Fokker Dr.I – Mark C. Wilkins

Review by Adrian Roberts.

The Fokker Dr.I is probably the best known aeroplane of W.W.I due to its association with Manfred von Richthofen and to its distinctive appearance. It was built in relatively small numbers, and only served at the Western Front for three or four months, but it was the best German fighter around at the time, when the Albatrosses were becoming out-classed. As the book points out, it was an evolutionary dead-end in that it was the last of the fighters that emphasised manoeuvrability in a dogfight over speed, but almost all the aces active at the time used it, sometimes when they had alternatives. 

This is a nicely produced photo-orientated book. The text is brief, but does cover the basics, including the structural deficiencies, and there are some interesting photos of the ‘also-rans’, triplane prototypes from other manufacturers. It will probably be of use to model makers. It does assume the reader has a basic knowledge of Great War aviation, but there are other books for readers wanting in-depth analysis. The latter part is devoted to colour photos of flying and museum reproductions. It is an American book and also attempts to be a travelogue of the various flying collections in the USA, such as Old Rhinebeck. 

There are some errors. The designation is written throughout as ‘Dr.1’, when it should be a Roman numeral (having said that, although ‘Dr.I’ is the convention among historians, original photos show the type identification stencilled on the actual aircraft was ‘DR.I’). The Sopwith Triplane is stated to have a top speed 15 mph faster than an Albatros which is doubtful. When we are told the Sopwith Triplane had a trim wheel to allow it to be flown hands-off, this is followed by an exclamation mark as though this is unusual. Other errors are common to many books: the tendency of a rotary-engine fighter to turn much faster to the right than the left is described as due to the gyroscopic effect of the engine. It was, in fact, the torque effect. A gyroscope would make it less manoeuvrable, not more. And why is the Red Baron so often described as infamous, when he was no more ruthless than many Allied aces? 

ISBN 978-0-76435-968-2

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