Roden 1/32 Pfalz D.III
KIT #: 613
PRICE: $ 64.99 MSRP
DECALS: Six options
REVIEWER: Tom Cleaver


     Pfalz Flugzeug-Werke GmbH of Bavaria obtained a license to produce Morane aircraft in 1914, shortly before the commencement of the First World War.  Following the success of the Fokker Eindekker in 1915, the company modified the Morane “parasol” design to one similar in layout to the Fokker airplane.  The Pfalz Eindekker was heavier than the Fokker, and didn’t perform as well - this would be the story of Pfalz fighters throughout the war: the best second choice. As a Bavarian company, Pfalz’ Eindekker equipped units of the Bavarian air force.

      Pfalz obtained a subcontract to build the Roland D.II, which gave them experience in the singular Roland method of building a monocoque wood fuselage, using wrapped wood strips to make a light yet strong structure.  Building on this experience, Pfalz set out to design a fighter superior to the failed Roland design, that could compete with the Albatros D.III series.  Fortunately for Roland, the one thing they did absolutely right in this decision was to keep the smaller lower wing built with a standard double spar; no Pfalz fighter ever suffered the structural failures that plagued Albatros once they went over to the single-spar lower wing sesquiplane design.

      Designed in late 1916 and flown in the spring of 1917, the Pfalz D.III was powered by the same 160 h.p. Mercedes the Albatros used, giving it a speed of 103 mph, which was slower than the Albatros and attributable to the extra weight of the Pfalz design.  While the airplane was more directly comparable to the Albatros D.III, it entered service in August 1917 at around the same time as the Albatros D.V and D.Va. 

      The Pfalz D.III was criticized for having heavy controls, lack of speed, and lack of power - or lack of climb when compared to the Albatros (it took 17 minutes to reach 16,000 feet). The D.III was found to stall sharply and spin readily, going into a flat spin if not recovered quickly. The D.III also slipped in turns and lost altitude readily, which led to crashes when unwary pilots turned at very low altitudes.

      The Pfalz D.III served primarily with units of the Bavarian Air Force, though many pilots in the Luftkreitskraft (German Air Service) preferred the Pfalz to any of the Albatros fighters, primarily due to the fact that while it might not have been as maneuverable, it could be thrown around the sky without fear of losing a wing.  “Iron man” Hauptman Rudolf Berthold, who had been badly wounded in his left arm, liked the airplane because the throttle was on the stick, allowing him to fly the Pfalz one-handed.  Being heavier than the Albatros fighters and also unlikely to come apart when pulling out of a prolonged dive, the Pfalz D.III was a favorite for attacking observation balloons along the front.

      The one major problem found with the D.III was the fact its twin Spandau machine guns were mounted inside the fuselage; this made it difficult to clear a jam in combat, since the pilot would have to lean over and look inside the cockpit to reach the weapons. The D.IIIa - which entered service in late 1917 - solved this problem by mounting the guns atop the fuselage ahead of the cockpit.

      The D.III and the Albatros series were quickly overshadowed by the introduction of the Sopwith Camel, the S.E.5a, and the SPAD fighters.  By late 1917, the German air service was being regularly out-flown by the more numerous Allied fighters, which led to the priority design of the Fokker D.VII and the re-equipment of the German Jastas in the spring and summer of 1918.

      Pfalz produced 260 D.III and 750 D.IIIa aircraft by April 1918 when production ceased in preparation for the Pfalz. D.XII.  430 D.IIIa scouts were in service in June 1918; by August, the number had dropped to 166, with most withdrawn from frontline units and assigned as trainers.

 Hans Klein:

      Hans Klein was born on January 17, 1891, in Stettin. Completing school before the outbreak of war, he joined the Army and became an infantryman on the Western Front.  Commissioned in March 1915, he transferred to the Luftkreitskraft a year later and was assigned to Jasta 4 in November 1916. He achieved his first victory in the first week of “Bloody April” 1917.       Klein’s seventh victory was scored on April 13, 1917, when he shot down the F.E.2b flown by 7-victory ace Captain Lancelot Lytton Richardson who was killed and his observer captured in this fight. Klein was wounded in action on May 9, 1917. Returning to Jasta 4 in late June, he was wounded again on the morning of July 13, 1917, by which time he had scored 16 victories. 

      Following recovery from these wounds, Klein was promoted Jastafuehrer of Jasta 10 on September 27, 1917. Jasta 10 was the first German fighter unit to equip with the Pfalz D.III.  Flying the D.III, Klein scored 6 more victories before losing his right thumb in combat on February 19, 1918. He rejoined Jasta 10 in May 1918, but served the remainder of the war as a ground officer.

      Klein joined the new Luftwaffe in 1935 and eventually served as Deputy to Adolf Galland, General der Jagdflieger. He achieved the rank of Generalmajor before his death in a flying accident in 1944.


     Roden’s Albatros D.III is like many of their 1/32 kits, in that its basic design is scaled up from smaller models, though there is significantly more detail in the engine compartment and the cockpit.  The wings have Roden’s excellent fabric surface representation, with separate ailerons and thin trailing edges.  The rudder and elevator are also separate, allowing the model to be given a dynamic pose.

      Decals are provided for six different aircraft, including the well-known D.III flown by Hans Klein as leader of Jasta 10 in the fall of 1917.


      Construction starts with the engine.  Once this was assembled and painted, I began construction of the fuselage.  Fortunately, the interior is overall light grey, which I painted with Tamiya “Sky Grey.”  The internal bulkheads and engine mounts were attached with cyanoacrylate glue, after which I attached the engine in position and put in the controls and seat.  I used the Eduard 1/32 German seatbelts, which improve the overall look.

      Because the plastic is thin and flexible, the fuselage needs to be carefully assembled to limit the creation of an uneven centerline seam.  If you do this carefully, you will only need a bit of cyanoacrylate glue along the seam, covered after sanding down with Mr. Surfacer.  The lower wings and horizontal stabilizer attach easily, though I needed both glue and Mr. Surfacer to smooth out the join of the wing to the lower fuselage areas.



      The D.III was painted Silbergrau,” a color that is exactly as it says: “silvery-grey.”  I mixed Tamiya “Flat Aluminum” with Tamiya “Flat White” and painted the model overall.  I lightened the color and went back over the wing ribs and areas of the fuselage to give the effect of sun-fading on the paint - this was mostly to try and make it less monochromatic.  I then masked off the nose and tail, and painted those areas, the cabane struts, interplane struts, landing gear, wheels and prop spinner  with Xtracrylix German “Gelb 04".  I painted the prop with my “Yew” color and streaked it with Tamiya “Hull Red.”


      Roden’s decals go down easily.  I used black stripe decals for stripes on the fuselage side.


     I attached the landing gear after “muddying” the wheels with Tamiya “mud” from their weathering set.  I then attached the cabane struts and interplane struts with cyanoacrylate glue, and then attached the upper wing.  Getting the piping from the radiator to the engine was “fiddly,” but this was the only hard part and it wasn’t that hard. The model was rigged with .010 wire.


      The Pfalz D.III may not have been one of the outstanding performers of the First World War, but it is a good-looking airplane, and one that served an important role in the final year of the Great War.  The model is not difficult to do out of the box, and provides enough material for someone to produce a beautifully-detailed “show stopper” with not that much extra effort.  It looks great sitting next to the Albatros D.III and the two Fokker triplanes.  Highly recommended.

 Thanks to Roden for the review kit.

 Tom Cleaver

September 2008

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