump and I feel fine.

The Long Lived Albatros D.III

Albatros D.III - 1916
Albatros D.III - 1916

The Albatros D.III was a biplane fighter aircraft used by the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte) and the Austro-Hungarian Air Service (Luftfahrtruppen) during World War I. The D.III was flown by many top German aces, including Manfred von Richthofen, Ernst Udet, Erich Löwenhardt, Kurt Wolff, and Karl Emil Schäfer. It was the preeminent fighter during the period of German aerial dominance known as "Bloody April" 1917.

Work on the prototype D.III started in late July or early August 1916. The date of the maiden flight is unknown, but is believed to have occurred in late August or early September. Following on the successful Albatros D.I and D.II series, the D.III utilized the same semi-monocoque, plywood-skinned fuselage. At the request of the Idflieg (Inspectorate of Flying Troops), however, the D.III adopted a sesquiplane wing arrangement broadly similar to the French Nieuport 11. The upper wing was extended while the lower wing was redesigned with reduced chord and a single main spar. "V" shaped interplane struts replaced the previous parallel struts. For this reason, British aircrews commonly referred to the D.III as the "V-strutter."

After a Typenprüfung (official type test) on 26 September 1916, Albatros received an order for 400 D.III aircraft, the largest German production contract to date. Idflieg placed additional orders for 50 aircraft in February and March 1917.

The D.III entered squadron service in December 1916, and was immediately acclaimed by German aircrews for its maneuverability and rate of climb. Two faults with the new aircraft were soon identified. Like the D.II, early D.IIIs featured a Teves und Braun airfoil shaped radiator in the center of the upper wing, where it tended to scald the pilot if punctured. From the 290th D.III onward, the radiator was offset to the right.

More seriously, the new aircraft immediately began experiencing failures of the lower wing ribs and leading edge. On 23 January 1917, a Jasta 6 pilot suffered a failure of the lower right wing spar. On the following day, Manfred von Richthofen suffered a crack in the lower wing of his new D.III. On 27 January, the Kogenluft (Kommandierenden General der Luftstreitkräfte) issued an order grounding all D.IIIs pending resolution of the wing failure problem. On 19 February, after Albatros introduced a reinforced lower wing, the Kogenluft rescinded the grounding order. New production D.IIIs were completed with the strengthened wing while operational D.IIIs were withdrawn to Armee-Flugparks for modifications, forcing Jastas to use the Albatros D.II and Halberstadt D.II during the interim.

At the time, the continued wing failures were attributed to poor workmanship and materials at the Johannisthal factory. In fact, the cause of the wing failures lay in the sesquiplane arrangement taken from the Nieuport. While the lower wing had sufficient strength in static tests, it was subsequently determined that the main spar was located too far aft, causing the wing to twist under aerodynamic loads. Pilots were therefore advised not to perform steep or prolonged dives in the D.III. This design flaw persisted despite attempts to rectify the problem in the D.III and succeeding D.V.

Apart from its structural deficiencies, the D.III was considered pleasant and easy to fly, if somewhat heavy on the controls. The sesquiplane arrangement offered improved climb, maneuverability, and downward visibility compared to the preceding D.II. Like most contemporary aircraft, the D.III was prone to spinning, but recovery was straightforward.

Albatros built approximately 500 D.III aircraft at its Johannisthal factory. In the spring of 1917, D.III production shifted to Albatros' subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), to permit Albatros to concentrate on development and production of the D.V. Between April and August 1917, Idflieg issued five separate orders for a total of 840 D.IIIs. The OAW variant underwent its Typenprüfung in June 1916. Production commenced at the Schneidemühl factory in June and continued through December 1917. OAW aircraft were distinguishable by their larger, rounded rudders.

Peak service was in November 1917, with 446 aircraft on the Western Front. The D.III did not disappear with the end of production, however. It remained in front line service well into 1918. As of 31 August 1918, 54 D.III aircraft remained on the Western Front.

Good News and Bad

The good news is I will continue posting aircraft profiles. The bad news is the experiment with top views will have to wait. It is a matter of storage space on my server. I sat down and did the math and found that for now I do not have the drive space or time to do it right.


  1. From Wikipedia Albatros D.III, ""
  2. Connors, John F. "Albatros Fighters In Action" (Aircraft No. 46). Carrollton, TX: Squadron/Signal Publications, Inc., 1981. ISBN 0-89747-115-6.
  3. Franks, Norman, Hal Giblin and Nigel McCrery. "Under the Guns of the Red Baron: Complete Record of Von Richthofen's Victories and Victims". London: Grub Street, 1998 p. 59. ISBN 1-84067-145-9.
  4. Grosz, Peter M. "Albatros D.III" (Windsock Datafile Special). Berkhamsted, Herts, UK: Albatros Publications, 2003 p. 6, p. 8, pp. 11, 13, p. 18-19, pp. 21-22. ISBN 1-90220-762-9.
  5. Grosz, Peter M., George Haddow and Peter Schiemer. "Austro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of World War I". Boulder, CO: Flying Machines Press, 2002 p. 249, p. 251. ISBN 1-89126-805-8.
  6. Mikesh, Robert C. "Albatros D.Va. : German Fighter of World War I". Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1980. ISBN 0-87474-633-7
  7. Van Wyngarden, Greg. "Albatros Aces of World War I Part 2" (Aircraft of the Aces No. 77). Oxford: Osprey Publishing, 2007 p. 19. ISBN 1-84603-179-6


The Angry Lurker said...

That's some design flaw, they were braver men than most.

W. I. Boucher said...

It shows how desperate the need of front line fighters had become. Both sides used planes with serious structural issues. I agree with you, they had to be brave to go up knowing your aircraft could kill you just as easily as an enemy plot.