Albatros D.III Early Version
By: Scott King
Scans courtesy of Ivan Subrt, Silver Bird Online : WWI Aviation Pall Mall.
KIT: ALBATROS DIII "EARLY VERSION"
KIT NUMBER: 8017
CONTENTS: MOLDED PLASTIC, 57 PCS
The Albatros DIII was always one of my favorite biplanes, and I was pretty excited when Eduard announced the impending release of this kit last year (1998).
There are two marking options provided, one for Manfred von Richtofen, Jasta 11, and for Ltn Frommherz, Jasta 2 (Boelcke). The kit provides the "early version" upper wing with the centrally mounted radiator, which was installed only on the first batch of Albatros-built DIII's. Later a/c had it mounted slightly to starboard, which lessened the chance of the pilot getting scalded if it were holed in combat.
The kit is molded in a medium gray plastic using Eduard's new "LTM" technology, which means the quality is much improved over their earlier kits, and comparable to DML or Hasegawa. A quick look reveals no misalignment of the mold and virtually no flash. The scribing is nicely done, and the trailing edges of the wings and tail surfaces are suitably thin. There is a complete cockpit assembly which comprises 19 well fitting pieces alone. There is no photo etch included, a departure from Eduard's earlier kits, but for the most it isn't really necessary. A check of the main components against the drawings in the Windsock Datafile Special "Albatros Fighters" reveals few discrepancies. The kit fuselage is perhaps a couple of millimeters too long at at the extreme tail end, slightly shallow under the nose behind the spinner, and the wheels are too small in diameter. (Note: I didn't bother to correct any of this on my model).
The fit throughout was very good, filler being required only in a couple of spots on the fuselage. I built the kit pretty much "out of the box" with only a few changes. I added a couple of photoetch bezels and wire levers to part A13 and A16 (instrument panel and machine gun support) but you can't really see them without a flashlight in the cockpit. I also added a photoetch pilot's harness from an Albatros DV. There is no compass, which would be mounted on the right side of the cockpit on a pedestal or on the framework, but I didn't add one.
I felt the landing gear assembly was a little weak, so here I did make some changes. I pinned the V-struts to the fuselage using brass wire and cyanoacrylate, and reinforced the tailskid to fairing joint with a piece of brass wire at its pivot point. Additionally, I strengthened the joints where the axle B15 is supposed to glue to the vertices of the V-struts with wrappings of tan silk thread, which also simulates the bungee cords used on the original.
The color scheme I chose was for Manfred von Richtofen's aircraft, with camouflaged wings, and red painted fuselage, struts, landing gear, and tail. To approximate the finish of the original, I first painted the model in a basic "ex works" finish - varnished plywood fuselage and fin, gray struts, landing gear and metal panels, off-white rudder, and camouflaged wings and stabilizer. Then I applied only the white prtion of the fuselage and tail crosses from an Aeromaster decal sheet, Albatros Collection pt2. Then I overpainted the entire fuselage, tail, landing gear and struts (including the white crosses) with a thin coat of red, which allows the underlying colors to vary the appearance of the red. Then I applied the black portion of the crosses (from the same Aeromaster sheet) and also the wing crosses from the kit decal sheet. All the decals went on fine with a little Solvaset.
WWI colors don't seem to be an exact science, most color "matches" seem to be given as a range of choices, based in part on memory of individuals who were there, scraps of machines that are eighty plus years old, mixing formulas of the time, and sometimes pure speculation and fabrication. The colors I used "looked right" to me, and were close to some of the colors touted by experts. I used Floquil French Chestnut (FS 30108), German Green 62 (FS 34128), Br. Interior Grey Green (FS 34226) for the upper surfaces, and German Lt. Blue 78 (FS 35414) for the undersurfaces, and Model Master Red (FS 31136) for the red.
I substituted some photoetch machine guns for the kit items (personal preference), and after final assembly I fabricated a windscreen from thin acetate, two radiator pipes from copper wire, and rigged the Albatros with .005" stainless steel wire, using the Datafile as a guide.
I am pleased with the completed model, and can recommend it to anyone with an interest in WWI aviation.
Scott King, July 1999
This Kit Review appeared in Tactical Notes, the club newsletter of
Military Modelers Club of Louisville, July, 1999.