dr.i

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Designed with direct input from Manfred von Richtofen himself in response to the potent Sopwith Triplane, the Fokker Dr.I was perhaps the iconic aircraft of the First World War.

The Fokker dreidecker was outstandingly nimble, thanks to its unique wing and tail structures, and enormously popular with its crews. Richtofen (Manfred not Lothar) scored his final 20 victories in a Dr.I and was flying one when he was killed in 1918.

That being said, it was not without its flaws. It’s already obsolescent Oberursel Ur.II engine and high-drag design made it quite slow in level flight and dives. Also, thanks to shoddy construction materials and, (again) high drag, the dreidecker had a mean tendency to shed her wings at the most inopportune moments. The craft also frequently fell victim to ground looping and was quite difficult to land.

The wreckage of Lothar von Richthofen’s Fokker Dr.I, brought down on March 13, 1918. An accomplished ace in his own right, with 40 victories credited to him, he was more fortunate than his older brother, surviving this encounter and seeing the end of the war, although numerous injuries left him sidelined for months at a time.

(Van WynGarden Collection)

With the insistence from the authorities on a triplane, Fokker’s design team created the V 4 prototype, seen here. It would prove to be unwieldy, but with his handling problems fixed in the V 5, the Fokker Dr.I was born.

(Peter Bowers Collection, Museum of Flight)

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In an encounter on March 28, 1918,Lt. Hans Werner’s Fokker Dr.I comes up behind a Sopwith Camel flown by the ace Cecil King. Although wounded in the encounter, King managed to shake his pursuer and bring his plane home successfully, and go on to finish the war with 22 aerial victories, only to die in a flying accident in 1919.

(Mark Postlethwaite)