The Phonix C.I was a rather simplistic two-seat armed reconnaissance fighter utilized by the Austro-Hungarian Empire during World War 1. The system was produced by the Phonix Flugzeug-Werke firm. Phonix Flugzeug-Werke had already obtained some pivotal experience in the realm of aircraft manufacturing by the time it took on its own projects. Among the first types the firm produced were of Albatros origin and by the end of hostilities, Phonix would be responsible for the production of nearly two dozen different aircraft types totaling over 1,000 constructed planes.
The Phonix C.I was not going to win any design awards but her structure and layout proved serviceable enough. Her design was dominated by two unequal span wings with single bays in a biplane arrangement. The wings sported parallel struts that formed a "vee" when viewed from the front. The engine dominated the forward view and fuselage and powered a simple two-blade wooden propeller. The forward fuselage underside was given a curved contour that led up into the slab-sided main body. The fuselage tapered off into a conventional empennage sporting a large-area vertical tail fin and horizontal planes. The undercarriage was conventional for the time and fitted two large main wheels and a tail skid. Accommodations were available for two personnel, the pilot and the rear observer/gunner.
Power was supplied from a single Hiero 6-cylinder liquid-cooled inline engine of 230 horsepower. Performance specifications included a top speed of 110 miles per hour with a ceiling of 17,715 feet. Range was limited to an engine endurance of 3.5 hours. Wingspan reached 36 feet, 1 inches and the gross weight topped 2,436lbs.
The C.I became the primary reconnaissance service mount of the Austro-Hungarian air force by 1917. The first C.I was delivered to the air corps on March 2nd, 1917. In addition to its reconnoitering duties, the aircraft was also called on to perform artillery spotting duties for the army. While not strictly limited to armed reconnaissance, the C.I would also be called upon to strafe ground targets, engage enemy air targets or bomb ground targets through its meager 100lb bomb load.
Standard armament included a pair of 8mm Schwarzlose machine guns. One 8mm system was fitted in a forward fixed position while the other was situated in a trainable mounting in the rear cockpit. Optional ordnance came in the form of four light 12 kilogram bombs or two 25 kilogram bombs as required.
The final C.I was delivered to Austro-Hungarian forces on October 1st, 1918.
Italian fighter ace - scoring 34 victories - and aviation legend Major (El Mayor) Francesco Baracca was reportedly downed on the Montello by the rear gunner of a Phonix C.I on June 21st, 1918. Some early reports believed the Major survived the crash landing but committed suicide to avoid capture behind enemy lines. The Italians claimed that Baracca was downed by enemy ground fire. His body was later recovered by Italian forces near the Piave River and examined, ultimately revealing a bullet wound to the right temple (NY Times, July 2nd, 1918).
Baracca remained the consummate and well-respected foe, noted by his chivalrous deeds to his enemies including the providing of small gifts to those captured alive and attending to the graves of those recovered dead.
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