Revell 1/72 Albatros D.III
KIT #: 04062
PRICE: approx 3.5
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Stephen Foster
NOTES:

HISTORY

      The Albatross Dlll was a development of the earlier very successful Dl and Dll aircraft but differed from these by having a sesquiplane wing - i.e. the lower wing had a very narrow chord. This was copied from the Nieuport 11 and 17 fighters which were very manoeuverable and had similar wing structures: the Albatross fighters were also very agile, especially in the hands of experienced pilots. They came into service in early 1917 armed with two mg 1908 Spandaus and immediately helped the German air arm to achieve air superiority. By the end of the spring many of the Jastas on the Western Front were fully or partly equipped with the type, which remained in production until the end of the year. It was flown by all of the German aces including M. von Richtofen who achieved many of his victories with this aircraft. Aircraft which were sent to Palestine had two radiators fitted to the top wing, and later models had the radiator offset to the right of the cockpit so that it did not spill boiling water on to the pilot if it was punctured in a dogfight. Some machines were built by Oeffag for the Austro-Hungarian air arm. One of the key weaknesses of the design was the tendency for the lower wing to twist in a steep or fast dive and several machines and pilots were lost in this way.

    This was one of the most successful fighters to be used by the German air services in WWl (the other being the Fokker D Vll), and was partly responsible for the disastrous losses of the RFC in April 1917. However as 1917 progressed and better Allied types including the Spad Vll, Sopwith Camel and SE 5 were introduced the Albatross lost its superiority and the balance of power in the air turned once again in the Allies' favour. Nonetheless this type remained a formidable opponent and continued in front line service until well into 1918. Some served in the Polish and airforces of other Eastern European airforces after the war ended.

THE KIT

      This is an old kit - it was originally released in the mid 1960's and it has all of the characteristics of kits from this period, such as a lack of cockpit detail, poor detail on the guns, over-thick struts, etc. Indeed when compared with more modern kits many modellers will turn to the latter, but the one advantage that the Revell kit has is its low price. Basically it is accurate in outline and general shape and can easily be improved by an experienced modeller: equally it is an easy kit to make for those who have little or no previous experience of biplanes, and the rigging is of only moderate difficulty. The instructions are clear and simple and have a drawing showing the colour scheme for W Voss' aircraft as depicted by the model. There were of course very many colourful schemes on these aircraft and some modellers may choose to paint their model in an alternative scheme.

CONSTRUCTION

   Construction is straightforward but as suggested some may wish to ad more detail to the otherwise rather bare cockpit area. I added a seat and control column but little else as much of it cannot be seen by the casual observer. The lower wing,  horizontal tail assembly and tailskid need a little filler but considering the age of this kit these joins are pretty good. The engine is simple but as most of it is hidden this too is not important unless you wish to depict the aircraft with the engine covers removed - in which case you will have to cut them out and add detail to the engine.

COLORS & MARKINGS

   I always paint my biplane models at this stage as the presence of the top wing  makes accurate work almost impossible. The scheme was straightforward, but for those who want a better representation of the plywood fuselage than I have achieved on my model would be advised to search the net for methods of achieving it. My own model was constructed many years ago before Revell re-issued the kit with Voss' markings, so mine were hand painted and show a swastika inside the wreath, whereas the kit markings have a cross here. It is possible that both are correct as markings were changed over time, but I suspect that the real reason why the original swastika is not supplied is because of the ban on Nazi symbols in Germany. (Voss incidentally was not a Nazi: many pilots, including some who flew for the allies, decorated their aircraft with this good luck symbol). I have already stated that there are a very large number of colourful schemes that a modeller can choose from depending upon your painting skills or availability of suitable markings. 

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

     The top wing needs to be positioned carefully as the wing struts are a V so there are no tie bars as there would be if it was a pair of struts. Care should also be taken to get the N struts on the fuselage correctly aligned, but this is not difficult.  The struts could do with a little thinning first as otherwise they look like 4 x 2 timber. The undercarriage is also straightforward. I rigged my model with stretched sprue but monofilament thread or copper wire could also be used for this purpose. If you do use monofilament thread you will need to drill holes in the wings, fuselage and tail before you start assembly and add the threads at appropriate moments as you proceed with the assembly. Do not pull the threads too tight or you will distort the model. The good thing about this model is that it is relatively simple to rig - indeed it was the first biplane that I attempted to rig and the original stretched sprue was so thick that it looked like additional struts! It was replaced a few days later.

CONCLUSIONS

    If you have never made and rigged a biplane before this is a good simple model to start with. Because of its price it would not matter if things do not go quite according to plan because you will not have invested a lot of money. There are many very colourful schemes which can be applied to this model and as the national markings are good the level of painting skill is likely to be the limit of your choice. There is much published on these machines so sources are also relatively easy to find. A cheap if somewhat old kit which may not appeal to those who expect the super-detail of modern kits, but one which can be made into a very respectable model by those prepared to invest a little extra time and skill.

REFERENCES

 Franks N. 2000:  Albatross Aces of WW1 Osprey Publications

Stephen Foster

July 2014

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