Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Germany - 1918 - Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI, s/n 8301

When Knights Take Wing and Dragons Scourge the Land.

We all see history through rose colored glasses. Many see the fight in the air during the First World War as the last battle of knighthood. If the fighter and the pilot are the knight on a warhorse then the giant bombers were the dragons. Some may say the German lighter than air fleet should take precedence I have to say when it comes down to speed and survivability heavier than aircraft win that argument.

My search for all flying things large has been very satisfying. I feel like a kid looking up in rapt amazement at a museum display of dinosaurs. “How did it survive? when did it live? Why is it so darn big?” Even without all the questions answered, you took away this. Things can be as big as possible if you have enough energy to keep it running.

This is Number 8301, the first of the production series of Staaken giant float-planes. The colors are conjectural. From photos it appears but is not substantiated that the difference in the paint scheme is the s/n is 8303. Some photos show it used as a passenger aircraft, although they still carried military paint.

Some Personal Observations on the 8301

The German Naval Air Service had an interest in float-equipped seaplanes so it is no surprise they turned an eye to the prospect of a giant float plane. One Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI was ordered to be converted on September 5, 1917. The new was designated the Type L and issued the serial number 1432. The Zeppelin-Staaken Type L was powered by four Maybach engines using a 2 tractor, 2 pusher propeller configuration. Unfortunately the prototype crashed during testing on June 3, 1918.

The project did not die with the s/n 1432. The German Naval Air Service thought results were promising enough to continue development. They showed their confidence in the design with an order of four improved giant float-planes. The Type 8301 was developed from the Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI and the data from the Type L tests. Several important design changes made it an elegant. First change was elevating the fuselage above the lower wing which improved water clearance. To enhance mission flexibility, range became a major factor in mission success. The logical choice was to replace munitions with fuel. By eliminating the bomb bays, the range could be extended. With the extended flight time there was a need to shelter the crew from the elements. This was solved by enclosing the open gun position on the nose provided comfort and protection to the forward gun position. Production ended after the war, of the four aircraft ordered only three were delivered.

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