Reconnaissance Biplane Aircraft
The C.VI was an LVG attempt at producing an improved form of their C.V two-seat reconnaissance platform.
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The LVG C.VI became one of the final German two-seat aircraft to see quantitative production in World War 1 and appeared as an improved C.V. The war would finish before the end of 1918, ensuring that the C.VI maintained a relatively short and quiet military existence. Some 1,100 examples were delivered in all with production handled by Luft-Verkehrs-Gesellschaft GmbH (hence the abbreviation of "LVG" used in the designation).
Willy Sabersky-Mussigbrodt brought the original C.V fighter design of 1917 from his former bosses at DFW (Deustche Flugzeug-Werke) to his new bosses at LVG. The C.V was of similar scope to the upcoming C.VI, this being a two-seat, reconnaissance-minded aircraft that fought well in the fighter role and could be called upon for light strike duty. The success of the C.V encouraged a more refined product and this became the C.VI with first flight achieved in 1917. The C.VI differed slightly from her predecessor and sought to make for improvements of which included better visibility for the two-man crew (who suited up with parachutes and heated flight suits). Onboard communications was made possible by a radio system utilizing Morse code though the system could only send out a message and not receive. An antenna was lowered from under the fuselage when the radio was in use. Offensive and defensive armament was left relatively unchanged in the new aircraft. However, the C.VI failed to make much of an impact for a losing Germany, arriving much too late in the war effort to make much of a long-standing difference.
Externally, the C.VI sported an aerodynamic conical nose housing the engine and radiator. The engine was mounted at the extreme forward end of the design and powered a two-bladed wooden propeller. A fixed, forward-firing machine gun was afforded to the pilot, this synchronized to fire through the spinning propeller blades without incident. The pilot sat aft of the engine and gun system and aft of the upper wing assembly. The uneven span wing assemblies were arranged in a typical biplane fashion featuring an upper and lower wing - the former longer in span than the latter. These assemblies were connected to the fuselage (and to one another) by way of struts and cabling. The wings sported double bays and parallel struts for support. The rear gunner/observer sat in tandem directly aft of the pilots position with an excellent view of the rear and side quadrants of the aircraft. In his control was typically a trainable machine gun sitting atop a ring. The fuselage contoured from its aerodynamic nose into a slab-sided fuselage which then tapered off into a conventional empennage. The empennage was characterized by its single vertical tail fin and applicable horizontal tailplanes. The undercarriage was fixed in typical World War 1 fashion, featuring two main landing gear legs (single-wheeled) and a utilitarian tail skid. Construction of the fuselage was semi-monocoque, covered over in formed plywood usually left in a clear varnish. The wings were constructed of both wood and metal and covered over in canvas fabric.
The forward machine gun was a 7.92mm LMG 08/15 system. The rear cockpit held a 7.92mm Parabellum MG14 series machine gun on a ring mounting. Beyond the pair of onboard machine guns, the C.VI could be called upon to strike at ground targets by way of Fliegermaus bomblets or Wurfgranate grenades. The C.VI was cleared up to 200lbs of external ordnance delivered from underwing racks. Beyond her warfighter role, the C.VI could easily be fielded as a photographic reconnaissance mount with the rear observer handling a camera through a sliding trapdoor on the floor of the cockpit.
Power was supplied from a single Benz Bz.IV, 6-cylinder, water-cooled in-line engine delivering 200 horsepower. This supplied the C.VI with a top speed of 103 miles per hour, a service ceiling of 21,300 feet and a rate of climb of 550 feet per minute. The engine also allowed for a maximum range of 242 miles. The forward-mounted engine took on a streamlined look unlike those of earlier World War 1 fighter attempts. This sleekness was generally broken up by the radiator display and the "horn-like" exhaust stack consistent with other World War 1 mounts.
The C.VI entered German air service in 1918. Once in action, the maneuverability of the mount was noted as quite adequate for her size. She was fielded as a offensive/defensive measure along the West Front for the duration of war alongside the previous C.V models. Her primary sorties revolved around observation and general reconnaissance of enemy movements and placement with the regular trench strafing and bombing sortie when needed.
Some C.VIs continued a subdued existence following the war. Some were converted into three-passenger airliners (plus pilot makes four) for flights across Europe. Operators of the C.VI ultimately included the German Empire, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, Finland, Lithuania, Poland, the Soviet Union and Switzerland. The last of the functional wartime C.VIs, this encompassing two from Lithuania, survived up to 1940.
Three preserved C.VIs still exist today - these on display in the UK, Belgium and France.