March 2009



Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - Washington D.C.




(All pictures by  EAF51_Bear)






Voisin 7




 The Voisin 1912 Type, as it was referred to by the French military, also sometimes identified as the Voisin Type 1, launched the standard configuration of almost all Voisin aircraft throughout the war. Designated the Type L by the Voisin factory, this seminal airplane was an equal-span biplane with no dihedral, with a short nacelle carrying the crew of two in front and an 80-horsepower Le Rhône 9C engine at the rear. A cruciform tail was attached to the wings with a set of booms, and it had a quadricycle landing gear. A second pre-war military design, similar to the Type L, powered by a 70-horsepower Gnome 7A engine, was produced in 1913. Although they were largely obsolete by the start of the war, the sturdiness and the reliability of these, and subsequent, Voisin aircraft enabled them to form the backbone of the French night bomber force until late in 1918. Les Frères Voisin was conservative in its design philosophy. There were only slight, incremental design changes in the airframes during the war. Improvement in performance of the successive types was made principally by installing more powerful engines, usually necessitating wings of greater span. The first wartime version, the Voisin 3, powered by a 120-horsepower Salmson M9 engine, had a range of 200 km (125 mi), carrying a bomb load of 150 kg (330 lb). The 1918 Voisin 10 by comparison, which in outward appearance looked much like the Voisin 3, had a range of 350 km (220 mi) with a bomb load of 300 kg (660). The 280-horsepower Renault 12Fe engine of the Voisin 10 gave it a maximum speed of 135 kph (84 mph) at 2,000 m (6,562 ft) altitude, 37 kph (23 mph) faster than the Voisin 3 at the same altitude. During the war, the Voisin pusher series performed a variety of missions, including reconnaissance, artillery spotting, training, day and night bombing, and ground attack. The first recorded armed aerial victory of the war occurred on October 5, 1914, when a French pilot and his observer, flying a Voisin 3, downed a German Aviatik B.1 with bullets fired from a Hotchkiss machine gun. The Voisin 3 is also notable in having equipped the first dedicated bomber units. Voisin 3 units staged a retaliatory attack against the Badische Anilin Gesellschaft at Ludwigshaven, Germany, on May 26, 1915, shortly after the German Army introduced poison gas in battle. Successful daytime attacks on targets within Germany ensued, but by 1916 the Voisin 3 and its immediate successors became vulnerable to new, better performing, German fighters. (The Voisin Type 4 was similar to the Type 3, but was fitted with a 47 mm cannon and used primarily for ground strafing. The Types 5 and 6 were virtually the same as the Type 3, except that they had more powerful Salmson engines.) The Voisins were slow and with their pusher configuration they were defenceless from the rear. Despite these limitations, these rugged and reliable aircraft still had a role to play. Voisins were used as trainers and for night missions for the remainder of the war. Voisin pusher aircraft were supplied to, or built under license by, twelve countries, including Britain, Russia, Italy, and the United States.The Voisin Type 8 entered service with French night bombing squadrons in November 1916. (The Type 7 was a transitional model of which only about a hundred were built.) The Type 8 was intended to be powered by a 300-horsepower Hispano-Suiza engine, nearly double the output of the 155-horsepower Salmson used on the Type 6. But the Hispanso-Suizas were not available in sufficient numbers, and a 220-horsepower Peugeot 8 Aa inline was substituted. To accommodate the bulkier and heavier Peugeot, the Type 8 required an enlarged and strengthened fuselage, and greater wingspan. It was fitted with either a single machine gun or a 37 mm cannon.The new engine provided a nominal increase in performance over the Voisin Type 6 while carrying the same bomb load of 180 kg (396 lb); but it was unreliable. Voisin then developed the Type 10, which combined a lighter and more powerful 280-horsepower Renault 12Fe engine with the Type 8 airframe. The Type 10, with improved range, speed, and bomb load, replaced the Voisin Type 8 early in 1918. Only one Type 9 was built. It was a modified Type 8 with 160-horsepower 8G engine intended for reconnaissance. (Source:  http://www.pilotfriend.com )


Spad XIII, Ecadrille Lafayette






The fast and rugged Spad XIII was among the most successful fighters of World War I, in a class with the legendary Fokker D.VII and Sopwith Camel. This plane was developed to create an efficient opponent to larger, more powerful, and more heavily armed German aircraft. In fact previously the French fighter planes were armed with only a single machine gun. Introduced in May of 1917, the SPAD XIII became the first aircraft of the Escadrille Lafayette, an American volunteer pilot squadron attached to the French Army. Spads were also used by the British, the Italians, the Belgians, and the Russians.  It was flown by some of the most famous air heroes of the war, such as Guynemer, Fonck, Nungesser, Lufbery, Luke, Rickenbacker, Baracca. The aircraft was particularly noted for its robust construction and its ability to dive at high speed, features that made it one of the best dog-fighting airplanes of the war. The Spad XIII was produced and deployed in great numbers. By the end of 1918, the parent company and eight other French manufactures had built 8,472 of the sturdy fighters. Almost every French fighter squadron was equipped with them by the end of the war, as well as the American units that were part of the American Expeditionary Force. The plane displayed at the Air and Space Museum is painted with the colours of the Escadrille Lafayette.





