by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
Originally published on:
The Fokker D.VII became Germany’s main production fighter in 1918. The airframe was usually matched with the Mercedes D.IIIau 180hp or the D.IIIav 200hp engine. Yet, it was the variant with the BMW IIIa 185 hp motor that pilots prized ultimately. With few idiosyncracies it was not temperamental and a novice with a little nerve could do well. Contemporary construction using welded metal tubing for the fuselage and wooden wing structures was typical. The secret appeared to be in the cantilever boxed wing spars and the simple design that eliminated the need for multiple exposed rigging wires.
For several reasons the Fokker D.VII is a must have item in the serious collector/modeler’s stable. The lack of rigging is a big plus, the various decal sheets of lozenge patterns, unit and pilot markings that are available in most scales. Books on the subject are also at an all time high. I chose the Dragon (DML) 5908 kit to build for this review. It was released back in 1993 and was the second release of the plastic moulds as a kit. The first was 5905.
Step 1. The Mercedes inline motor is a generic representation. Check the references provided for some keynote differences. The Cylinder Jackets themselves were the color of “blued metal ”The BMW is needed to do do “Du Doch Nicht!!” I like the Rosemont/ Atlee Resin BMW. for this kit. Truthfully, most people won’t know the difference. The BMW sat higher in the compartment so about 1.5" more of the cylinders could be seen. The air induction pipes were unified where the Mercedes was divided. Either beg, borrow or steal a better Exhaust Trumpet (C5.) The immediate visual difference in the early Mercedes D.III 160 hp / D.IIIa 170 hp and its progeny the D.IIIau 180hp is in the rocker springs exposed above the cylinder jacket heads. On the early D.III and D.IIIa motors the rocker springs are centered on the sides of the rocker box covers. On the D.IIIau and D.IIIav 200hp motors the springs are located on the forward leading edge of the same covers. They were also that way on the BMW IIIa 185 hp. The rest is below the cowling and not readily visible. Several good manufacturers (Jager and now Roden) note the difference and have two distinct castings. The Mercedes D.III 160hp was outclassed by 1917. The Mercedes D.IIIau 180hp was the standard engine in both of the Albatros D.Va starting in late 1917 and then the Fokker D.VII through 1918. The BMW IIIa 185hp was highly prized by pilots. Many, many D.III and IIIa type motors were rebuilt to the D.IIIa specs at the airparks as the war progressed. That is why some captured examples had motors with the i.d. designation of D.III 160hp cast into their crankcases. This has caused the misconception that the standard 160hp and 170 hp were used in 1918 at a time when they had become obsolete.
Step 2. The seat (C11) and its supports (C12,13) come together well but are flimsy. I trim down the inside surfaces of the seat (C11) and replaced the Supports with bent brass rod. The seat (C11) was covered in fabric that was held by attaching it to eyelets in the seat’s outer rim. As parachutes came into use the Seat was made deeper to accommodate the chute pack as a cushion. I take the lap harness’ (MA7 X2) and heat them. I have done dozens of the DML kit harness’ with good results. Start with the buckle end and anneal them in place move to the other end annealing as I go. Then glue them down using thin Cyanoacrylate. In the Cockpit Rear bulkhead (C1) pre-drill holes for rudder control cables to be added later. What ever the fuselage covering use the same covering on C1. In the case of streaked camouflage I go with plain off white. For the rest I would choose 4 or 5 colour lozenge.
Step 3. The rudder control assembly needs to have the pedal bar (MA8) attached to the column lower bar (C8) at its face and then the cable attachment rings (MA3) are added to the face of MA8 at its mid point. set the rudder control assembly and control column (C6) to the desired position to compliment the attitude you have chosen for the ailerons, elevators and rudder. Heat and anneal the shoulder harness’ (MA2) to cockpit rear bulkhead. Drape the ends over the seat (C11) or have them hang out over the cockpit rim after assembly of fuselage halves (B1,2.) Scratch build an aileron control “V” for cables and attach the “V” at the front end of control and cockpit floor assembly (C2.)
