by: Stephen T. Lawson [ ]
HistoryThe first victory recorded in a Fokker Triplane was achieved by Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen when he brought down an RE 8. The crew believed the oncoming machine to be a British Sopwith Triplane. Bad construction and the proximity of the top wing to the propeller wash caused in-flight failure. Being withdrawn and then re-emerging in strength in Jan.1918 the Fokker Triplane equipped most of the Jagdstafflen of the 3 Jagdgeschwaders (Fighter Wings) of the German Fliegertruppe during the first half of 1918.
Kit HistoryAs can be seen the Aurora kit held the reins for years in the 1/48 scale. In 1989 the brave effort of Blue Max gave us a truly more accurate version of the Dr.I. The highly detailed “White Metal” motor was the main draw to many modelers. The Blue Max kit was hindered only by the “pinning” needed to attach wings and struts securely. Still, to the collector it is a must have item in any case. Finally, the first effort in the WWI arena for Dragon Models Limited was its production of the Dr.I. Issued in 3 different pilot liveries this kit is the standard to date of the best Fokker Triplane in 1/48 scale. I personally have built 34 of these DML kits since 1992. Aerobase' stripdown Fokker Dr.I was supposedly manufactured to use the DMK/Dragon kit. Since I believe that PE can't stand alone I will dicuss its use with the plastic parts from the DML / Dragon kit.
Kit Contents111 Photoetch brass pieces.
1 Resin piece.
1 Metal Screw.
19 Step Instructions.
1 sheet 16.50"X 11.75" 2 sided.
Box 12" X 7.5" X 1.38" with a cardboard insert for internal reinforcement.
The BuildStep 1. Ignore the instructions recommendations concerning color applications. The interior wood faces should all be clear varnished on the Dr.I. The only painted portions were the metal fixtures. According to photos of crashed Dr.I types where we see the cockpits opened up to extract the wounded pilot personnel. These photos show that a light grey green or mid to light grey was used on metal surfaces. Instrument backing cup should be mid green or black. The triangle shaped Fairings that flare the fuselage sides (A1 & A2) and flooring panels.(A10) should be varnished wood.
I begin with replacing the fuselage (A12 & 13.) I find its better to do a half uncovered version and keep one side of the plastic fusekage without any inner moulded details. Here I begin to add the Aerobase brass fuselage. Its more like oragami. But it creates a fine structure. The Aerobase instructions are in Japanese with some English notations. They are pretty easy to follow and are well planned. Some parts of the brass 2 dimensional parts are best replaced to represent the originals in scale. The DML / Dragon kit comes in handy for this.
I add two short sections of brass rod under the flooring that run from on lower Longeron to the other. This structure can be painted as you add them. I use a .080 gauge drill bit to cut into the ear tabs on the lower end of the control column (C7.) To this same part I add a small piece of sprue to the right handle at its top and attach the other end to the top of the control column (C7.) Fine wire can be led from the left handle of C7 attach to the shaft and pass through the flooring. You can attach a length of thin wire or flux to the fuel tank air pressure hand pump (C10.) Give this “Air Hose” a half loop and the it should lead forward to the engine area. The pump itself should be silver/Aluminum and the handle black. The rudder stabilizing bar (A16) needs to be thinner or the hole in the rudder bar (MA6) itself needs to be opened up. The handle to the air mixture quadrant (MA5) should be bent in slightly. The pilot should be able to reach this with his left hand and operate it without banging his knuckles.
Step 2. According to the seat from 425/17 in Canada’s Royal Military institute you should add .040 to the underside of the seat (C5.) This will mean the removal of the harness retaining studs as well. Use a motor tool cutter to thin the inner face of the back and arm rest of (C5) the seat. This was evidently covered in fabric and the seat cushion was the parachute pack. The outer face would be aluminum. The addition to the seat underside will raise it but still keep it well within the cockpit. The seat supports (C2 & 3) are intergal with cross brace to rest the seat (C5) front edge on. The harness assembly (MA12 & 13x2) are heated to easily anneal them into place. Begin attaching the harness buckles and work out to the other ends. Once shaped the item can be glued into place again starting with the buckles and working outward. The screen/bulkhead is also apart of the Aeroobase fuselage and can be painted to represent clear doped fabric. The reinforcement edge was leather. Add the horizontal bar on this screen to represent the lower horizontal bar on the seat support frame.
