The Lohner B.VII was a two-seat reconnaissance aircraft produced by and for the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War 1. While a pre-war military design at its core, the B.VII became the definitive combat-worthy form of the series and was utilized for a time beginning in August of 1915. From there, the aircraft was revised into a more powerful (and ultimately armed) form as the Lohner C.I. These two Lohner designs exhibited healthy operating ranges but were eventually outclassed by the latest crop of fighters entering the airstream by 1917.
Design of the original Lohner B.I series began before the hostilities of World War 1 broke out across Europe, this by the Jakob Lohner AG firm. The B.I was an unarmed reconnaissance platform with seating for two, swept-back biplane wings and a 90 horsepower Austro-Daimler engine. Not wholly satisfied with the performance of the B.I, Jakob Lohner and his team devised successfully progressive and more powerful forms of the B.I that became the B.II, B.III, B.IV, B.V and ultimately the B.VI. It was not under the development of the definitive B.VII that this Lohner aircraft series finally came into its own.
The Lohner B.VII took on a distinct planform. Like those Lohner designs before it, the B.VII featured swept back biplane wings with double bays and parallel struts. These were staggered and fitted above and ahead of the pilot with the lower wing assembly showcasing dihedral (upward angle). The large liquid-cooled engine obstructed some of the forward view and powered a two-blade propeller. The observer/gunner sat in the separated rear portion of the open air cockpit (the two personnel were seated in tandem) and was the trained lookout doubling as a machine gunner if the aircraft was armed as such. The fuselage, with its straight-faced sides, tapered off into a conventional empennage with large-area horizontal planes (also featuring sweep back) and a single vertical tail fin. The undercarriage was traditional of the times and fitted two main landing gear wheels on braced struts along the forward underside of the fuselage coupled with a simple tail skid at the extreme aft-end of the tail. Interestingly, the Lohner aircraft could sport an internal bomb payload of up to 180lbs.
Lohner produced two versions of this reconnaissance plane - the B.VII and the C.I. The B.VII was the (generally) unarmed model and fitted with either a 150- or 160-horsepower Austro-Daimler engine to which 73 of the type were produced (while categorized as unarmed, some B.VIIs did fit a trainable machine gun in the rear cockpit). The C.I represented the "official" armed version, this fitting a single machine gun on a flexible mounting in the rear cockpit for the observer/gunner. The C.I was assigned an Austro-Daimler 6-cylinder inline liquid-cooled engine of 160 horsepower under an engine cowling (the B.VII showcased an exposed engine and no engine cowl) and built to the tune of some 40 examples.
The B.VII sported a wingspan of 50 feet, 6 inches. Endurance was a reported 6 hours in the air while a rate-of-climb of 350 feet-per-minute was possible. The B.VII entered service in 1915. As the B.VII showcased generally excellent endurance for an aircraft of the Great War, this translated to fine long-range service and proving adept at scanning the fronts across Italy. Its bombload did involve the aircraft in occasional strike missions as needed, against both ground-based structures and naval vessels in the region. The armed C.I entered into service with the Austro-Hungarian Empire a short time later in 1916.
By 1917, both Lohner reconnaissance types were removed from frontline service and had their production lines reassessed. All aircraft were produced by Lohner (some C.Is were also manufactured by Ufag) in Austria-Hungary for the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops.