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.IIIaü 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 idiosyncrasies 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.
Hawsegawa’s first attempt at boxing a 1/48 Fokker D.VII kit was in 1992-93 using the old Aurora - Monogram kit plastic. Repackaged that kit had 3 choices of markings. JG I 5125/18, JG II Berthold and Jasta 10 A. Laumann. The second issue is the kit listed above, SL6-2900. This second issue only had Berthold’s markings. The one-piece (oversized white-rib tapes and the mis-oriented) Lozenge is suitable for the Aurora - Monogram Wing. The ribs of the Dragon vs. rib tapes on the decal won’t match up. These decals are also unique in that the apply by peeling the top cover paper backing and lay them white side down on the model. Next minimal amounts of water and slight pressure, then lift off the rest of the card backing. I’m told that is typical for Hawsegawa. I chose to do the Hawsegawa kit to build for this review.
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 “The Flying Sword!!” I like the Roden 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.IIIaü 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.IIIaü 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.IIIaü 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. Hauptmann R. berthold's Fokker D.VII marked "the Flying Sword" 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.
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 (MB2X2) 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 on the strut ends for 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.
1. The kit lozenge decal as a whole is mis-oriented 90 degrees. The arrows point the direction of the long axis of the lozenge pattern. Chordwise or front to rear trailing edge is wrong.
2. The long ends of the individual lozenges need to point Spanwise or from wing tip to wing tip.If you try to cut the lozenge in useable sections then the rib tapes will be off 90 degrees. Kind of like going to an oriental tailor and having your pin stripes run horizontally instead of vertically.
My version of Berthold’s early Schwerin built Fokker D.VII. The propeller is a laminated wood item I scratchbuilt. I used the old Eagle Strike four colour lozenge for the undersurface applications. There is some thought from the writings of ex-Jasta pilots that Berthold had the flying sword eventually duplicated on the white panel on the top wing. The is also some thought that he later gave this machine to another pilot who overpainted the insignia and added his own. If so maybe the rest of the fuselage was later painted red.
The truth is that Berthold could have indeed flown a later model Fokker D.VII, but there are no photos of one in the public domain. There is always the possibility that in some of the extensive private collections around the world there may be one.
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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