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Rumpler C.I

Imperial Germany (1915)
Picture of Rumpler C.I Reconnaissance Biplane

The Rumpler C-series of biplane aircraft were introduced in 1915 and, amazingly, managed an existence throughout World War 1 into 1918.

Detailing the development and operational history of the Rumpler C.I Reconnaissance Biplane.  Entry last updated on 4/15/2016. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©

Austrian-born engineer Edmund Rumpler settled his Rumpler Flugzeugwerke concern in 1909 and began by producing copies of the "Etrich Taube" reconnaissance aircraft. In time, he turned his attention to self-designed military-minded biplane scout aircraft for the German military with the onset of war in Europe (World War 1, 1914-1918). When war greeted Germany, Rumpler developed several notable designs that were fielded by the German air service (the "Luftstreitkrafte") and Navy among others. As both sides of the conflict dug in to experience the horrors of Trench Warfare, the once fluid war had bogged down to the point that all manner of weaponry was being considered and developed to unseat the enemy from his positions. The aircraft had arrived as a principle killing machine and Rumpler obliged this with the design of his "Rumpler C.I" of 1915.

Externally, the C.I was a conventionally-arranged biplane fighter with an upper and lower wing assembly joined by reinforced struts and cabling. The engine was mounted at the front of the tapered, slab-sided fuselage and capped at the rear by a single vertical tail fin and triangle-shaped horizontal planes. There were two open-air tandem-seat cockpits just aft of the engine, the pilot in front and the observer/gunner in back. The undercarriage was fixed in position and managed two landing wheels while the tail was supported by a simple skid. Power was served through a Mercedes D.III liquid-cooled inline piston engine delivering 160 horsepower allowing for a top speed of 94 miles per hour to be reached while operating as high as 16,580 feet. Endurance was listed at approximately four hours of flight time. Construction was traditional, consisting of wood and canvas which allowed the airframe to take a rather inordinate amount of abuse before succumbing.

As an armed scout (or "Fighting Scout") airplane, initial production models were delivered with a 7.92mm Parabellum MG14 series machine gun fitted to a trainable mount (a "Schneider Ring") at the rear cockpit. This position allowed the rear gunner to defend the critical "six" position of the aircraft from incoming intercepting threats. The ring mounting allowed some flexibility in managing the firing arc of the machine gun and was primarily limited by the long tail structure and rear fuselage. Later production models then instituted a fixed, forward-firing 7.92mm LMG 08/15 series machine gun - coupled with "interrupter" gear - to provide the pilot with his own forward armament. This machine gun was offset to the portside of the front fuselage while the interrupter unit allowed for firing through the spinning propeller blades. The C.I could, therefore, now engage targets in front of the aircraft, be they enemy airplanes or balloons or ground targets of opportunity. For tactical bombing sorties, the C.I could be further outfitted with up to 100 kilograms of drop ordnance under the wings which degraded performance to an extent. The C.I could, therefore, be called upon to undertake various mission types as required.

Introduced in 1915, the C.I gave a good account of itself once in wide-scale service. Pilots appreciated her strong and forgiving handling characteristics and the system, as a whole, provided a much needed boost to German scouting groups tangling with capable Allied pilots and their mounts. The two-man crew dispersed workload and provided two sets of "eyes in the skies" for identifying key enemy positions, maneuvers and targets while also scanning the skies for potential aerial threats and observation balloons over the battlefield. Aircraft such as the C.I proved critical for the German air service and was therefore split across multiple production lines beyond Rumpler facilities to include four other German firms. The aircraft was also taken into inventory by the Ottoman Air Force for combat in the East.

The Rumpler C.I was branched into two notable variant forms stemming from the base C.I production scout model before manufacture of the line ceased. This included the "C.Ia" which was delivered with an Argus As.III series engine of 180 horsepower and may have included a C.II designated aircraft of which little is known. A dedicated training mount of the base C.I was also developed and manufactured by Rumpler for the German air service for training of pilots and gunners. These were differentiated by their lack of a gun mounting ring at the rear observer's station as well utilization of the Benz Bz.III series 150-horsepower engine (Mercedes types were required of the frontline war effort). The C.I also formed the basis of the "Rumpler 6B" series of floatplane aircraft (detailed elsewhere on this site) which served through 88 examples with the German Navy during the war. Amazingly, the Rumpler C.I, debuting in 1915, would live to see operational service into early 1918 - something of an unheard of accomplishment considering the rate at which aerial technology was advancing during the conflict. It was not uncommon for some newly-minted aircraft to see a service life of just a few months before being replaced by more accomplished types, such was the expediency of war.

Poland, Latvia and Yugoslavia became post-war operators of the Rumpler C.I, ensuring its legacy would extend beyond the end of the war.

Any available statistics for the Rumpler C.I Reconnaissance Biplane are showcased in the areas immediately below. Categories include basic specifications covering country-of-origin, operational status, manufacture(s) and total quantitative production. Other qualities showcased are related to structural values (namely dimensions), installed power and standard day performance figures, installed or proposed armament and mission equipment (if any), global users (from A-to-Z) and series model variants (if any).

Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed Rating
Hi: 100mph
Lo: 50mph
    This entry's maximum listed speed (94mph).

    Graph average of 75 miles-per-hour.
Relative Operational Ranges
Graph showcases the Rumpler C.I's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era Impact
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
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Supported Mission Types:
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
National Flag Graphic
National Origin: Imperial Germany
Service Year: 1915
Classification Type: Reconnaissance Biplane
Manufacturer(s): Rumpler Flugzeugwerke - Imperial Germany
Production Units: 1,000
Global Operators:
Imperial Germany; Latvia; Poland; Ottoman Empire (Turkey); Yugoslavia
Structural - Crew, Dimensions, and Weights:
Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Rumpler C.I model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.




25.75 ft

7.85 m


39.86 ft

12.15 m


10.01 ft

3.05 m


2,094 lb

950 kg


2,932 lb

1,330 kg

Installed Power - Standard Day Performance:
1 x Mercedes D.III water-cooled inline engine developing 160 horsepower.


94 mph

152 kph

82 kts


360 mi

580 km

Nautical Miles
313 nm


16,568 ft

5,050 m

3.14 mi

Armament - Hardpoints (10):

1 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15 machine gun in fixed, forward-firing portside fuselage mounting firing through the spinning propeller.
1 x 7.92mm Parabellum MG14 machine gun on trainable mount in rear cockpit.

Up to 100kg of external stores.
Visual Armory:

Graphical image of an aircraft medium machine gun
Variants: Series Model Variants
• C.I - Base Military Designation
• C.Ia - Fitted with Argus As.III engine of 180 horsepower.
• C.II
• 5A 2 - Rumpler Company Designation
• 6B - Single-Seat Floatplane Fighter Variant