Step 4. I replace the moulded cockpit structure in the fuselage halves (B1,2) with painted brass rod sections Note that the factory printed lozenge pattern fabric used on the Fokker D.VII showed through the interior of the cockpit sides in reverse in lighter shades. The earlier streaked type of Fokker camouflage did not penetrate the fabric in the same way the printed Lozenge type did. Simply an off-white will suffice here. Modify or replace the ammo box (C10) with one closer in profile to the DML / Dragon Fok. Dr.I item. I will usually paint Fokker company instrument panels black and all others give a varnished wood look. Replace the two fuel gauges on the instrument panel (C9) with more recognizable items. Add a hand crank type handle to Magneto, also flip levers to fuel and air controls on C9. I also add a new tachometer dial to the machine gun rear braces (C4). . Don’t add the tail skid (C7) yet.
Step 5. Before uniting the fuselage halves add rigging material to the rudder control column through pre-drilled holes in cockpit rear bulkhead (C1) as discussed in Step 2. Also you should add a Compass and a fuel pressure hand pump to the lower side of the cockpit on fuselage Half (B2.) I find that Tom’s Modelworks brass interior sets are great. They often provide just the right pieces to complete the job. Check the “sit” of the engine you have chosen making sure that it lines up well with the shaft opening in the nose of the Fuselage. There may be a need to trim some plastic, resin or metal before closing up the fuselage halves. Cut away the tail skid mounting ridges in the rear portion of the Fuselage halves (B1, 2.) After uniting the fuselage halves (B1,2) add a section of .040 plastic to the underside of the fuselage from the stern post to the lower wing cutout. Now cut an opening for the tail skid (C7.) This adds needed depth to the fuselage. You will have to sand the mating surface of the fuselage for the horizontal tail unit (C3) to sit flat. It will also be necessary to scratch build a new rudder and vertical fin (B3) from .020 sheet plastic. The rudder must be longer (by about .040) in height and wider from leading edge to curved edge. The vertical fin is to match the rudder’s profile.
Step 6. The fretted gun jackets (MA1 X2) are very thin and heating these is not recommended. before annealing them over the jacket former (C19.) I replace the empty belt chutes (B6 X 2) with bent metal-rod. Allow the part to seat completely on the Plastic barrels Machine Guns ( B5 X2.) And the jacket openings in MA1 X2. The left MG ammo chute (C16 or 17) needs to be lengthened to the Ammo Box (C10)or its replacement. The completed Spandau Machine Guns should be painted in semi gloss black. All German issue Spandau Maxims and Parabellum machine guns came from the factory with the outer surfaces covered in a baked on black enamel. Some highlighting in gun metal colouring maybe appropriate. Some sanding will need to be exercised on the radiator shell (C20) to get a better fit. Sand and blend the Lower wing to the extra .040 plastic skin added to the Fuselage Underside. The cowling side panels are crucial in determining the parentage of your D.VII. The instructions lead you to use the multi louvered / vented panels (B7,8.) The box art is correct in this case in using the early panels with the lesser amount of Louvers/Vents. Oblt.Udet’s Fokker D.VII marked “Du Doch Nicht!!” was an early production type from the parent factory at Schwerin/ Gorries Germany. Technical indications lead us to believe that is was from Production batch 230/18- 376/18. One source says it was 526/18 but I have found no evidence to say this is true.
Step 7. The top wing has to be straightened because of a mold casting problem. It can be plunged into warm water and flexed to shape. You may want to flatten the ends of the Ailerons as they are too round. Next By this time I have painted and decaled all surfaces and they are thoroughly dry. Here slightly clip the 8 ends of the interplane “N” Struts (MB2 X2) or you could drill out the Strut Sockets in the Wings (A1, 2) to add depth. Check your references and compare the wing gap using dividers. or even a inexpensive school compass. To bring the assembly together I use children’s “Lego” blocks. to form a jig to keep everything level and square. Then I usually scratch build the cabane struts (C23-26) from the appropriate diameter brass rod. The half moon Strut attachment points in the underside of the top wing (A1) are a nice touch to add as well.
Step 8. Erase the recessed lines on the axle wing underside (A3). You will need to grind down the under carriage legs (MB1 X 2) at their lower Inset Points to the Airfoil Sockets. This will lower the model assembly and give it the right Gap from Airfoil to Fuselage Underside. Replace the stabilizer struts (MB5 X2) with brass rod. Check the attitude of the Step (MB6) and grab handles (MB3 X 2). This also a determining factory of parentage.
Step 9. If you intend to use the metal wire that is provided, use dividers or a compass to get the lengths. actually needed. Do not rely on the information provided within the instructions.
