Palatinate D.III

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Palatinate D.III
Palatinate D.IIIa
Type: Fighter plane
Design country:

German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire


Pfalz Flugzeugwerke GmbH

First flight:

April 1917


August 1917 - October 1918

Production time:

April 1917 - May 1918

Number of pieces:


The Pfalz D.III was a single-seater fighter of the German air force in the First World War , which was mainly used by the squadrons of the royal Bavarian air force.


Since 1913, Pfalz Flugzeugwerke GmbH in Speyer has been manufacturing Morane and Otto machines under license. In the course of the First World War mainly the Pfalz AI and combat monoplane were built. After an unsuccessful attempt to develop its own double-decker (D.4), Pfalz had manufactured aircraft of the Roland D.II and D.IIa types under license. When production came to an end after around 200 machines were delivered, capacities were again free for our own developments.

Like other manufacturers, the Pfalzwerke had received a captured Nieuport 11 , and now the chief designer Rudolph Gehringer and his engineers Paulus and Goldmacher tried to adapt the design for a new aircraft as much as possible without taking over the weaknesses of the Nieuport machines . Above all, the fuselage was manufactured in the wrapped fuselage construction typical of Roland aircraft, which was, however, labor-intensive and expensive. Thin plywood panels were glued crosswise to the fuselage structure, which led to great stability and good aerodynamic properties. Based on this experience, the D.III was created as the first truly successful in-house design by Pfalz-Flugzeugwerke. The machine, designed in April 1917, was tested with a 160 hp Mercedes D III engine in June. In April Palatinate received another order for 100 more Roland D.III; this was stopped after the delivery of 30 aircraft and replaced by an order for 70 Pfalz D.III, which increased the inspection of the air troops after the official type test in Berlin-Adlershof by a further 300 to 370. However, the IdFlieg required various modifications, such as the extension of the rudder and balanced ailerons.

Palatinate D.III

The Pfalz D.III was a conventional model. The fuselage was made in a shell construction and was wrapped in a streamlined manner with plywood. What was remarkable was the very stable lower wing due to a double spar, which also significantly influenced the good performance of the machine in the dive. At great heights, the Pfalz D.III was even able to outperform the somewhat more unstable Albatros aircraft in places.

As was common at the time, the landing gear was a rigid landing gear. The engine supplied by Mercedes achieved an acceptable performance and was connected to a Teeves and Braun surface cooler. Two rigid forward-facing 7.92 mm MG 08/15 machine guns corresponded to the standard armament. These machine guns were integrated into the fuselage, which made operation, in particular the removal of jams, difficult during the flight. The synchronization technology developed by Franz Schneider , which was first used in the Fokker E.III , was also installed here.

After the delivery of 260 D.III, production was switched to the D.IIIa instead.

Palatinate D.IIIa

The D.IIIa differed in its rounded wing tips and larger, also rounded tail surfaces. The machine guns had been relocated to the upper fuselage cover so that they were more easily accessible for the pilot and mechanics. The improved 6-cylinder Mercedes D IIIa engine achieved a higher output.


The Pfalz D.III, painted silver-gray at the factory, appeared at the front from August 1917; first with the Jasta 10, then with the Jasta 4 and with the Jastas 16, 23, 32, 34 and 35, which had been converted into Bavarian units since July. It proved to be superior to the Albatros D.III , but did not reach the speed of the faster Albatros DV and the climbing ability of the more agile Fokker triplane . In addition, it threatened to smear when turning at low altitude, which made aerial combat at low altitude dangerous. In particular, the latest Allied fighter planes such as the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a , the Sopwith Camel or the SPAD S.XII were superior to it. Nevertheless, it was popular with the pilots because it was considered reliable and, in particular, more robust than the Albatros DV, which tends to break wings during dive flights, or the Fokker Dr.I, which also tends to break wings . The Pfalz D.III was very bulletproof and therefore particularly suitable for the dive attack on enemy tethered balloons , even though its construction could also be set on fire faster than other aircraft. Successful fighter pilots like Julius Buckler and Heinrich Gontermann achieved numerous kills of tethered balloons with it. The Allies had the opportunity to examine a machine that had crashed on the British side on February 26, 1918 and confirmed its great stability, excellent visibility from the cockpit, its agility and maneuverability.

