The Fokker Triplane: My Secret Obsession
Ok I have a confession. I’m in love with another airplane besides my darling RV-8 and I’m not entirely sure what to do about it.
It started innocently and impulsively. I was strolling through Kitplanes and came across a company selling plans for a full scale Fokker Triplane….thus my obsession began. I know, it’s not easy being me.
Some tidbits about the infamous Fokker Triplane
The Dr. I, the Dr stands for Dreidecker or triplane, first flew on July 5th, 1917. It was in direct response to the Sopwith Triplane that was being successfully campaigned by the British on the Western front in early 1917.
It was powered by an Oberursel Ur. II 9-cylinder rotary engine (110hp) and although at 115 mph max speed, it was not fast, it could climb like the devil and out turn anything in the sky at the time.
The Dr. I used two Spandau IMG 08 7.92 mm machine guns synchronized through a big Axial 8’7″ prop.
Famous for his Red Triplane, Manfred Von Richthofen, The Red Baron, was not the highest scoring Dr. I aviator at 19 kills, that distinction goes to Josef Jacobs, with 47 victories. Although, Richthofen did meet his death in the Dreidecker.
320 where built – an NONE of them survive today. This is an important point, any Triplane you see is a replica. Some replicas are better than others, but there are no original Fokker Triplanes in existence. Ironically they weren’t lost in World War I, but WWII.
Although it might be one of the most impractical airplanes in existence, I excitedly bought a set of plans
in hopes of building one some day. Since this is a cottage industry, you never know when the plans might not be available.
These particular blueprints are made by Walter Redfern and they are arguably some of the best drawings out there today. They are only modernized where safety and practicality would dictate, so things like a tailwheel instead of a tail skid, brakes, and modern powerplants, are accommodated. Redfern even includes 3 different engines you can choose from, an actual rotary engine (not practical), a radial engine, or a 4 cylinder Lycoming, which hides well under the cowling and can look surprisingly good.
I know this was sacrilege based on the fact that I was in the last 10 months of my RV-8s construction when I started this obsession – how could I look at another women, er I mean, airplane?!
Something really captured me about this legendary design. Maybe the fact that it’s a real fighter; maybe it’s because none of them survived; maybe because it has such a strong visual presence. I’ll never know the answer to that question, but I would love to build it and see for myself.
Why is all this secret? Because if my wife knows I have designs on building another airplane I will surely end up on in divorce proceedings. Let’s keep this between us, ok?
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