Military Factory logo

Pfalz Dr.I

Imperial Germany (1918)

Detailing the development and operational history of the Pfalz Dr.I Triplane Fighter Aircraft.

 Entry last updated on 11/19/2016; Authored by Staff Writer; Content ©

  Pfalz Dr.I  
Picture of Pfalz Dr.I Triplane Fighter Aircraft

Only ten of the late-war Dr.I triplanes were produced by the Pfalz concern - the type found to be rather unreliable for the intended fighting role.

The triplane as a military aircraft held a short reign in the skies during World War 1 (1914-1918). Its design offered unprecedented maneuverability and handling in close-quarters which made them ideal gunnery platforms for dogfighting ventures. However, the battlecry of the air war soon returned to speed as the call of the day and triplanes quickly lost favor in the grand aerial campaigns of the First World War - leaving only a few successful designs in its wake. The Pfalz Dr.I was developed by Pfalz Flugzeugwerke of the German Empire during the height of triplane interest but it proved unreliable enough to limit its production to just ten aircraft which served from April 1918 on.

The aircraft was given a typical tri-winged arrangement which retained the upper and lower wing sections of a conventional biplane but added a third element sandwiched between the two existing planes. The wings were all braced by a thick strut arrangement which created single bays to each side of the fuselage. The fuselage was well-rounded and therefore quite streamlined with the engine encased in metal at the nose and driving a two-bladed propeller unit. Machine guns (2 x 7.92mm LMG 08/15) were fitted over the nose and synchronized to fire through the spinning blades with the pilot's open-air cockpit just aft of the guns (and under / behind) the upper-most wing element. The tail unit incorporated the usual single tail fin (rounded) and low-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage was of a tail-dragger arrangement with the main legs wheeled and fixed in flight. A tailskid brought up the rear.

Dimensions included a length of 5.5 meters, a wingspan of 8.5 meters and a height of 2.7 meters. Empty weight was 1,125lb against a MTOW of 1,555lb. Power was had from a Siemens-Halske Sh.III 11-cylinder, geared rotary engine of 160 horsepower which could propel the aircraft to speeds of 118 miles per hour up to a ceiling of 19,680 feet. Flight time was about 1.5 hours.

On looks alone the aircraft should have been a proper contender to claim air supremacy from Allied offerings of the day but the choice of engine fit made for an unreliable product in the end. Formal evaluations of the aircraft noted its lack of speed in addition to the temperamental engine and this led to a small batch of just ten aircraft being procured and fielded during 1918. The war was over with the November Armistice and this Pfalz triplane attempt subsequently fell to aviation history.
Any available statistics for the Pfalz Dr.I Triplane Fighter Aircraft 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).
Pfalz Dr.I Specifications
National Flag Graphic
Imperial Germany
Year: 1918
Type: Triplane Fighter Aircraft
Manufacturer(s): Pfalz Flugzeugwerke - Imperial Germany
Production: 10
Supported Mission Types
Ground Attack
Close-Air Support
Airborne Early Warning
Electronic Warfare
Aerial Tanker
Passenger Industry
VIP Travel
Business Travel
Special Forces
Crew: 1
Length: 18.04 ft (5.5 m)
Width: 28.05 ft (8.55 m)
Height: 9.02 ft (2.75 m)
Empty Weight: 1,124 lb (510 kg)
MTOW: 1,554 lb (705 kg)

Installed Power
1 x Siemens-Halske Sh.III 11-cylinder, geared rotary engine developing 160 horsepower and driving two-bladed propeller at the nose.

Standard Day Performance
Maximum Speed: 118 mph (190 kph; 103 kts)
Maximum Range: 186 mi (300 km; 162 nm)
Service Ceiling: 19,685 ft (6,000 m; 3.73 mi)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,215 ft/min (370 m/min)

2 x LMG 08/15 machine guns over the nose synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades.

Operators List
Imperial Germany

Series Model Variants
• Dr.I - Base Series Designation