Fokker DR I
During the First World War the Dutch aircraft constructor Anthony H.G. Fokker developed a triplane in Schwerin as the counterpart to the newly built British Sopwith triplane. Originally it was given the model designation F 1, but was renamed Fokker DR I in order to emphasize the special feature of the triplane. With the prototype the wings were not connected to each other, but only fixed at the fuselage of the plane. As this construction proved to be too unstable, Fokker soon developed an improved version with connecting shafts between the wings. The lining of the undercarriage axle served as auxiliary buoyancy wings. The horizontal tail was brought forward a lot for the first time and merged into the fuselage at a pointed angle. The Fokker DR I was about 5.7 m long and had a wing span of about 7.2 m. At an altitude of 4,000 m it reached a top speed of 165 km/h. It needed just under three minutes to climb to an altitude of 1,000 m and could stay in the air up to 1.5 hours at a time. So in spite of its compact method of construction, the plane distinguished itself through its manoeuvrability and performance.
Serial production began in July 1917, but many of the planes had defects and crashed. For that reason, at the end of 1917 all DR I planes were given a flying ban and this was only lifted when the most important defects had been overcome by strengthening the wing assembly. The production of the Fokker DR I was stopped in May 1918. Up to then Fokker had produced a total of 300 planes. The planes were in use until the summer of 1918.
At that time, the Fokker DR I was one of the most famous planes. The reason was most probably because one of the planes was flown by one of the most successful pilots, Baron Manfred von Richthofen. In order to show his success and leadership position clearly, and in order to provoke his enemies, he had his plane painted red. That is why he was also known by his nickname “the Red Baron”). His enemies also quickly realized that he was one of the best pilots. For that reason they began to look out for the red triplane in order to shoot it down. In order to prevent this, all the planes in Richthofen’s squadron were painted red. At that time, Richthofen and other well-known pilots were very popular. Above all, young people honoured them as their heroes and idols. The later so popular pilot idol Ernst Udet also belonged to the Red Baron’s fighter squadron. (See also the Schreiber Sheet No. 562 “Udet U 12 Flamingo”).)
In the propaganda of the First World War the aerial combats were often compared with medieval knights’ tournaments. In spite of the war, this admiration stretched beyond the German frontiers. Richthofen was also very well-known in the enemy countries. On 21 April 1918 Richthofen’s plane was behind enemy lines and was shot down. He was first buried in a military cemetery in France and in 1925 his body was brought back to Germany and buried there.