Mainly Bavarian squadrons were equipped with this from the machine manufactured in Speyer, Bavaria at the time. At the end of October 1917, 145 aircraft were already in service at the front, on December 31, 1917 276 D.III and 114 D.IIIa were at the front. The newly established Jastas 76-80 and the Marine-Feld-Jastas also received Pfalz D.III / D.IIIa. However, there were complaints about wing tremors, and when the technicians of the Jasta 24 actually discovered a breakage on the ailerons of a machine, Pfalz had to replace and reinforce all ailerons. After a long period of use, further weaknesses became apparent: The plywood fuselage became susceptible to twisting or warping, be it due to insufficiently stored wood being used during construction or the weather-related moisture affecting the aircraft, as they were mostly parked on simple field airfields and unprotected from sun, rain and Exposed to wind.

While the D.III gradually declined, the number of D.IIIa grew to 433 in April 1918; 46 Jastas had Palatinate hunters in their stock. Even after the arrival of the Fokker D.VII , 430 machines were still in use in June 1918 and 166 in August 1918; the last aircraft was only withdrawn from the front in October 1918 and handed over for pilot training.

A total of about 260 Pfalz D.III and 750 D.IIIa were made. The last series, manufactured between mid-April and May 15, 1918, was equipped with a second cooler and delivered to the Turkish air force .

Performance comparison

Performance comparison of single-seaters in the front line at the end of the First World War :

Surname Country First flight Commissioning Engine power Max. speed Takeoff mass Armament ( MG ) Summit height number of pieces
Albatros D.III German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1916-08-01 1917-01-15 170 hp 165 km / h 886 kg 2 5,500 m 1352
SE5a United Kingdom 1801United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom 1916-11-22 1917-03-15 200 hp 222 km / h 880 kg 2 5,185 m 5205
Sopwith Camel United Kingdom 1801United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom 1916-12-31 1917-06-15 130 hp 185 km / h 659 kg 2 5,791 m 5490
Sopwith Dolphin United Kingdom 1801United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom 1917-03-23 1918-02-15 200 hp 211 km / h 890 kg 2 6,100 m 2072
Albatros D.Va German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1917-04-15 1917-07-15 185 hp 187 km / h 937 kg 2 6,250 m 2562
Palatinate D.IIIa German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1917-04-15 1917-08-15 180 hp 181 km / h 834 kg 2 6,000 m 750
SPAD S.XIII Third French RepublicThird French Republic France 1917-04-30 1917-05-31 220 hp 222 km / h 820 kg 2 6,650 m 8472
Nieuport 28 Third French RepublicThird French Republic France 1917-06-14 1918-03-15 160 hp 195 km / h 740 kg 2 5,200 m 300
Fokker Dr.I German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1917-07-05 1917-09-01 130 hp 160 km / h 585 kg 2 6,500 m 420
Sopwith Snipe United Kingdom 1801United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland United Kingdom 1917-10-31 1918-08-30 230 hp 195 km / h 955 kg 2 6,100 m 497
LFG Roland D.VIa German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1917-11-30 1918-05-15 160 hp 190 km / h 820 kg 2 5,500 m 353
Siemens-Schuckert D.IV German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1917-12-31 1918-08-15 160 hp 190 km / h 735 kg 2 8,000 m 123
Fokker D.VII German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1918-01-24 1918-04-15 180 hp 189 km / h 910 kg 2 6,000 m 800
Fokker D.VIIF German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1918-01-24 1918-04-15 226 hp 205 km / h 910 kg 2 7,000 m 200
Palatinate D.VIII German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1918-01-24 1918-09-15 160 hp 190 km / h 740 kg 2 7,500 m 120
Palatinate D.XII German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1918-03-31 1918-07-15 160 hp 180 km / h 902 kg 2 5,640 m 750
Fokker D.VIII German EmpireThe German Imperium German Empire 1918-05-31 1918-07-31 110 hp 204 km / h 605 kg 2 6,300 m 289


An original machine is preserved in the Australian War Memorial Museum. In addition, two replicas were made for the 1965 film " The Blue Max ", which are located in New Zealand . Trainees at PFW Aerospace , which continues the tradition of the Pfalz-Flugzeugwerke, made a true-to-original copy of a Pfalz D.III, which is on display in the Technik Museum Speyer .

