Arguably one of the most beautiful aircraft of the first World War, the Pfalz D.IIIa (and its earlier sister, the Pfalz D.III) was never to garner the same sort of fame accorded to its closest rival among the Jastas - the Abatros D.III/V/Va. And this is a shame, as the Pfalz was a well built, fast design, that according to Allied pilots who had the opportunity to fly both designs was the 'better' aircraft. Rudolf Berthold prefered to fly the Pfalz over the Albatros and his markings are among the best known for the type. The main difference betweeen the D.IIIa and the D.III was in the posistion of the machine guns. the D.III had its Maxims (popularily called after the place of manufacture - Spandau) buried in the noise out of the pilots reach, the D.IIIa found these in the more usual position on the forward fuselage decking here the pilot could get at them. Other differences were an enlarged tailplane and a rounded tip to the bottom wing.
After seeing the MAC Fokker E.IV, I thought that the Pfalz D.IIIa wouldn't be worth even looking at, but thankfully this kit is no repeat of that Fokker monstrosity! This kit, in contrast, is simply beautiful. The moldings are crisp, the detailing well done, and the marking choices are interesting to boot.
The kit comes molded in a dark gray and as with any kit the first place I look to is the interior. This kit has a decent blend of injection and etched brass parts, although one glaring omission is the seatbelts. These can be added from any number of aftermarket sets or from paper, but considering everything else they included, it seems odd to leave them out.
The engine is molded in two halves and while it will need some cleanup it should look very good. Interestingly, MAC has included both injection plastic manifolds and ones in etched brass. Why they included the brass ones I don't know, as the plastic parts are very petite and look much more realistic than the flat brass ones.
The wings and tailplanes are very nicely done, with the rib detailing being subdued. Radiator detailing in the upper wing is well molded and is quite nice. The struts are thin and have no flash and will require only a little cleanup. The rudder is a separate piece, making it easy to position to one side. Just make sure you position the rudder pedals to match....
One thing that is missing is a rigging diagram, leaving you with the boxtop artwork as your only source for rigging this plane. This is unfortunate for those who don't have any references on this plane, but careful study of the box illustration will get you there.
The decals are nicely printed by MPD and give you two choices: Max von Holtzem's and Hans Georg von der Marwitz's. Von Holtzem's is that seen on the boxtop, with the striped rear fuselage and stylized comet, while von der Marwitz's features an orange diamond on the fuselage side outlined in black and an orange tail also outlined in black. Unfortunately the decal sheet does not include the orange and black portions of this scheme, so you'll have to do that yourself.
This is, hands down, the best injection-molded Pfalz D.IIIa currently available. That's easy to say, as it is the only one currently available. Still, it is very well molded and the detailing out of the box is excellent. If you wanted to go to town on this little kit, all you'd need to do is pop in some brass Spandaus, maybe a resin engine and some brass cockpit details and you'd have a show stopper in no time. If you were burned off by the MAC Fokker E.IV, this kit will more than make up for it.