Albatross DVa





In 1916, Albatros Werke produced the remarkably advanced Albatros D.I. It featured a streamlined semi-monocoque fuselage, with an almost fully-enclosed 160-horsepower in-line Mercedes engine, and the propeller spinner neatly contoured into the nose of the fuselage. A sesquiplane version with narrow-chord lower wings, designated the D-III, was introduced early in 1917, and served with great success. The Albatros D.V model was fitted with a more powerful 180-horsepower engine, but was plagued by a rash of upper-wing failures. The wings were strengthened, resulting in a re-designation, the D.Va. Unfortunately, the necessary strengthening increased the weight and negated the performance advantage of the new engine. Approximately 4,800 Albatros fighters of all types were built during World War I. They were used extensively by the German Air Service throughout 1917, and remained in action in considerable numbers until the end of the war. Many of the highest-scoring German aces achieved the majority of their victories while flying Albatros fighters




Fokker D VII







The German Fokker D.VII is also considered one of the best fighter aircraft of the First World War. During the second half of 1917, the Allies had regained air superiority over the Western Front with the S.E.5 and the Spad fighters. To counter this, the German government invited aircraft manufacturers to submit prototype single-seat fighter designs for evaluation at a competition to be held at Adlershof airfield in Berlin in January 1918. The selected one (on 31) was the in-line-engined Fokker V.11, which became the Fokker D.VII as a production airplane. The V.11 was largely the creation of Fokker's chief designer, Reinhold Platz and was completed just before the Adlershof competition began on January 21, 1918, so Fokker had little time to test it beforehand. Fokker received a production order for 400 Fokker D.VIIs. Concerned that the Fokker factory would be unable to meet the demand for the new fighter, IdFlieg (Inspektion der fliegertruppen), directed Albatros, (Fokker's great rival) to produce D.VIIs under license. The Johannisthal-built aircraft carried the designation Fokker D.VII (Alb) and those constructed at Schneidemühl were identified Fokker D.VII (O.A.W.)Fokker D.VIIs began to reach front line units in April 1918. Initially, the D.VII was powered by a 160-horsepower Mercedes D.III engine. By the summer, however, the Mercedes-powered D.VII was already having difficulty keeping pace with the latest Allied fighters. The airplane was then experimentally fitted with the new 185-horsepower B.M.W. IIIa, which dramatically improved performance. Unfortunately, only limited quantities of B.M.W. IIIa were available. The B.M.W.-powered model, known as the D.VIIF, was much sought after by the German pilots, but could only be supplied in small numbers. When the Fokker D.VII appeared on the Western Front, Allied pilots at first underestimated the new fighter because it lacked the sleek, graceful lines of the German Albatros fighters. But they soon revised their view, despite the comparatively ungainly appearance of the D.VII. One reason for this was the soon-to-be-famous ability of the Fokker D.VII to seemingly "hang on its propeller," and fire into the unprotected underside of Allied two-seater reconnaissance aircraft. The Fokker D.VII's thick wing section endowed the airplane with good stall characteristics. Positioning below and behind a two-seater, where the enemy observer could not bring his guns to bear, a D.VII pilot could safely put his airplane into a nose-high attitude, with full power, in a nearly stalled condition. The capability of the D.VII to perform this maneuver made it a highly feared opponent in combat.




Sopwith 7 F1 Snipe





In the spring of 1917, Britain's most famous World War I fighter, the Sopwith Camel, made its debut. Shortly after deliveries to front-line squadrons of the Camel began, Sopwith designed a new single-seat fighter called the Snipe. The new airplane was simply intended to be a derivation of the Camel, with improved visibility for the pilot, and gentler handling qualities, more reminiscent of the earlier Sopwith Pup. After nearly a year in development, the new fighter went into production in spring 1918, and the first examples arrived in squadron service on August 30 of that year.

The Snipe, as successor of the Sopwith Camel, allowed the Allied squadrons in late 1918 to face the Fokker DVII on equal terms above 12,000 feet where the Sopwith Camel was unable to match the DVII. The Sopwith Snipe was devoid of the flying twitches and idiosyncrasies of the Sopwith Camel. The Sopwith Snipe was a much easier aircraft to fly. The Snipe was well-liked by those who flew it, but many Camel pilots, having mastered the tricky habits of their previous mount, were reluctant to relinquish the Camel's superior combat maneuverability for the Snipe's more stable flight characteristics. However the Sopwith Snipe was not designed to be an energy fighter, it was a dogfighter, plus the German aircraft it was facing were slower than the Sopwith Snipe. Due to German industry lacking resources from the Royal Navy's blockade, no German aircraft would have improved in their speed capability significantly in 1919. Snipes generally were used for escort work, but the airplane could be equipped with four 9 kg (20 lb) Cooper bombs beneath the fuselage. The Sopwith Snipe would go on to become the Thomas Sopwith firms last production aircraft by conflicts end. Over 1,500 examples would be produced and would serve in some capacity up until 1927.






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