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Copper State Model's 1/48 Pfalz Dr.I WWI Triplane Fighter

 

By: Candice Uhlir

INTRODUCTION

A woman doing a review of a model airplane kit !!?? At least that's what my husband said. Well, yes it's true!! My husband was a modeller and then I got interested in the hobby about 4 years ago. I started with a WWI 1/48 Fokker DVII by Monogram. Pretty soon, my sewing room turned into my workshop and I've been doing WWI 1/48 scale ever since. I might build five models each year and something is always on the table. But I'm sure that, like most of you, I wanted to try something different, a kit I've never seen before . That usually means resin or vacuform. When I started to look at the offerings from some of the smaller manufacturers I discovered a treasure trove of kits I hadn't expected to ever see. Is this hobby great or what?

MY FIRST RESIN KIT

I chose to do a resin kit because it seemed that my injection molded construction techniques would transition better to resin than they would to a vacuform kit. My friends in the hobby gave me some words of wisdom: the material is brittle, you need to use CA glue or epoxy, the resin is soft and sands very quickly and so on. With only about 30 kits completed in my short time in the hobby, building a resin kit would be a challenge and hopefully a lot of fun.

THE PFALZ TRIPLANE

Copper State delivered the kit within a week of my order. While I waited for the kit to arrive I decided to do a little preliminary research on the aircraft. Needless to say, with an aircraft this rare, research material is difficult to come by. The best source of information turned out to be "Fokker Dr.I in Action" from Squadron/Signal publications. While primarily concerned about the more famous Fokker Triplane, they do have a small chapter about triplanes from other German aircraft manufacturers. The Pfalz Dr.I was a product of the triplane craze that seized the aviation world in 1917 as a result of the introduction of the British Sopwith Triplane in 1916 and the later success of the famous Fokker triplane.

There were at least eight German companies that produced prototypes of triplane fighters to serve as possible replacements for the Fokker Dr.I. Most of these aircraft were modifications of existing biplane fighters with an extra "third wing" stuck on, as was the case with the Albatros Dr.I. In the case of Pfalz, they took a standard Pfalz D.VII fighter and fitted it with triplane wings. Manfred von Richthofen test flew the aircraft and reported that it did not handle as well as the Fokker Dr.I and that the 160 hp Siemens-Halske Sh.III rotary engine did not develop full horsepower. Consequently only about 10 Pfalz Dr.Is were produced for the Bavarian government.

THE KIT

When the kit arrived, I tore into it. My first look at a resin kit was a little weird: it didn't look like an injection molded kit with parts neatly arranged on a sprue!! There were resin parts for the fuselage halves, single piece lower and upper wings, port and starboard middle wings, two piece stabilizer, and the rudder. All of these are very nicely molded. There is very good rib detail on the wings and clearly defined recessed lines for all the control surfaces. Position holes for the wing struts are clearly marked. I didn't notice any major problems when I dry fitted the parts that a little sanding wouldn't fix. And it looked like the Pfalz Dr.I in the few photographs I found during my research.

The rest of the kit is photo-etch and white metal. The white metal parts are the engine cowling, propeller, struts, pilot's seat, wheels, Spandau machine guns, and tail skid. The Siemens-Halske engine is composed of a white metal cylinder body with photo-etch detail for the push rods and detail plates. All the white metal parts are very cleanly done with very little flash to clean up. The remaining photo-etch packs contained exterior and interior detail parts such as fuselage covers, Spandau barrel wraps, control horns, instrument panels, etc. Decals are from Microscale. They depict the prototype Pfalz Dr.I 3050/17 test flown by the Red Baron. The kit is rounded out with the Copper State German Gauge set. This is used to construct the instrument panel dials and floor compass.

Copper State also provides a nice set of drawings showing the Dr.I from the top, sides, and bottom which defines how the external photo-etch details are installed, any wing dihedral (there is none), locations for rigging wires, color scheme, and decal placement.

How does this all scale out in 1/48?? I don't know - I haven't been able to find any specifications on the actual aircraft itself. If somebody out there has any let me know. I'll measure the kit and post the results. But it looked like the pictures during my dry fitting exercise.

So is there a downside to this kit?? Not really, except for the cockpit.! Since the Dr.I is such a rare airplane nobody really knows what the cockpit looked like. Copper State suggests the layout should be like the Pfalz D.III. It's a good thing I saved my directions from the Eduard D.III - I needed it for reference. Besides the instrument panel detail, seat, rudder bar, and control stick there isn't much else provided for the cockpit. No floor, side detail, or anything else. Nothing a little styrene sheet and stock can't fix up nicely. The fuselage halves seem a little thick also. That is going to be fun for all you guys out there who like to whittle down the fuselage to a realistic thickness. I don't know if I'll go that far, I just want it to look like a nice Pfalz D.III inside. I guess this is my introduction to cockpit scratchbuilding.

CONCLUSIONS

All in all, this kit is cool !! For a small manufacturer, Copper State did a nice job in bringing an example of a very rare WWI fighter for us to enjoy. I can't wait for one of my fellow pilot friends to see it. I can imagine it now - he looks at it and says, "Wow! A Fokker Triplane!!!" I can't wait!!

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Air Intelligence
1999 Modelers'
Reference Guides

1/32 Scale Guide $18.00
1/48 Scale Guide $25.00
1/72 Scale Guide $25.00
HH-43 Huskie Color
Reference Guide $15.00

Please add $3.20 Postage in the US.

TacAir Publications

PO Box 90933
Albuquerque NM
87199-0933
USA
(505) 881-9621

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