Steps 3 & 4. Paint the inside of the fuselage halves (A1 & 2) before joining permanently. The ply fairings are as stated, varnished wood. The three support structures for each of the fairings was metal tubing. At this time add the rigging material of your choice to the cockpit controls. Do your self a favor and replace the cross brace (A17) with a metal rod. The original length of A17 is too long, so cut down the replacement accordingly. The instructions note that you should add ballast to the rear area of the fuselage. Why is the question? The only thing ballast will do is eventually collapse the tail skid (C4.) Do yourself another favor and leave the pilot's step (MB1) and the grab handles (MB7 x2) off until the very last step.
Step 5. The machine gun jackets (MA1x2) provided in the kit are very suitable for annealing before rolling them on the forming tool (C1) kit item. This allows the pieces to form precisely. I like to add the rear sights provided in smaller 1/72 scale kits at the are more “in-scale” for 1/48 than other aftermarket kits in 1/48. Note also that there is a ridged/ corrugated metal plate under each gun’s blast suppressor. If you can drill out the gun muzzles this is a nice touch. One technique to drill out gun muzzles is to take an .080 micro drill bit and push it through plastic sheet until you get a build up at the tip in a conical shape.
Sand it with a flexible file and cut it to the length desired then remove it from the drill bit by pulling it off. You now have a hollow cone to add to the front assembly. Finish the guns in semi-gloss to flat black and highlight with a gentle gun metal dry brush. The front sights (MA2 x2) are to be added later but I would deal with them now. Open the bottom notch further to accept the gun barrels of D3 &4.
Step 6. The Ammunition Box (A18) needs to be notched at its lower corners to match the original item. Check your references. Attach the ammo box (A18) to the underside of the middle wing (A5) center section. The semi inset fuel gauge could do with a gauge face. If your using monofilament as a rigging material then drill out the smaller cable holes. Also the larger cabane strut locator holes should be slightly deepened at this time. After adding the control horns (MA9 x2) I change the ailerons to match the control attitudes that I had already chosen before starting to build.
Step 7. The plastic interplane struts (A21 x4) are too long marginally. File down about 1/64" from their tabs at each end. One other fix is to drill deeper the locator hole for these struts in all wing assemblies. Wait to add the cabane struts (MB5 & 6) and interplane struts (A21 x4.) The Aerobase struts could be used for the brass connections , but lack the metal fram details needed for the 3 dimensional look.
Check the wings for straight and level appearance. Some plastic kit examples may need flexing in warm water. Now here is the Aerobase kit's main flaw. The wings are too deep in chord by about 1/16 of an inch. To keep the appearance of the DML / Dragon kit wing part at the right depth you mist add 1/16" to them. Otherwise tou have to cut down the Aerobase wing ribs in the front by 1/16". Again if your using monofilament it may be necessary to drill through the top wing (A4) or the Aerobase brass box spar. For the dual aileron cables and the holes for the cabane struts. Then move to the base of the forward stay wires crisscrossing near the gun muzzles, in the center wing (A5).
Step 8. First start with the lower wing (A6.) Using a square, a dry fit will tell you that the Fuselage inset needs to be sanded / filed back or the lower wing (A6) will NOT sit square. Once The lower wing is in place add the middle wing (A5) and make sure it is likewise square. At this point add the modified interplane struts (A21 x4). As long as the upper pair of The interplane struts appear to be continuations of the lower set in angle the top wing (A4) will go on flawlessly. When attaching the top wing align it so that the pitch is similar to the others.
