Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tool shed Thursday: Fokker!

Today is tool shed Thursday. Let me leave the shebeen in the capable hands of Mr. Finn, and let's step out back to the shed. That car? It is an Allard, and belongs to Mr. Finn. Think a roller skate with a big engine: I do not see what he sees in it, he looks like a bear on a tricycle driving it.Mr. Finn has been around for years and years. When I was young I asked him how old he was. "Older than dirt, young master." He can be cryptic, our Mr. Finn.

Ah, here we are. A few pointers about the shed. Firstly, you see it is o, 12' x 18' on the outside. Do not be dismayed when we go inside and it looks larger. Mr. Finn built the shed. I asked for a lifesaving service style boat house, and he built this. Secondly, you may see things you do not recognize: best policy is not to touch 'em. We'll open both doors. Careful, almost lost your footing; most people do, once they step inside.See what I mean about the interior size? Mr. Finn created a tesseract, a cube which looks small on the outside but is multi-dimensional inside. Comes in handy; how else could I store a longship, a Ford Model T, a Dodge Power Wagon; a New Holland baler,a Chesapeake Bay skipjack,a make and break engine,and an Indian motorcycle which once belonged to my grandfather? There's his picture on the wall over the treadle lathe. There are 3 generations of shop accumulations in here. Here we are, I moved this week's tool closer to the doors. Grab a corner of the tarp and help me remove it, please; we'll roll her outside. The rear lifts easily, she is lighter than she looks. Easy, there we go. What is it? This is a Fokker Dr.1, prime example of a tool having a reputation all out of scale with it's capabilities. I told my reader I'd yap about triplanes;no time like the present.

Blame the British for developing them:the first triplane was built by A.V. Roe in 1909/1910.The Shuttleworth Collection has a flying replica. When the war started the firm of (Sir) Tommy Sopwith, another pioneer,began work on a triplane design which was introduced with some success over the front in 1917. Less than 150 were built; those few (especially B Flight,No. 10 squadron, RNAS) were so effective the German high command thought they should get themselves a triplane. Several firms, among them Albatros and Pfalz, built prototypes. The design of Anthony Fokker was chosen for production, even though 10 Pfalz Dr.1s were sent to the front. Two of Fokker's prototypes, designated F.1, were issued to the two leading lights of the German Air Service: Rittmeister Baron Manfred Von Richthofen and Leutnant Werner Voss. Two very different but effective pilots. Richthofen was a calculating hunter: flying was a means to an end, bagging game. When commanding his Jasta, he forbade his pilots to do acrobatics. Voss was not a good administrator; he was a 'natural' if reckless pilot, and a tinkerer. Many a time one could find him at the hangar, working alongside his mechanics.Richthofen, Junker to the bone, did not mingle. The Dr.1 had two things going for it: it was light and could climb quickly. Secondly, the design of the wings and that torquey radial engine made it very maneuverable in the hands of the right pilot. The Dr. 1, with its Obereusel engine, was underpowered. Pilots of Voss' Jasta 10 offered infantry soldiers a bottle of champagne for every Le Rhone engine (French) they would bring in. An additional 10 horsepower was gained, small gain but every bit helps. Voss' aircraft had a Le Rhone mounted the day he was shot down. Reports of the British pilots that day ( Voss took on 7 Se5's of No. 56 squadron, amongst them six aces) say Voss made the tripe do things no aircraft was supposed to do. He would hit right rudder, and do a flat turn; before spinning out, he hit the opposite rudder to regain control. No banking turns that evening. He put bullets into every aircraft opposing him, before numbers prevailed.

On the 30th of October, 1917, Leutnant Heinrich Gontermann, Staffelfuhrer of Jasta 15 was test flying his new production Dr. 1above his airfield when one of the top wing's ailerons flew off,fabric began peeling, followed by catastrophic failure of the top wing. The 39 victory ace died of his injuries from the subsequent crash 2 days later. Thus was exposed another fault of the triplane:bad quality control. Later numbers of the 'plane had reinforcements built into the wing; the problem continued intermittently. This put a damper on pilots' enthusiasm for the kite. Production of the triplane never exceeded 350 aircraft;small, even for hand built production. Over 1000 Albatros D.III and the later D.V, backbone of the Air Service, were built. Even Albatri had wing problems: looking at photos of late D.Va's one sometimes sees a small reinforcemnt piece on each wing's V-strut. Odd. The Fokker Dr.1 was a gorgeous aircraft, especially when photographed in the air. It all meant nothing if the top wing fell off.

There you have it, our first tool, proving a tool is only effective as the hand which wields it.


Barrett Bonden said...

I'll have to tread carefully here, there's a good deal of fantasy mixed up in all this persuasive techno-detail and I don't want to make a fool of myself. In any case I've nothing to add to the Fokker because you're so much better informed. But the Allard, ah yes. I'm avoiding Google because I'd rather depend on my memory however defective. In any case what matters is a visceral rather than a pedantic approach to this agressive looking vehicle. Did it have a Ford V8 in it? What it did have was a slender (getting slenderer) nose that seemed to offer minimal accommodation for any kind of angine. The exhaust system must have been illegal because the engine note was one long roar. In the forties on BBC radio there was a popular series called "Dick Barton, Special Agent." In the way of things they made a feature film of it for the cinema and very disappointing it was - everyone looked far too smooth for the punchy characters I'd imagined when depending purely on words and sounds. But the one thing that didn't disappoint was the filmic Dick Barton's wheels. I think you can guess what make it was.

Relucent Reader said...

Sorry for the late response, we had a bear of a thunderstorm, and while there was no lightning strike, the loss of power caused problems with this machine.
Thank you for the comments, BB. Viewing after posting, I thought, hmmm 'too many words' RR;I will correct future columns.
The Allard, particularly the J2 model,was mentioned by my father when, in my adolescence, I'd say,'I'd like a (fill in the name of the latest death trap automobile here)'. Intgrigued, I looked 'em up back then.They became a 'grail' car: their appearances in my beloved Hemmings Motor News were rare. You are right as to engine selection, though once they started shipping them engineless to America, one could have just about any engine put in them.