Often linked with the career of the highest scoring ace of that war, Germany’s Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, “The Red Baron”, earned a reputation as one of the best “dogfighters” of the war. The Fokker Dr. I began production in July 1917 and appeared over the Western Front in August, 1917. Pilots were impressed with its maneuverability, and several, including von Richthofen, soon scored victories with the highly maneuverable triplane. Nineteen of Richthofen’s last 21 victories were achieved while he was flying the Dr. I. Fokker built 320 Dr. Is before production finished in May 1918.
Dave Horton’s Triplane after its first flight (Withernsea 2004).
Specification summary of the model
Wingspan: just under 14ft.
Engine: Weslake 350cc.
Propeller: 39″ x12″.
Weight: 200lb wet.
Dave Horton is famous in the LMA for many things, one of them being his passion over the Focker Dr.1. He has a good collection of these at 25% scale. So when he was suddenly informed about a half-size one for sale he found it irresistible. The model was going to be broken-up and yet for £100 it could be his, he moved fast. He was soon at the house, but surely it was too small to house such a mammoth model? Well, when invited into the back room of the house he was stunned by the sight of a substantial airframe. It was far from complete, but he had to have it – assuming he could get it out of the house!
Now for the bigger problem, how was this going to be sneaked past his wife? The bouquet of flowers only raised her suspicions and when she looked in the van “How nice” was all that she said. Dave says it took a few weeks for her to come around and was tested on the first request to help move the fuselage on to a tressle. Soon a cup of tea was delivered and from then on it seems Dave had resurrected the support he needed and always got. No doubt he needed it as this ended up being a five year project.
Registration of the model in the LMA’s over 20kg scheme was quickly made. The inspector gave advice on modifying the bulkhead and strengthening the fuselage’s joints with laminated gussets (over 300 were required). Then attention was turned to the marine ply turtle deck, rudder and tailplane. These took three months to modify; this model was going to take some time for Dave to complete.
The wings needed to be completely rebuilt. Ribs were cut, (125 of them) from 1/4″ marine ply. Dave departed from his usual well known love of marine ply to make the trailing edges from 1/2″ hard balsa, The leading edges were manufactured from 2″ dowel and 3/8″ piano wire.
The engine is a 350cc Weslake twin which was given to Dave having completed 10 years as a door-stop since it was seized. Tony Collins applied his magic to restore the engine and add an ignition unit. Dave wanted the sound to be right too. So, by obtaining a recording from a rotary engine, supplied by the Imperial Museum at Duxford he was able to create a suitable silencer. This can be clearly seen in the photograph opposite. The end result is certainly a pleasant sound. Best, I feel, when it is on idle during landing.
There were so many parts to build:
The wheels were laced to offset hubs by a local bike shop following the original spoke pattern.
The undercarriage was fabricated by a local firm as was the plug for the aluminium cowl.
Fuel tanks were made from 1/8″ aluminium sheet and tested to 500psi. These will be strong enough then!
The dummy engine started as an acquisition from a car boot fair as a light fitting. This obviously required some modification to end up as the masterpiece it is now.
The hub was made to fit a 48″ x 10″ propeller by a fellow LMA member for Dave’s hand carved propellers. For normal use Dave is currently using a 39″ x 12″ propeller.
The amount of surface detail is wonderfully crafted. Opposite you can see the guns, bullet magazine feed, sight, bomb rack and working fuel gauge.
Futaba radio is used with two receivers connected to a SM Services buddy system. This allows the possibility of the helper ( second pilot) to take over on a different frequency in the event of interference or a transmitter failure or a pilot problem. The servos are Multiplex Jumbo programmable ones powered by a 6V 4800mA supply.
The airframe was treated with an epoxy resin varnish to prevent any possible future de-lamination of the ply before being covered with Irish linen and four coats of dope. Cellulose car paints were used to paint the model and the markings added by Andy Fredericks, who is a sign-writer.
Flying is a joy. John Greenfield helped with the first flight and reported it was super. Dave seems to be in heaven over it. After every flight his enthusiasm just glows. Dave is currently competing the flight testing with the aim that for next season he will be seen flying it at public events.
Man with his machine (Duxford 2004).
It is sad to report that in August 2005 the model crashed whilst Dave was attempting a take-off. The wings were badly damaged and Dave decided not to carry out the substantial repair. Instead he is considering using the fuselage to produce a version of another Fokker which had a single mid-wing. We look forward to seeing the completed model.
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