Kit. No. 8046
Decals: Two versions
Comments: Engraved panel lines, complete engine, detailed cockpit; basic rigging diagram provided
The Pfalz D.IIIa, a sleek, rugged, but underpowered fighter appearing in the last year of the Great War, improved upon the original Pfalz D.III with a new wing, a larger tail, a more powerful Mercedes 180 hp engine, and the relocation of the main armament of two 7.92mm Maxim machine guns from the cockpit interior to a position just forward of the cockpit on top of the fuselage. This last modification was a direct result of the most frequent complaint of pilots, that the location of the guns in the D.III completely denied them adequate access to clear them in the event of a jam while in flight. As for the new engine, while it was an improvement over the 160 hp output of the D.III powerplant, the D.IIIa still had a slower rate of climb and larger turning circle than its contemporaries, the Albatros D.V and the Fokker Dr.I. Along with the latter aircraft types, the Pfalz D.III was one of the three classic German dog-fighters of World War I from the Fall 1917 – Summer 1918 period. By Summer 1918, all of them had been replaced by the Fokker D. VII. The Pfalz D.IIIa was a development of its predecessor, the Pfalz D.III. The D.IIIa bore improvements in the form of a new wing, new tail, better located armament (two LMG 08/15 machine guns forward of the cockpit) and a new 180 hp Mercedes D.IIIa engine.
Deliveries of the Pfalz D.III to operational units began in August 1917. While markedly better than the earlier L.F.G. Roland designs which Pfalz Flugzeugwerke had previously manufactured, the D.III was generally considered inferior to the Albatros D.III and D.V. German pilots criticized the Pfalz’s heavy controls and low speed. The new fighter had an unfortunate tendency to slip in turns, leading to crashes when unwary pilots turned at very low altitudes. The Pfalz stalled sharply, spun readily, and was difficult to recover from the resulting flat spin, but some pilots took advantage of these traits to dive at high speeds, evade enemy aircraft, or both. In response to combat reports from pilots, the D.IIIa was rapidly developed and appeared at the front in November 1917.
750 Pfalz D.IIIa’s were produced, and when they were replaced by the Fokker D.III, they continued in service with training units. Together with the Albatros D.Va and the Fokker D.VII, the D.III and the improved D.IIIa, helped revive Germany’s air superiority over the Allies. Compared to its contemporary rivals, the Pfalz D.III was not an outstanding fighter, but in the hands of a skilled pilot still posed a lethal threat to Allied pilots. It was very fast in a dive, and was frequently successfully employed in attacks against observation balloons. Although never as popular with pilots as the Fokker and Albatros it served alongside, the Pfalz D.III and D.IIIa helped round out the operational strength of the Luftstreitkräfte at a time late in the war when the demand for production of the more capable fighters always outstripped the supply. With the appearance of the Fokker D.VII in the Spring of 1918, all three of the aforementioned fighters began to be withdrawn from front-line service, with most of the Pfalz D.IIIa’s going to training units.
Eduard’s Pfalz D.IIIa depicts an early version. The kit is molded in grey and consists of 53 parts on two sprues. It has engraved panel lines, a complete engine and a detailed cockpit. The exterior of the fuselage bears extensive molded detail, including flush rivets. Although there is a fair amount of detail, the general impression one gets is that the kit is fairly spartan. It does not contain extensive sprues, but it has the feel of providing for a detailed yet simple build. It pre-dates Eduard’s Weekend Edition series (Copyright 2000, according to the instruction sheet), but it could easily have been part of it. The rigging diagram provided is basic, but it gives the modeler the sense that nothing has been left out.
There are two versions: 1) Overall black with black wheels, aluminum wings and a white rudder – mount of Carl von Degelow, Jasta 40, Summer 1918; 2) Red front half and blue rear half of fuselage, with blue upper surfaces, aluminum wheels and aluminum under surfaces on wings — mouth of Hauptmann Rudolf von Berthold, Commanding Officer of JG II, 1918.
- Classic WWI Aircraft Profiles: Volume 2, by Edward Shacklady & Terry C. Treadwell; Cerebrus Publishing Limited, 2002; Bristol, England.
- Windsock Datafile 21: Pfalz D.IIIa by P.M. Grosz; 1995; Albatros Productions Limited.