Thursday, June 9, 2011

Germany - 1918 Doriner D.I

It was a quiet day for me. I hid from the scorching heat in my cool air-conditioned lair working on cooking lunch, writing up the recipe for my cooking blog, and doing research. I had a bit of serendipity while doing a trace back on my blog referrals I found search engine query for "w.i boucher aircraft drawings". When I googled the query string I discovered a link to an article about bizarre Austrian aircraft on where I was quoted in the article and my drawings of some of my odd bird were used. The lucky part was I found a key part of a mystery I had been searching for. It opened the path to find all the data I need to flesh out a profile and article.For that reason I can forgive the use of my drawings without asking first. Some times the universe gives, sometimes it takes, and sometimes it is just a case of quid pro quo.

It was another Wednesday night gaming with the Lost Boys. I will not bother with an after action report because it was the gamer's equivalent of an evening listening to Volgon poetry while wearing a fiberglass diaper. Yes it was D&D which by its very nature is rubbish. I find it is more rule play and roll play than role play. The last good game was when we were using The Mirror rules. The charm of that rule set is there are almost no rules, and dice rolling is a rare last resort action. I am a firm believer that it requires buying a series of books to play a game, flee, do not get sucked into that whirling vortex of madness.

The last days of the war was a time of incredible innovation. How long the war would last was unknown and designers were planning for the future. Aviation stood on the brink of a new level of sophistication. New construction methods, improvement of power plants, and refinement in weapons and ammunition would make the sky an even deadlier place to be. Competition between aircraft manufacturers led to a furious race for contracts with the military.

The Zeppelin-Lindau All Metal Experimental Fighter

Doriner D.I s/n D.1751/18 - 1918
Doriner D.I s/n D.1751/18 - 1918

The Zeppelin-Lindau D.I is better known as the Dornier D.I. It was an all-metal fighter and a milestone in aeronautical technology that would come to define modern aircraft. It was designed by Claude Dornier in early 1918 while he was working as an aeronautical engineer at Luftschiffbau Zeppelin company at Lindau-Reutin on the Bodensee.

A wooden mockup was inspected by Idflieg (Inspektion der Fliegertruppen, Inspectorate of Flying Troops) on February 11, 1918. Subsequently six aircraft were ordered (allotted s/n D.1750/18 to D.1755/18) Three of them were powered by a 160 hp Mercedes D.III, the other three by a BMW IIIa engine.

The D.I's layout was very advanced for its time. It featured an all-metal construction with stressed fuselage skinning and cantilever wings of torsion-box construction, and carrying a jettisonable fuel tank beneath the fuselage. The type incorporated many features well ahead of the contemporary state of the art. The upper wing was mounted on the fuselage with four wide, profiled struts, without any wires. The aircraft was full-metal, with smooth duralumin covering The D.I would have carried twin synchronized 0.312 in (7.92 mm) machine guns.

The maiden flight of the D.I happened on June 4th, 1918 by Dornier test pilot Vizefeldwebel Heinz Ruppert who flew D.1752/18 successfully. The profile shows D.1751/18 with its BMW engine. During the second fighter competition, held at Berlin between May 27 and mid-July, while flown by Hauptmann Wilhelm Reinhard (commander of Jagdgeschwader I), the D.1751/18 crashed when it shed the upper wing on July 3, 1918, killing the pilot. Just before the aircraft had been flown by Oberst-Leutnant Herman Göring (commander of Jasta 27), Hauptman Curt Schwarzenberger and Leutnant Constantin Krefft. The accident notwithstanding, other fighter pilots universally agreed that the D.I was "on average" superior to the other Mercedes engined fighters.

For the totally destroyed D.1751/18 a replacement aircraft was built with strengthened wing bracing and attachments. It received the s/n D.1751/18 (Ersatz) and participated in the third fighter competition, held October 10 to November 2, 1918. This resulted in an order for 50 aircraft, allotted the s/n D.1900/18 to D.1949/18.

Early 1919, when work was halted on the aircraft production upon enactment of the Armistice agreements, 50 % of the aircraft were ready and were hidden from the Inter-Allied Armistice Commission (IAAC).

In 1921, two aircraft were sold to the USA, one was evaluated by the USN, BuNo. A-6058, the other one received the USAAS s/n 68546 and was evaluated at McCook Field under the Project Number P-241, it was transferred to the McCook Field museum on May 14, 1923, however, it was surveyed on September 8, 1926. Another D-I was in Dornier factory museum and was destroyed by the Allies bombs during WW2. The Dornier D-I was an example that modern layout of an aircraft isn’t a guarantee for success.


  1. "Static Test of the Dornier D.I" Cross & Cockade (US) Volume 9, Issue 4 p 391
  2. Grosz, Peter M. "Dornier D.I" Windsock Mini Datafile number 12, Albatros Productions Limited


The Angry Lurker said...

Never knew about this aircraft, quite fascinating, similar I suppose to the end of the second world war when Germany was still trying to build super weapons and aircraft. Sorry about the lousy game, they happen I'm afraid.

W. I. Boucher said...

It is one of those aircraft which is not well known. Having two different names is not good for solid name recognition.

Anthony Fokker did a similar thing. He loaded all the aircraft at hand and smuggled them into the Netherlands where he claimed they were new Dutch manufactured aviation parts and planes.

They saw the writing on the wall and knew the French would demand punitive measures in any treaty written to end the war.

Ironically the Treaty of Versailles had a few loopholes because of lack of imagination of diplomats. The biggest was no restrictions on rocket research, and we all know what that led to.

As far as the game goes. The group is a pack of plonkers who have been friends for over 35 years. We started our club in the late 70's. I have been in and out of the area over the years.

I moved and worked in the game industry for over 10 years, which changed my perspective since I was on the other side of the vender's booth. I no longer went to conventions to play games. It was part of the job.

When I returned the group had not changed their game system preferences. Now I go to see close friends and for the food and drink. Sadly I attend in spite of the rules used.
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kingsleypark said...

Like Fran, I did not know about this aircraft, so thanks for bringing it to light.

In many ways it is fascinating to speculate what designs could have made their mark had the war continued into 1919 and beyond. The German designs, perhaps not surprisingly, always appear more ambitious and innovative than the Allied designs

W. I. Boucher said...

If the war had continued it would have been interesting.
New weapons would have been integrated into planes tasked with new missions. Tank busting aircraft, true torpedo bombers, improved heavy bombers were all on their way.

The thing is The Central Powers could not win the logistical war. America was geared up to produce enormous numbers of DH-4, SPAD 13, and the new Martin Bomber, and Curtis NC flying boats. The production of the V12 Liberty engines was climbing providing much needed power plants for Allied aircraft.

In both wars Germany had a tendency to churn out a large number of designs looking for the ultimate weapon to achieve victory.

Germany had one thing going for it. Their procurement process was streamlined when compared to Britain's where two different procurement groups issued wildly different specifications.

The confusion was made worse by a large number of unsolicited designs being submitted by small private firms who had no experience with aviation at all.

Whew! sometimes I envy people who can say what they mean in a well formed sentence an get on with life.