Dicta Ira

Albatros D.III (OAW) Jasta 28, Summer, 1917
Eduard 1/48

by Tom Cleaver

The Albatros D.III - which appeared on the Western Front in early 1917 - was actually a retrograde step in terms of aeronautics. The German air force command had decided that if the Nieuport sesquiplane was a good fighter, all good fighters should be sesquiplanes, a logical syllogisim that did not stand up in the world of combat. In fact, the sesquiplane design was very limited in applicability, and was far more suited to a low-powered, lightly-loaded type like the Nieuport than it was to the high-powered and much heavier Albatros. Had the Albatroswerke designers stuck to their guns and kept the airplane a biplane, as it was in its D.I and D.II incarnations, the airplane would have been a far better fighter. However, the Golden Rule is "he who has the gold, rules," and so since sticking to their design guns would mean the airplane would be a failure since the air force wouldn't buy any more, good engineering practice was tossed out the window.

The result was that the German Air Service ordered so many of the D.III version that other contractors were needed to keep up with demand. The Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW), a wholly-owned subsidiary, ended up making more of these aircraft than did the parent company, and it was generally believed by pilots that the OAW-built Albatros was the better in terms of production quality. The problems involving wing failure with the single-spar lower wing were far fewer with the OAW machines. The OAW Albatros D.III was distinguishable from the original by its rounded rudder.

As regards construction of this model, I used the Eduard Albatros D.III (OAW) kit, without the photo-etch detail parts. I installed an Aeroclub white metal Mercedes-Benz engine, since the one in the kit is too small, and replaced the kit's Spandaus with white metal Spandaus from Tom's Modelworks, which I think are the most accurate-looking representations of the German machine guns that armed this aircraft. Other than these modificiations and the fact that I separated the control surfaces to pose them more dynamically, the kit was built according to the instructions. This is an easy model to build, and a good kit to start with for a modeler who wants to venture into the field of Great War modeling; done out of the box without any of these modifications, it will make a good-looking model.

As regards the markings, I did this model as an airplane from Jasta 28 in the summer of 1917, from a profile created by Bob Pearson. The personal fuselage stripe marking and fuselage color, and the Jasta marking of yellow horizontal stabilizer with black stripes were painted; kit decals were used for the national markings.

I use the technique of pre-shading the model by airbrushing all panel lines and wing ribs with flat black prior to painting the final scheme. This was all done prior to final assembly of wings to fuselage. I used Gunze-Sanyo and Tamiya acrylics. At the time I began the project, Bob did not know if the upper camouflage of the wings was two- or three-color; just after I finished the three-color pattern, using Gunze Sanyo RLM82 for the light green and RLM83 for the dark green, with Tamiya Red-Brown for the brown color, Bob ran across information that most if not all OAW-built D.IIIs were finished in two-color wing camouflage. I had chosen the three-color pattern because I have a number of Albatri in my collection, and only my D.II is in the three-color pattern, the others all being mauve-green. "Most" means there might have been three-color OAW airplanes, and as far as I am concerned the three-color pattern looks better with these personal and unit markings, and helps the model stand out from its brethren on the Albatros shelf. Dicta Ira!!