Albatros D.I–D.Va Legendary fighter

“The Albatros D-III popularly known as De-drei is a sleek single-seat biplane fighter armed with two machine guns shooting through the propeller arc.

It goes up like a balloon, while its speed at full throttle is up to one hundred seventy kilometers per hour.

‘Be careful when taking off: it has a very sensitive rudder!’
Then there is just the engine check to complete, “remove chocks” and I am off taxing for takeoff, I raise my hand to indicate I am ready, I get the go-ahead flag signal and push the throttle lever to full rpm. The aircraft sets off like a racehorse immediately gaining speed, just begging to get airborne. Wheels clear the ground – I am airborne! I had not even had time to ‘be careful when taking off,’ the plane just took me away to the skies, carrying as it goes – and it can go!
I try to use ailerons, then the elevator, eventually the rudder; the stick and rudder bar move lightly, they offer virtuallty no resistance, while the plane rolls to the sides, climbs and dives, turns smoothly and lightly, without any delay; it is running fine, agile and maneuverable like a swallow. I like the De-drei immensely.”
The way Janusz Meissner described the Albatros D.III in his book Jak dziś pamiętam1 shows the pilot’s fascination with the plane. It also proves the merits of the design that originated in 1910 from a German aviation factory Albatros Werke G.m.b.H. Its main office was in Johannisthal, Berlin, while its O.A.W branch was in Schneidemühl (present-day Piła). From 1916 onwards, Albatros fighters presented a large percentage of fighter planes in combat units, with many aces having flown them. Therefore it is worth to look closely at the history of that aircraft type.

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The Albatros fighters played an important role in the aerial warfare of the Great War. They were the workhorse of the German air service from the autumn of 1916 to the summer of 1918. During that time the Albatros had become the most popular fighter type not only in German service, but also in Turkish, Austro-Hungarian and Bulgarian units-, quite contrary to common beliefs that the Fokkers, especially the Dr.I and D.VII models, were the quintessential World War I fighters. The Fokker may owe its claim to fame to Hollywood productions that immortalized its image as “the” German fighter, or perhaps it was the result of a vigorous marketing campaign launched by Anthony Fokker himself.
Whatever the case may be, it is an undisputed fact that over 350 German fighter pilots earned the ‘ace’ title – scored five or more kills – flying the Albatros and 29 of them went on to receive the highest German decoration – the Pour Le Meritte (Blue Max).
For those reasons the history of a design that was born at the German Albatros Werke G.m.b.H. deserves a closer look.

The graceful fighter

Any war is the time when military hardware is developed and ideas how to use it in the field evolve. The Great War was the time when military aviation boomed rapidly. Very early on it became clear that there was no such thing as a universal aircraft that could meet the ever growing needs of reconnaissance, bombing raids, liaison, directing artillery fire and, finally, engaging enemy planes in the air.

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Makeshift adaptations of available machines for fighter duties were insufficient. By the end of 1915, a concept had developed that fighters should be able to fire machine guns in the direction of flight. The British and French tried to solve the issue by introducing pusher designs, i.e. the aircraft with the engines installed behind the crew cockpits, so that the rotating propeller would not interfere with shooting.