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Pfalz D.III - From The Blue Max Movie

The German Pfalz D.III began to appear at the front in August 1917, when the first German units were equipped with the type. Along with its Albatros (D.V) and Fokker (D.VII) contemporaries, this was one of the types that helped improve the German Air Force's fortunes at a time when the Allies has been enjoy superiority in the air.

This aircraft was built by Viv Bellamy of the Hampshire Aero Club in England (in the mid-'60s) from drawings by Ray Hillborne, and after spending some time in Ireland it was later sold to Frank Ryder and operated from his museum in Alabama.  Photo: © Historical Aviation Film Unit

This rare Pfalz D.III replica was one of the stars of the classic 1966 motion picture 'The Blue Max', and is shown here in the original movie colour scheme which is a spurious 'seven-colour' lozenge scheme (actual First World War lozenge schemes only have five colours).

Prior to developing the D.III, the Pfalz company had produced over 200 Roland fighters under license. In early 1917 Pfalz' new chief engineer Rudolph Gehringer started to work on the company's own aircraft design, which was similar to the Rolands in that it used a plywood monocoque fuselage. Two layers of thin plywood strips were placed over a mold to form one half of a fuselage, and then two halves were glued together and covered with a layer of fabric. This technique, which had been developed and patented by another German aircraft manufacturer, Luft-Fahrzeug-Gesellschaft (LFG), gave the aircraft considerable strength and smooth streamlined contours, all in a relatively light-weight form.

Powered by a 160hp Mercedes engine, the Pfalz D.III was found to be a heavier aircraft than the Fokker and Albatros types, and would often lose height during engagements with enemy aircraft, which gave it a reputation for being an inferior fighter to those other German types. However, the Pfalz was structurally very sound, and did not suffer some of the failures that others (such as the Albatros D.V's) suffered.


The structural integrity of the type helped to ensure it was a successful diving fighter -- being a heavy aircraft it gained speed rapidly in a dive, and was used with considerable effect to attack and destroy Allied observation balloons.

Throughout the course of 1917-1918 Pfalz built approximately 260 D.III models, and a further 750 D.IIIa models which among other changes had an enlarged semicircular horizontal stabilizer.., and had the twin machines guns on the upper deck of the fuselage making them easier to clear if and when a jam occurred.

It is generally reputed that this aircraft was actually flown by the actor George Peppard, during the filming of the motion picture.

This aircraft was acquired and imported into New Zealand in September 1999 at which time it was no longer airworthy, and had a simple black fuselage with purple wings colour scheme. The stunning 7-colour lozenge colour scheme the aircraft wears now (as seen here) is actually spurious, as no German aircraft were camouflaged like this during World War One—at best the lozenge schemes had only five colours. However when restored this aircraft was painted to ensure it was accurate to its original motion picture colour scheme which had been developed to ensure the aircraft looked better when filmed for the movie.

The aircraft is now based in the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre inBlenheim (New Zealand).

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