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Fokker/Redfern Dr. I Triplane Replica – N105RF

EAA’s replica Fokker Dr. I Triplane was built by Walter W. Redfern (EAA 143) and first flown on July 24th 1964. The “triplane” is arguably the most recognizable fighter of WWI. This example brings the nostalgia and romance of the WWI “knights of the air” to life.

The Fokker Dr. I was flown by many aces of WWI, including the famous Manfred von Richthofen. Although the triplane is associated with von Richthofen, very few of his 80 victories were actually flown in a Dr. I. By the time the model Dr. I was ready for active service, von Richthofen was the commander of Jagdgeschwader 1 (Fighter Wing 1) with 60 victories to his credit. The “Red Baron”, as von Richthofen was known, flew a blood red triplane. EAA’s’ triplane is painted in the colors of Lieutenant Hans Weiss of Jasta 11, part of von Richthofen’s “Flying Circus”.

The engine used in the aircraft was a Le Rhone type J, 9-cylinder, 120hp rotary or others based on the Le Rhone design. A unique fact about the Le Rhone is that its’ crankshaft was bolted to the firewall and the propeller bolted to the engine. Thus the entire engine and propeller would rotate around a stationary crankshaft. This type of engine is known as a rotary engine. The maximum speed was 120 mph with a duration of one and a half hours. The fuselage and empennage are welded steel tubing, the wings are wood, and the airframe is covered with fabric. The Dr. I was armed with two Spandau machine guns that were synchronized with the propeller so that when fired, the bullets would pass through the propeller arc without striking the blades.

In early 1917, the first triplane fighter appeared over the front lines. The aircraft was not a German Fokker but an English Sopwith. The appearance of the English triplane concerned the German Flying Corps enough that they ordered a triplane to be designed to counter the threat. Two manufactures came up with flyable triplane designs with Fokker winning the production contracts. The first offensive action by a Fokker Triplane was on August 30, 1917, when Werner Voss shot down a British aircraft. The triplane was not as fast as its’ opposing ships, but it was untouched in climbing and maneuverability. Manfred von Richthofen is quoted as saying, "It climbed like a monkey and maneuvered like the devil.”

A total of 320 Fokker Triplanes were produced during World War I, a much smaller number than its’ counterparts, such as Camels and Spads, which were produced in the thousands. No original Dr. I examples still exist, but many replicas have been built and flown.

Fokker Dr. I Design and Construction

The Fokker Dr.I was designed and built with the standard methods of the time. The fuselage was welded steel tubing with cross wire bracing. Cross wire bracing was key to the design in that it created a very stiff and rugged frame. The sides were covered with plywood sheets and then the entire fuselage covered with fabric.

The wings of the triplane were made mostly of wood. All three wings were of the same basic design and construction. Box spars made of spruce and plywood formed a very strong basis for each wing. Ribs made of pine and plywood were used throughout. The leading edge of each wing was covered with plywood and then the entire wing covered in fabric. The middle wing was unique only in that it had cutouts that provided better visibility while operating on the ground. Only the upper wing had ailerons. All of the control surfaces, ailerons, elevator, and rudder were constructed of fabric on welded steel frames. This is also true for the horizontal and vertical stabilizers.

Instruments

The Dr. I instruments were extremely minimal by today’s standards. There was a compass, fuel gauge, and ignition switch. That was it! A few models also had a tachometer and an anemometer for airspeed.

Control System

The control system consisted of a control stick, rudder bar, and engine controls. The control stick operated the elevator and ailerons. On top of the stick were two grips. On the right was a fixed wooden grip; on the left, a wooden grip that could be moved fore and aft to throttle the engine. Between the grips was a button to fire the machine guns and an engine interrupter to stop the engine when needed. The rudder was a simple pivoting rudder bar with stirrups into which the pilot could strap his feet. On the left side of the cockpit were two engine controls, a carburetor lever and auto-release lever. The carburetor lever regulated the flow of the combustion mixture in the carburetor. The auto-release lever could be twisted to control the fuel flow valve located on the fuel tank.

Fuel and Oil Systems

Fuel and oil was carried in a split tank mounted behind the firewall. There was enough fuel and oil available for a flight of 1.5 hours. The oil used was generally castor oil.

Donated by: Robert Fergus

This aircraft was researched by EAA volunteer, Dean Dowsett

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