Airfix 1/72 Albatros D.Va

KIT #: ?
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Stephen Foster


    The Albatros DV was a derivative of the earlier and very successful D III single seat scout and employed the same sesquiplane layout (where the lower wing has a much narrower chord than the upper wing. This gives better manoeuvrability but at the cost of structural weakness). One of the design changes in the D V was that the fuselage was made into an oval cross section, not flat sided like the D III so that the attachment of the lower wing to the fuselage had to be changed. The wings of the D V were attached to stub sections built into the fuselage in order to maintain the same span but these joints were not properly tested and were a point of serious weakness such that when the machine was put into a steep dive the stresses which caused the wing to twist (a feature of the sesquiplane layout), placed so much strain on the wing root joint that it failed with catastrophic results for the pilots, several of whom crashed and were killed as a result. No solution to this problem was found and as a result pilots were at a disadvantage against opposing machines which could escape by turning into a steep dive. Furthermore the overall performance of the D V was little better than the D III it was intended to replace, but such was the pressure on the German Airforce that they continued to use the D Va, a strengthened version of the D V, in considerable numbers until November 1918.


  The Airfix Albatros DV a is an old kit as it was one of the first to be issued by the company in 1957. It is therefore pretty basic by today's standards, yet for many years it was one of only a few WW1 aircraft in 1/72 scale. It was re-issued a couple of years ago with new transfers but the moulds were the originals. Compared with some modern offerings this is a bit of a challenge to make into a good model, but the effort required is actually not all that great and a reasonable replica can result if a little time and care is taken with it as I hope to show. In spite of what has been written in articles about the size and shape of the fuselage aft of the cockpit, in fact it is the nose which is too short and shallow. This is very difficult to put right so it is best left alone as very few people are able to tell anyway. I made some other modifications which I will describe below but it is for the individual modeller to decide how much restoration and detailing (if any) to add.

I was inspired to make this model in part by an article by Lol Watson on the Airfix Tribute Forum and in order to take a trip down memory lane. When I was a teenager I did not have the skills to carry out conversions or elaborate painting schemes and was a bit frustrated as a result. Then I saw in a boys comic an article about a German WW1 pilot who flew an Albatros DV with zebra stripe markings and I decided to paint a model in this scheme. I do not remember who the pilot was and as there were several aircraft marked in different variants of zebra striping I cannot now be sure who the subject of the article was. However a little research on the internet led me to the website and an image of an aircraft flown by Ltn. Rudolf Windisch of Jasta 32 in the summer of 1917 and I chose this to be the subject of my model. Windisch started flying bombers and reconnaissance sorties on the Eastern Front in 1916, but transferred to fighters in early 1917 and was posted to Jasta 32 where he adopted the scheme illustrated on the rise of flight page. He was credited with 8 victories with Jasta 32 and transferred to become commander of Jasta 66 in February 1918, where he was credited with another 14 victories before he was forced down and disappeared on 27 May 1918. His fate is not known. According to the rise of flight website two versions of his personal scheme are recorded in photos with wider borders to the national crosses and wider lines for the stars.


   This is a simple kit to construct but it has no internal detail at all so at least a seat and bulkhead at the rear of the cockpit should be added. Seat belts are easily made from paper and a control stick from rod if necessary, but fortunately little can be seen of the cockpit interior when the top wing is on. The engine is crude to say the least and in my kit was missing altogether, so I decided to make an engine from scratch using laminated card to make the block and thick sprue filed to the correct diameter for the cylinders. Scraps of card and rod were used for the cylinder heads and rocker arms and fuse wire for the pipes on the sides. Stretched sprue was used for the inlet pipes and an oil tank was made from sprue filed to shape. A new exhaust system was made from rod and card. The engine covers were cut from the fuselage and new ones made from 10thou card which was bent around the handle of a paintbrush. A new spinner was shaped from laminated card and new propellor blades were cut and shaped from card.

   The lower wing to fuselage joint is poor and needs packing with 10 thou card. Check this carefully before assembly and glue the card to the underside of the fuselage first. When fixing the wing check carefully for alignment and then fill the gaps with filler and rub down. The tail unit comes in two pieces which also do not fit well so I removed the elevator, glued the stabilisers to the fuselage and filled the gaps and rubbed them smooth. I then cut a new elevator from 30 thou card, sanded it to aerofoil section and glued it into place. The holes for the cabane struts on the left side of the fuselage are also too low and should be filled and new ones drilled. Use the positions of the holes on the right side as a guide as these are in the correct places. The machine guns are best thrown away and replaced with those from another kit or, as in my case, I managed to find some from Aeroclub, although these are very rare now. I added the cartridge chutes to the guns from card. I also drilled a hole for the return pipe from the wing radiator on the left fuselage side. The undercarriage legs fit reasonably well but a little filler may be needed in the holes. I also added the ends of the legs between the top of the lower wing and fuselage and the small rings around the top of the front legs but again this are very minor details. I added a rectangle of 10 thou card with one side scored under the top wing t represent the lower side of the radiator and drilled two holes to take the radiator pipes.


    Biplanes are usually best painted before the top wing is fitted as it makes life not only easier but bearable.  The fuselage was given three coats of thinned white paint and then the black stripes were carefully measured and marked with pencil dots. I hand painted the stripes as trying to mask them was almost impossible on the tapering fuselage sides. The underside of the wings and tail were painted in Humbrol light blue (H 42) and the upper surfaces Humbrol purple (H 44) and Revell green (SM 362). These are close enough to the original colours which varied considerably anyway. The engine cylinders and guns were painted black with a little silver mixed in to give a metallic sheen, and the engine block silver with a little grey. Struts, radiators and radiator pipes, undercarriage legs and wheel discs were RLM grau, tyres light grey. The tail skid was light wood as were the propellor blades. The dark laminae were Humbrol Brown Bess (an old colour no longer available). The exhaust was rust (H 113). The crosses on the wings and fuselage should have come from the kit but mine did not have any. Sadly Airfix did not reply to my request for a set but I managed to find some courtesy of a kind fellow modeller. The tail crosses were from an old set of transfers which I found in my spares box. The stars of David were made from Letraset lines touched in with white paint.


     I fitted the oil tank, exhaust and machine guns after I had done all of the painting. The top wing was then fixed into place. This needs care when the cabane struts are attached to the fuselage to make sure that the wings are correctly aligned. When the structure is dry the wheels can be attached and the axle holes filled if necessary (as on my model). Small control horns were added to the elevator and the model was complete except for the rigging. I rigged my model with 42 SWG copper wire rolled flat and attached with superglue. This saves having to drill lots of holes and rig thread and then fill all of the holes when you have finished. However each modeller has his/her preferred method which works best for them. This is an easy biplane to rig so if you have not done this before this is one to start on. The little trestle was made from 10 x 20 thou Evergreen strip and was an afterthought.


   For a kit of its age this stands up well. These old kits are simple and by today's standards crude, but they are cheap and very easy to make. It is up to the individual modeller what detail or refinement to add but with a little effort a presentable model can be made which looks a good deal more expensive than it really cost. In addition the number of different colour schemes to choose from is huge. German fighters in WW1 were some of the more colourful wartime machines and no two were the same. They do not need to be complicated to achieve a dramatic effect as I hope mine shows, but you can have an individual model with just a paint job.

Stephen Foster

November 2014

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