Step 9. Don’t paint the propeller (B1) olive drab. Thr Aerobase propeller is simply too thing for my tastes. There are several ways of approaching the problem of painting a laminated propeller. First give the item a coat of acrylic “buff” or linen. After thoroughly dry, give in a flat coat and let that dry. Paint the dark wood laminations in enamel on one blade. Then paint the other to match by using a simple paper template. Often I prefer to build my own laminated wood replacements. The Reich Plate (MA7) should be applied to the pilot's right side of the cowling (A8.) The one piece Aerobase (red) resin item lacks the best detail so it was replaced with the DML / Dragon item. The motor (B5) cylinders should be a darker color (gunmetal) than the boss plate (bare metal). Then give the whole assembly a coat of translucent /thinned earth-dirty tan.
Step 10. Sand off the details on the underside of the Axle Wing (A9.) There should be seam stitching on the underside of the fuselage from tail Skid to the edge of the lower wing cut out. The horizontal tail surfaces (A3) needs to be altered. First separate the elevators from the stabilizer. blunt or sand the Elevator at both lateral ends comparing them to a plan view. The stabilizer needs to be shortened in chord and at the ends to match the altered elevators.
Step 11 & 12. Continue to rig the tail unit. The fine wire from DML came in straight lengths that was never enough to do the interior as well. The Dragon kit reissues all seem to have that curled wire that has to be annealed to straighten it out and again its only 400mm.
DecalsNone in the Aerobase kit.
My Build herew/n 1856, Fokker Dr.I 144/17 flown by Ltn Eberhardt Stapenhorst of Jasta 11 when he was brought down by Anti-aircraft fire and captured on 13 Jan. 1918. It was given the British capture number G.125 It was later displayed with other captured aircraft in the “Agriculture Hall” in Islington. All of which had half of their coverings removed to display internal structures to the public for the price of 1 penny. Proceeds went to the RAF Hospital Fund. This is an Aerobase & DML / Dragon kit crash.
References:Cross & Cockade Int. (GB) Vol. 3 #3, 1973
Cross & Cockade Int. (GB) Vol 6 #3 Fold out Cutaway diagram. 1975.
Cross & Cockade USA Vol. 1 #1 p.36 1960
Cross & Cockade USA Vol. 5 #1 Pp.1-29, 1964
Cross & Cockade USA Vol. 18 #2 Pp.164-176, 1977
Cross & Cockade USA.Vol. 21 #1 Pp. 81-90. Jasta 14, 1980.
Cross & Cockade USA Vol. 23 #4 Pp.318-334 Baumer & Dr.1 204/17, 1982.
Fighting Triplanes by E. Hadingham, Macmillian Pub. 1968.
Fokker Dr.I, by J.M.Bruce, Profile Pub. #55, 1965
Fokker Dr.I Aces of WW1, by VanWyngarden/Franks, Osprey Pub. Aircraft of the Aces series #40, 2001.
Fokker Dr.I ...A Reappraisal by A.Ferko & P.Grosz, Air Enthusiast Eight. Pp. 9-26,
Fokker Dr.I Datafile # 5 by R.Rimell, Albatros Pub. Ltd. 1987.
Fokker Dr.I Drawings by Dan San Abbott, WW1 Aero #122, 1988
Fokker Fighters by A. Imrie, Vintage Warbird Series #6, Arms & Armour Press.1989.
Fokker Dr.I, Flugzeuge die Geschichte Machten by J. Kranzhoff, Motorbuch Verlag, 1994.
Fokker Dr.I Special Datafile by R.Rimell, Albatros Pub. Ltd. 1991.
Fokker Triplane-ology by A. Imrie, C&C Int. Vol.23 #4, Pp.57-64, 1995.
Fokker Triplanes in Service by Dan San Abbott, Over The Front Vol 5.#4 Pp.326-339. 1990.
Fokker Triplane by A. Imrie. Arms & Armour Press. 1992.
German Fighter Units - June 1917-1918 by A. Imrie, Osprey Pub. 1978.
Pictorial History of the German Army Air Service by A.Imrie, Ian Allen Pub. 1971.
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