The aircraft, as a viable standalone weapon of war, emerged in World War 1 (1914-1918) along with the "tank". Rivaling the need to promote strong production at factories was the need for capable airmen in which to master the fine new art of military aviation. With that, several concerns were eventually pressed to develop dedicated trainer aircraft in an effort to bring about whole new generations of pilots, ultimately attempting to prove the investment in military aircraft worthwhile to the air powers of the time. In 1917, Rumpler Flugzeugwerke delivered an "advanced" trainer intended to meet the ongoing need of the German Air Service for more skilled pilots coming out of basic training and this product became the Rumpler C.VIII.
Rumpler was founded by Edmund Rumpler in 1909 (as the Rumpler Luftfahrtzeugbau concern) out of Berlin, Germany. While early production was centered around an outside firm's creation, the company soon evolved to design, development and subsequent production of in-house designs to streamline profitability - particularly with the arrival of World War 1 and its grand air war. With this, the firm was responsible for a plethora of aircraft mounts emerging in the fighting including dedicated fighters and several experimental systems.
Classified as an advanced trainer, the C.VIII was just that, an advanced classroom in the skies intended for pilots having completed their initial basic training in simpler mounts. Advanced trainers were certainly more expensive to procure on the whole though, in turn, they offered more defined study environments which produced more skilled pilots in the end. Training was broadened through designs that incorporated much of what final production airframes incorporated, resulting in a more refined student experience. Despite their costs, advanced trainers proved their worth by generating a solid stock of capable airmen.
The Rumpler C.VIII recorded its first flight in 1917 and, having passed all requisite trials (of course expedited to an extent in wartime), was adopted into the German Air Service late that same year. In particular, there proved a need to prepare masses of German airmen for the grand offensive that was to rewrite the lines of the Western Front come the spring of 1918 - attempting to head off the arrival of the Americans and their material might. The C.VIII was in place for such an endeavor and served various trainer groups in the buildup. The attacks began in March of 1918 and lasted until July, making the largest gains since those seen back in 1914. In the end, the Germans gained the tactical victory but failed in their strategic goals as their supply lines were stretched and their primary goals never truly defined. The offensive peaked in April and the German were now subject to the Allied counteroffensive of August which drove the Germans rearwards and provided the death knell leading up to the Armistice of November.
Externally, the Rumpler design proved highly conventional for the period, sporting slightly uneven spanning, single-bay biplane wing assemblies, tandem seating for student and instructor and a traditional single rudder tail unit. The aircraft sported a fixed undercarriage with two main single-wheeled landing gear legs and a tailskid. Power was through a single Argus As III series engine fitted to a forward compartment and powering a two-bladed wooden propeller with an output of 180 horsepower. Performance specifications included a maximum speed of 86 miles per hour with a service ceiling of 13,100 feet and endurance time of approximately four hours.
Rumpler C.VIII trainers were in use throughout the end of World War 1. Only the Netherlands and Finland operated the type in the years following, the former having received 40 examples through trade with the Germans and the latter procuring a sole example for reconnaissance duty, this example flying until 1924. Joining several other well-known aircraft manufacturers of World War 1 such as Sopwith, Rumpler went out of business in 1920, officially bringing an end to the Rumpler line.