Monday, September 14, 2009

Photo courtesy of Ryan Lunde:

As we near embarkation, excitement is high! Thanks to our wonderful sponsors at Berkenkotter Motors and Love's Travel Stops, we have transportation and fuel for our ground crew!! In this economy, it is truly most generous of these folks to help us out.

The DVII has passed a milestone. Thanks to pilot Mark Beam, this is the most time in the air it has ever seen. When speaking with Beam about what it's like to fly this amazing machine, he shared the following remarks:

The first thing that comes to mind when asked how the Fokker D. VII flies is, “Well, it’s like flying a Mack Truck.” By that I mean, it has very heavy and stiff aileron controls, the elevator and rudder are also slow to respond to any inputs. Nothing happens fast in this aircraft except time going by as you lose yourself in sights, sounds, smells and thoughts of a bygone era. Just looking at it on the ground you think to yourself, “Wow! That’s a big airplane.” And it truly is when you compare it to any of the other Fokker, or allied full scale aircraft in our collection. It weighs quite a bit more, and has longer wings with smaller ailerons than the Fokker DR 1. When the nose is pointed toward the ground, the D. VII increases speed quickly and it is easy to see why altitude was a fighter pilots friend. Any pitch increase and the airspeed bleeds of quickly. Speed also diminishes in a level turn. With our current setup, we are reaching cruising speeds of about 90-100 mph at 2200 rpm. It is extremely stable and you can fly in level flight with hands and feet off with no attitude changes occurring unless you hit a bump. All of this sounds very discouraging about our D. VII, and like me you are probably asking yourself, How did this become the premiere fighter of WWI?”

I have been pondering the following:

*How spoiled are we by flying easy modern aircraft with modern aerodynamics?

*Our D. VII is a replica, how much has the airframe changed or been modified by more modern building techniques?

*How much has the information/stats/plans about the D. VII been lost in translation or through time?

*How would this aircraft fly if it had an original 160hp BWM or 180hp Mercedes engine versus the newer 200hp Ranger engine? The older BMW engine would add 600 lbs to the aircraft, but would also allow for a shorter nose. The BMW would also swing a 9 ft prop at a lower rpm versus the newer Ranger with a 7 ft prop at a higher rpm.

This week as I was orbiting around Platte Valley Airport, feeling out and learning the D. VII, I was thinking to myself, “This is what it must have felt like to be on an aerial patrol back in 1918. Now where is that S.E. 5 or Sopwith Camel? “ Yes, our D. VII flies like a Mack Truck, but it sure is awesome!

Mark Beam

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