|REVIEWER:||Scott Van Aken|
Work on the prototype D.III started in late July or early August 1916. The date of the maiden flight is unknown, but is believed to have occurred in late August or early September. Following on the successful Albatros D.I and D.II series, the D.III utilized the same semi-monocoque, plywood-skinned fuselage. At the request of the Idflieg (Inspectorate of Flying Troops), however, the D.III adopted a sesquiplane wing arrangement broadly similar to the French Nieuport 11. The upper wing was extended while the lower wing was redesigned with reduced chord and a single main spar. "V" shaped interplane struts replaced the previous parallel struts. For this reason, British aircrews commonly referred to the D.III as the "V-strutter."
After a Typenprüfung (official type test) on 26 September 1916, Albatros received an order for 400 D.III aircraft, the largest German production contract to date. Idflieg placed additional orders for 50 aircraft in February and March 1917.
The D.III entered squadron service in December 1916, and was immediately acclaimed by German aircrews for its maneuverability and rate of climb. Two faults with the new aircraft were soon identified. Early D.IIIs featured a Teeves and Braun radiator in the center of the upper wing, where it tended to scald the pilot if punctured. From the 290th aircraft onward, the radiator was offset to the right.
More seriously, the new aircraft immediately began experiencing failures of the lower wing ribs and leading edge. On 23 January 1917, a Jasta 6 pilot suffered a failure of the lower right wing spar. On the following day, Manfred von Richthofen suffered a crack in the lower wing of his new D.III. On 27 January, the Kogenluft (Kommandierenden General der Luftstreitkräfte) issued an order grounding all D.IIIs pending resolution of the wing failure problem. On 19 February, after Albatros introduced a reinforced lower wing, the Kogenluft rescinded the grounding order. New production D.IIIs were completed with the strengthened wing while operational D.IIIs were withdrawn to Armee-Flugparks for modifications, forcing Jastas to use the Albatros D.II and Halberstadt D.II during the interim.
At the time, the continued wing failures were attributed to poor workmanship and materials at the Johannisthal factory. In fact, the cause of the wing failures lay in the sesquiplane arrangement taken from the Nieuport. While the lower wing had sufficient strength in static tests, it was subsequently determined that the main spar was located too far aft, causing the wing to twist under aerodynamic loads. Pilots were therefore advised not to perform steep or prolonged dives in the D.III. This design flaw persisted despite attempts to rectify the problem in the D.III and succeeding D.V.
Apart from its structural deficiencies, the D.III was considered pleasant and easy to fly, if somewhat heavy on the controls. The sesquiplane arrangement offered improved climb, maneuverability, and downward visibility compared to the preceding D.II. Like most contemporary aircraft, the D.III was prone to spinning, but recovery was straightforward.
Albatros built approximately 500 D.III aircraft at its Johannisthal factory. In the spring of 1917, D.III production shifted to Albatros' subsidiary, Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), to permit Albatros to concentrate on development and production of the D.V. Between April and August 1917, Idflieg issued five separate orders for a total of 840 D.IIIs. The OAW variant underwent itsTypenprüfung in June 1916. Production commenced at the Schneidemühl factory in June and continued through December 1917. OAW aircraft were distinguishable by their larger, rounded rudders.
Peak service was in November 1917, with 446 aircraft on the Western Front. The D.III did not disappear with the end of production, however. It remained in frontline service well into 1918. As of 31 August 1918, 54 D.III aircraft remained on the Western Front.
This is another of Eduard's older kits that has been repackaged at a most welcome price as one of its Weekend Edition kits. This provides no special materials (Resin or Photoetch), a single decal option and minimal instructions. Well, that last part just means that all the instructions are on a single folded sheet as they are superbly drawn with a number of small detail drawings to be sure you have the bits in the right place.
Two sprues of Eduard's usual brownish plastic are provided in a resealable bag. Detail is very good with no molding glitches and well done fabric on the flying surfaces. As you know, the Albatros had a plywood skin so you'll need to either brush up on your painting (pun intended), or get one of the many wood grain decal sheets that are out there.
Many modelers will probably want to find a replacement for the solid plastic seat as these had wicker seats. I've seen these in resin and photo etch so they are out there. Some etched jackets for the machine guns would be nice as well, though either of those will take away from the inexpensive build aspect of things.
The kit provides a nicely detailed engine as well as excellent detail on the interior. The instructions give you a very well done rigging diagram and you can also use the box art to help. The decal sheet provides markings for Vzfw Fritz Jacobsen of Jasta 31 in May of 1917. Right and left profiles and an upper surface profile are given on the box sides. Though all the decals on the sheet are numbered, there is no corresponding numbering on the box. This means that only those markings seen will be able to be properly placed and several will remain unused unless you have other boxings of this kit that show data placement. The decal sheet is well printed and since the surfaces are flat, you should have no trouble with them. Color information in terms of Gunze paints are provided on the side of the box.
I know several modelers who love to build these kits and will gladly grab up all they can find at these lower Weekend Edition prices. The Albatros D.III is not the simplest aircraft to rig, but if you've built a few WWI planes, then this will not be a problem.
My thanks to www.eduard.cz for the preview kit. Get yours today at your local shop or on-line store.
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