Rodenís 1/72 Pfalz D.IIIa
By Matt Bittner
The Pfalz D.III was the result of two separate events.† It was designed with the experience Pfalz received from license-producing the LFG Roland D.II.† It was also a response to the High German Command's request for aircraft that would "match" the Nieuport 17.† While some - like Siemens Schuckert, for example - would practically copy the Nieuport 17, Pfalz (and Albatros for that matter) applied their own experience to the lessons the Nieuport taught.† While the Pfalz D.III series wasn't as well liked as the Albatros series, it still provided front line support and could hold its own.
The Roden Pfalz D.IIIa consists of 38 injected molded pieces in typical Roden gray. The kit comes with three schemes: Rudolf Berthold's well known "flying sword" of JGI; A D.IIIa of an unknown pilot serving in Jasta 31 [EDITOR'S NOTE: This is actually D.IIIa 5983/17 flown by Hptm Hans Buddecke of Jasta 30 - RNP]; and Karl Degelow's well known "stag".† It's this last scheme that new research has enlightened us more about.† To begin with, it's now thought that the Degelow was actually serving in Jasta 7 while flying this machine and not Jasta 40 as Roden has printed.† In addition, since it was flying in Jasta 7 and further research of the photo of this machine shows, it was all-over black, including both sides of both wings and all tail surfaces.† One area not yet really known yet, though, is whether the "stag" was silver as represented on the decal sheet, or if it actually was white.
Even though you can buy the kit as either the D.III or the D.IIIa, both kits contain the same parts - the only difference being the decals provided.† You will also need to study the machine you plan to model.† Just because it's labeled as a D.IIIa does not mean it had the later, rounded-tip lower wing.† Some early D.IIIa's flew with the point-tip lower wing.
This is probably the best Roden kit I have seen to date.† While it does have its flaws, overall Roden has done a better job on this model than it has the earlier releases, including those released under their old name, Toko.† The cockpit is decent enough, but could still use refinements if inclined.† Accuracy wise the fuselage is about 1.5mm too short at the nose, and the lower wing about 1mm too wide in span.† Not a lot to truly worry about.† The smaller details appear very nicely done, but do take care when removing them from the sprue.
The problem areas with the kit are as follows.† The rounded-tip lower wing has a lot of surface flaws that appear to be dust or dirt in the molds.† Care will be needed here while removing these flaws so you don't take off the very nicely done rib tape detail.† The way Roden provides for both nose types (D.III versus D.IIIa) is with a separate forward upper nose.† This could prove to be a very iffy fit.† You will definitely need to dry fit this area, but even with dryfitting I have a feeling a lot of the access hatch detail will be removed.
Since Roden provides parts for both the D.III and D.IIIa in the same kit, you will be left with one lower wing, one horizontal tail, one exhaust and one nose as left over pieces.
As I previously mentioned, while I consider the Pfalz D.III/D.IIIa to be the best Roden/Toko release to date, it still has its faults.† With some care and patience it could be made into a very nice replica of this very handsome WW1 fighter.† Hopefully PART will release a photoetch set for it soon, and take care of some of the interior detail as well as replacement hatches for the ones that are bound to be sanded off when trying to get the upper nose to fit.