Eduard 1/48 Pfalz D.IIIA






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Tom Cleaver






Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke GmbH first got into the fighter business in 1915 with their Eindekker. The airplane was based on the Morane-Saulnier Parasol series, with the wing moved down to the upper fuselage, similarly to the better-known Fokker Eindekker. Heavier than the Fokker, the Pfalz Eindekker was not as good as its Fokker rival; the few that were made equipped units of the Bavarian Flying Corps, Pfalz being a Bavarian company. Being "the best second choice" would be the role Pfalz fighters would play for the rest of the war.

Following the success of the Albatros D.III series, Pfalz set out to design their own fighter. The resulting D.III was so similar in layout to the Albatros, even using the same method of constructing the refined and streamlined fuselage, that the airplane was frequently mistaken as an Albatros by Allied pilots once it reached the front. Like the Albatros fighters, the Pfalz was powered by the 160 h.p. Mercedes "straight six" inline engine, endowing it with a top speed of 103 m.p.h. and a service ceiling of 16,995 feet. Heavier than the Albatros, the Pfalz D.III was found to steadily lose height in a turning fight. The airplane was, however, more rugged than the Albatros series and though it was also a sesquiplane, it never suffered the structural failures of the Albatros D.V series.

The German Air Service began equipping fighter units with the rugged and reliable Pfalz D.III in August 1917; again, the primary units to fly the airplane were the Jastas of the Bavarian Flying Corps. More directly comparable to the Albatros D.III, the airplane entered service at roughly the same time as the Albatros D.V and later D.Va.

The D.III was well-liked in service; one of its foremost exponents would be Rudolf Bertold, commander of Jasta 18, who liked the airplane for the fact that its throttle was on the control stick, much like a motorcycle. Bertold had been badly wounded and his left arm was nearly useless; with the throttle in this position he could fly the airplane much better than he could one with a traditional throttle placement on the cockpit sidewall.

The one problem of the D.III was that its twin Spandau machine guns were mounted inside the fuselage, which made it difficult to clear a jam in combat. The D.IIIa solved this problem by mounting the guns in the more traditional position atop the fuselage ahead of the cockpit. The later version also had a larger horizontal stabilizer.

Together with the Albatros D.Va and the Fokker D.VII, the D.III and the improved D.IIIa, helped revive Germany's air superiority over the Allies. Compared to its contemporary rivals, the Pfalz D.III was not a great fighter, but it was very fast in a dive. It was frequently used to attack and destroy observation balloons with great success. More than 1,000 of these airplanes were produced and saw service between August 1917 and the summer of 1918, with some units flying them till the end of the war.




Eduard may have started its existence as a manufacturer of limited-run injection-molded kits, but that has not been the case now for the past two years. Eduard has become the "Tamiya" of World War I modeling, producing finely-molded kits with sufficient detail to provide a good starting place for World War I modelers, who are generally more involved with advanced modeling techniques. The recent kits are fine straight out of the box, and this Pfalz D.IIIa kit is no exception.

Eduard released the earlier Pfalz D.III as one of its first "new mold process" kits back in late 1996. Checking this kit with the D.III model sitting on my shelf demonstrates that this is a new-design model. This release is the simplified kit, with no photo-etch detail parts. Even so, there is sufficient detail here to make an excellent representation of the real thing as an "out of the box" build. The rib and fabric effect on the wings is particularly noteworthy for its more-accurate restraint, as compared to the "hills and valleys" some people seem to think a fabric-covered wing resembles.

The model is simple; for those who have considered building a World War I model but have held back due to the difficulty of construction with a limited-run kit, and the further effort needed to rig the model, this Pfalz D.IIIa would be a good "first kit." It is at least as simple as any of the easier World War II-era models, and the rigging of the airplane was considerably simpler than other First War designs. The airplane also saw almost all its service in a basic paint finish of overall "Silbergrau," a slightly-greyish overall aluminum paint, which makes finishing the model easy. The model looks to be a good "weekend project."

Decals provide two marking schemes: the well known D.IIIa flown by Ltn. Max von Holtzen of Jasta 16, and another D.IIIa of the Bavarian Flying Corps' Jasta 30. This airplane is also well-known in World War One circles for its orange tail markings. Eduard has provided a set of their vinyl "express masks" to allow the modeler to get the right shape for this marking, though you will be left on your own to match the shade of orange used on the fuselage marking.

Unfortunately, the decals are extremely difficult to use, at best. Eduard used to use Propagteam decals, which have a reputation for sticking like glue to the first thing in sight, but can be dealt with if applied carefully. Recently, they have had their decals printed by MicroScale, which offer no problems. However, a test of the new Polish decals in this kit reveal that they not only stick like glue to the first thing in sight, they stick like cyanoacrylate glue, and will pull apart if an attempt is made to move them once on the model! On the basis of this experience, modelers are well-advised to obtain either of the Aeromaster Pfalz D.III decal sheets, both of which have D.IIIa aircraft as options. Otherwise, unless a modeler is *extremely* careful with these decals, the air is likely to turn purple over the modeling bench when it comes time to finish what is otherwise a truly excellent kit. When contacted about this, Eduard representatives told this reviewer that they had recently discovered that the decals produced for the kit were not the same quality as those provided for their original tests, and that they will not be dealing with this company in the future. Unfortunately, this still leaves you, the modeler, with the option of trying to use nearly-unusable decals or buying the Aeromaster sheets."

Overall, this looks to be another winner for Eduard, and further proof that they are indeed the world's leading manufacturer of kits of First World War airplane