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One of the great fighter aircraft of all times, and reputedly the best German single-seater of the First World War. Developed in 1917 the D-VII entered large-scale production by Fokker and Albatros immediately afterwards and began to reach operational units in April 1918. By the autumn of 1918 over forty 'Jagdstaffeln' were equipped with the type and in the remaining months of the war the D-VII acquired a highly operational record. A sensitive but delightful aeroplane to fly, the Fokker D-VII had an excellent all-round performance including first-class manoeuvrability at altitude and the ability to "hang" on its propeller, together with it's twin Spandau armament, was to spell the end of many Allied machine with which it joined in combat. At the time of the armistice Fokker had delivered 412 D-VII's, and many more by licencees, and such was the reputation of the fighter that the Armistice Agreement singled it out by name among the list of items to be surrendered to the Allies. Fokker however managed to smuggle several trainloads of D-VII's to The Netherlands, later selling them to various governments.
Powerplants were the 160 hp Mercedes D.III and the 185 hp BMW IIIa, both watercooled inline 6-cylinder engines.
Production: 1918, several thousand (worldwide only seven left)
Engine: 160 pk Mercedes D.III / 185 hp BMW IIIa
Maximum speed: 202 km/hr
Weight: empty 687 kg.
Dimensions: wingspan 8,90 m, length 9,95 m
The Early Birds Fokker D-VII
This D-VII is a replica under construction using many original parts. The engine is a 1918 Mercedes D.IIIa 'hochkomprimiert', able to produce 185 hp. The engine's provenance has been found out by
Hans Willem van Overbeek, a well-known Dutch aviation author; its serial number belongs to the engine of an Ostdeutsche Albatros Werke (OAW)-built D-VII, construction number 8493/18 (picture). This D-VII was not produced in time to reach the front. In 1919 it was transported to Canada, together with 21 other D-VII's, and flew aerial trials on Camp Borden from 1919 to 1920. From 6 to 8 May of that year is was on display to the public and subsequently donated to the university of Manitoba for a lecture on aviation. After that date there is no further information. Apparently the engine was taken to Australia where Early Birds aquired it on the island of Tasmania. Interesting detail is the lettering "Garantie bis 27-03-19" on the left crankcase side, warning the first owner that factory guarantee on the engine was to expire by that date. The radiator, propeller, fuel tank and some instruments are also original parts.
The wings have been fabric covered and painted in the right colours, that is: in the colourscheme used by the Army Air Corps (Luchtvaart Afdeling, LvA) in the twenties of the last century. From 1914 until 1921 the LvA painted a large orange ball on the fuselage and wings. After 5 October 1921 however this marking was dropped in favour of a red-white-blue circle with an orange center. Despite the absence of an official designation the LvA applied this marking with the red segment facing forward (as it is now on the Early Birds D-VII). As from 1931 the LvA decided to change this and put the white segment facing aft. Per Royal Decree Nr. 90 of 23 December 1932 this became standard for all military aircraft in The Netherlands. Two pictures illustrating this are found under the link: historic pictures D-VII, showing the famous lieutenant Versteegh leading a finger-five formation and a picture of "536".
Wheels and tyres, which were originally white rubber!, are evidently obsolete and were manufactured especially for this D-VII. See film (132kb) of D-VII under construction. During the 2006 Annual Biplane Fly In Early Birds celebrated the official Roll-Out of the Fokker D-VII. On this sunny weekend it was revealed to the public and the press, appearing in many magazines throughout the world.
The pictures below show the construction of the Early Birds D-VII and the nearly finished product.