Military Factory logo

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.

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

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

Pfalz Dr.I

Service Year: 1918
Type: Triplane Fighter Aircraft
National Origin: Imperial Germany
Manufacturer(s): Pfalz Flugzeugwerke - Imperial Germany
Total Units Built: 10

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.

Structural (Crew, Dimensions, Weights)

Operating Crew (Typical): 1
Overall Length: 18.04 feet (5.5 meters)
Overall Width: 28.05 feet (8.55 meters)
Overall Height: 9.02 feet (2.75 meters)

Weight (Empty): 1,124 lb (510 kg)
Weight (MTOW): 1,554 lb (705 kg)

Power / Performance (Engine Type, Top Speed)

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

Top Speed: 103 knots (118 mph; 190 kph)
Maximum Range: 162 nautical miles (186 miles; 300 km)
Service Ceiling: 19,685 feet (6,000 meters; 3.73 miles)
Rate-of-Climb: 1,215 feet-per-minute (370 m/min)

Armament / Mission Payload

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

Global Operators (Customers, Users)

Imperial Germany

Pfalz Dr.I Variants

Dr.I - Base Series Designation

Pfalz Dr.I Images