Step 10. Attach the aileron actuation horns (MA6 X2). The propeller is a 2 scale inches short on each end for a 180hp - 185hp engine. and I tend to replace them with items that I scratch build by laminating layers of light and dark woods and sanding to shape. This a rather easy process and gets easier with each attempt. There are ready made items from a Mr. Martin Digmeyer of Czech republic. The anemometer (C18) is an air speed indicator.
Technical indications lead us to believe that "Du doch nicht!!' was from production batch 230/18- 526/18. Flown by Oberleutnant Ernst Udet CO of Jagdstaffel Nr.4. Second highest scoring German ace. It was operational for barely 3 weeks before being wrecked. The ever popular German Ace Oblt.Ernst Udet’s early Fokker D.VII is now known to be an early Schwerin aircraft not an OAW. Commonly referred to as DDN in reference to the statement Udet had painted on the elevators, “Du doch nicht!!” , which translates to, “Certainly not you!!” It was believed to have been assigned to him on or about June 13, 1918 and was lost in combat on June 26, 1918. Recently, various interpretations of the three known images of this aircraft have surfaced. To convert this machine to an early Schwerin type simply erase the circular access port on each surface of the side cowling panels and the oblong cover on the pilot's left on the upper cowling. Also paint the vertical fin “red” upto the area adjacent to the rudder balance (the forward most portion of the top of the rudder where it curves down to the vertical fin.) The nose and under carriage were probably “red” as well.
The upper wing crosses (#2) and Tail Crosses (#16) are white and should be black.
The upper wing stripes ar translucent and if laid on a red painted wing will turn a pinkish colour. ( I saw this from a friend’s attempt at this same kit) It was for this reason I chose to use the Blue Rider Luftstreikrafte Nr.2 Decal set.
The kit Lozenge decal as a whole is
1. Misoriented like the Hawsegawa set.
2. Really wrong in the individual lozenge colours.
The stabilizer chevron or its continuation up the Fuselage as two stripes is still a point of controversy.
Combat Colours #14 The Fokker D.VII by P. Cooksley, Airfix Magazine. Date unknown.
Details & Colours Windsock Intl. Vol.3 #3 Summer 1987.
Fliegertruppen #2 by A.Ferko, Privately Published, Salem Ohio, 1987. (photocopies may be obtained by contacting the University of Texas at Dallas through the special aviation collection.)
Flight Report Cross & Cockade Great Britain, Vol. 2 # 4.
Fokker D. VII Aces of WWI, pt. I by Franks & Van Wyngarden. Osprey pub. 2003.
Fokker D. VII Aces of WWI, pt. II by Franks & Van Wyngarden. Osprey pub. 2004.
Fokker D.VII by Egon Kreuger, Profile Pub. Ltd. 1962.
Fokker D.VII by P. Grosz, Albatros Pub. Ltd, Datafile #9. 1989, 1993, & 1994.
Fokker D.VII Anthology 1 by R.Rimell, Albatros Pub. Ltd. 1997.
Fokker D.VII Anthology 2 by R.Rimell, Albatros Pub. Ltd. 2000.
Fokker D.VII Anthology 3 by R.Rimell, Albatros Pub. Ltd. 2002.
Fokker D.VII Kit Survey by R.Rimell, Albatros Ltd. Windsock Vol 13, #4 1997.
Fokker D.VII Covering Practices by Dan-San Abbott, WWI Aero #102, Pp.22-33. 1984.
Fokker D.VII Detail Marking and Finish of Fokker-built D.VII Aircraft by Dan San Abbott, WWI Aero #107, 1985.
Fokker Fighters of WWI by A. Imrie, Osprey, Vintage Warbirds #6 Pp.41-64 1986..
Fokker’s Last Deadly Scourge by M. O’Leary, Air Combat, Pp. 18-26. 1975.
Forgotten Fokker by P Cooksley, Cross & Cockade GB Vol.4, #2,Pp.84-86. 1973.
That Fokker’s an Albatros! By Wally Tripp, WWI Aero, #102 , Pp.14-21. 1984.
Udets Fokker D.VII Fighters by Dan-San Abbott, Windsock Vol.4, Spring 1989.
German Army Air Service in WWI by R.Rimell, Osprey, Vintage Warbirds #2, Photos 42-44, 1985
Germany’s Last Knight of the Air by C. Degelow, William Kimber Pub. London, 1979.
Wings of War by R. Stark, Arms & Armour Press. 1973.
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