Monday, January 23, 2012

Dr.1: An Introduction to the Project

Model airways has contracted with me to develop a Fokker Dr.1 kit to add to the series that includes the Curtiss “Jenny”, the Sopwith “Camel”, the Newport 28, the Albatros D.Va and the Wright “Flyer”. I began design work on it in December 2011 and will finish it in early 2013. To explain how I came to get this contract, here is my story.

In 1998 I saw a magazine advertisement for a museum quality 1/16 scale Albatross D.Va kit. It had all wood and metal parts like the original. It wasn’t inexpensive at $199 (as best I remember). But, it was a kit like I had only imagined. I had to have it and ordered it immediately.When I opened the box it was jaw-dropping. The engine alone had over 100 cast metal parts neatly displayed in small plastic boxes. There was photo-etched brass sheets and laser cut wood parts. The 47 page instruction booklet and 6 plan sheets were very well done. The whole presentation radiated quality and I am not easily impressed. I am an engineer and can find fault with anything. But, this kit was impressive!

A year later, the 1/16 scale Albatross was finished and I was still smiling. I had spent a couple hundred hours building a museum quality model (I am slow and meticulous when it comes to models and this was not an easy kit to build). Even the controls worked. Everything about the kit lived up to the feeling I got when I first opened the box the first time.

This experience led me to call Marc Mosko, the owner of Model Expo and the Model Airways product line. I asked if he was considering a Wright Flyer kit, since the hundredth anniversary of the first flight was approaching (this was in 2000). He hadn’t planned on one, but liked the idea and so we contracted for me to design the Wright Flyer kit for Model Airways. It came on the market in 2003.

That was ten year’s ago and the Wright Flyer kit has sold well. Since that time I have built a full sized airplane and with that now in the air, I was looking for my next project when I heard that Eric Snow, the new President of Model Expo was looking for someone to design the Dr.1 kit. I jumped at the chance to get to know this iconic airplane as well as I did the Wright Flyer.

The Fokker Dr.1, Tri-plane is probably the most famous fighter of WWI. It is known as the plane flown by Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron who is credited with 80 victories before he himself was shot down and killed. What isn’t appreciated is that von Richthofen’s first victory came in September 1916 and he only flew the Dr.1 from September1917 until his death in April 1918, accounting for only the last 20 of his kills. A majority of the prior victories were in various models of the Albatros (the D.Va is also a Model Airways kit).

As I began to research the plane, I was surprised to find that it is small airplane, 18’ 1’’ (5.77m) long with a span of only 23’ 7” (7.19m). Its empty was a mere 895lb (405 kg). It was powered by an Oberursel UR II engine which was a copy of the French LeRhone type 9Ja. This was a rotary with 9 cylinders that spun around the stationary crankshaft producing 110 hp (84 kw). What made is such a good fighter was that it could climb to 3000 ft (about 1000m) in less than 3 minutes. It had a ceiling of 19,000 ft (over 6000 m) and it was highly maneuverable with a very high roll rate.

One challenge designing this kit is that there are no original Dr.1’s in existence nor are there any original plans. Every Dr.1 seen at an air show or in museum is a replica built from one of a number of sets of plans that have been developed from the pieces and photographs that survive.

I will continue to post to this blog as I develop the plans and the kit. I am first making a set of drawing on a CAD system (Autodesk Inventor). This solid model will help with the parts and plans as I will relate in future blog postings.


  1. Very interesting, thanks for the info. hasegwa manufactered a 1/8 scale modell which i built. It was quite a good model. Maybe you could use it to help you. I have all the model airway kits and have built the albatross and the wright flyer.

    I am really lookng forward to this kit

    1. I have a set of Hasegawa plans. They took some liberties with model design that I dont plan on taking. This kit will be 1/2 as big but more accurate.

  2. Hi Dave

    I am interested in the Sopwith kit. What is the most difficult part(s) in construction eg prop carving and what tools did you find useful. Is a video of construction available?

    Cheers Paul K