Technical specifications

Parameter D.III D.IIIa
Construction year 1917 1918
Intended use Fighter plane
crew 1
length 6.95 m
span 9.40 m
height 2.67 m
Wing area 22.17 m²
Empty mass 695 kg 697 kg
Takeoff mass 932 kg 834 kg
Top speed 169 km / h in NN 181 km / h in NN
Climbing time to 1000 m 3:17 min
Climbing time to 1500 m 7 min
Ascent time to 3000 m 11:45 min 5:33 min
Service ceiling 5500 m 6000 m
Range 400 km
Flight duration 2:30 h 2 h
Engine water-cooled in- line engine Mercedes D III , 160 PS (118 kW) water-cooled in-line engine Mercedes D IIIa, 180 PS (132 kW)
Armament 2 LMG 08/15, 7.92 mm with 500 rounds each


See also


  • Enzo Angelucci, Paolo Matricardi: The planes. From the beginning to the First World War . Falken-Verlag, Wiesbaden 1976, ISBN 3-8068-0391-9 , ( Falken manual in color ).
  • John F. Connors: Albatros Fighters in Action . Squadron / Signal Publications, Carrollton TX 1981, ISBN 0-89747-115-6 , ( Aircraft 46).
  • Norman Franks: Albatross Aces of World War 1 . Part 1. Osprey Publishing, Botley Oxford 2000, ISBN 1-85532-960-3 , ( Osprey aircraft of the aces 32).
  • Peter L. Gray, Owen Thetford: German Aircraft of the First World War . Putnam, London 1962, (3rd Edition, reprinted: ibid. 1987, ISBN 0-85177-809-7 ), pp. 49-52.
  • Peter M. Grosz: Pfalz D.IIIa . Albatros Productions, Berkhamsted 1990, ISBN 0-948414-25-1 , ( Wind-sock datafiles 21).
  • Karlheinz Kens, Hanns Müller: The aircraft of the First World War 1914–1918 . Heyne, Munich 1973, ISBN 3-453-00404-3 .
  • Peter Kilduff: Germany's First Air Force. 1914-1918 . Arms and Armor Press, London 1991, ISBN 1-85409-053-4 .
  • Günter Kroschel, Helmut Stützer: The German military aircraft 1910–1918 . Lohse-Eissing, Wilhelmshaven 1977, ISBN 3-920602-18-8 .
  • WM Lamberton: Fighter Aircraft of the 1914-1918 War . Edited by EF Cheesman. Drawings by JD Carrick and F. Yeoman. Produced by DA Russell. Harleyford Publ. Ltd., Letchworth 1960, pp. 112-113.
  • Kenneth Munson: Warplanes. Fighter and training aircraft 1914–1919 . 2nd revised edition. Orell Füssli Verlag, Zurich 1976, ISBN 3-280-00824-7 , ( Airplanes of the World in Colors ), pp. 24, 121–122.
  • Heinz Nowarra: The Development of Airplanes 1914–1918 . Lehmanns, Munich 1959.
  • Karl R. Pawlas: German aircraft. 1914-1918 . Pawlas, Nuremberg 1976, ISBN 3-88088-209-6 , ( Aviation Documents 20), pp. 63-65.
  • Ray Rimell, Peter M. Grosz: Pfalz D.III . Albatros Productions, Berkhamsted 1988, ISBN 0-948414-11-1 , ( Wind-sock datafiles 7).
  • Michael Sharpe: biplanes, triple decks & seaplanes . Gondromverlag, Bindlach 2001, ISBN 3-8112-1872-7 .

Web links

Commons : Pfalz D.III  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual references / comments

  1. PFALZ D.III / D.IIIa - accessed on January 13, 2013
  2. Las águilas azules (The Blue Max, 1966) film clip on Youtube
  3. Replica of a Pfalz D III ( Memento from January 25, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) - accessed on January 13, 2013