Pilot Andrew King
say their collection is meant to invoke the aura of First War
fighters while using modern materials and engines to make these
replicas feasible to fly.
The ravages of World War I and
subsequent razing of so much of Europe in World War II destroyed
all original Fokker triplanes. Several latter-day homebuilders
created workable plans, and new-build triplanes have been aloft
for several decades.
Four First World War replica fighters at
AirVenture 2010 are here as a homage to the specific pilots who flew the
originals, and to pay tribute to all who flew in World War I.
Colorado's Vintage Aero Flying Museum (VAFM) began as the collecting
dream of executive director Andy Parks' grandfather, himself a World War
In a 180-degree twist on typical museum
collecting, he and Andy started with the memorabilia and then used it to
inform their collecting policy for full-size flying replicas of the very
aircraft these early warriors flew, right down to personalized markings.
AirVenture visitors will see the Parks'
original aircraft acquisition, a replica biplane Fokker D-VII, parked
with a monoplane Fokker D-VIII, a British S.E.-5a from Oklahoma
enthusiast Jack Kearbey, and a familiar red Fokker Dr-I triplane.
Parks and fellow pilot Andrew King say
their collection is meant to invoke the aura of First War fighters while
using modern materials and engines to make these replicas feasible to
fly, both at the home field and across the United States. The originals
had tailskids; several of these replicas have small tail wheels - a must
for paved runways and taxiways.
World War I powerplants are the trifecta
of trouble: rare, expensive, and harder to keep airworthy. So VAFM uses
modern engines, masked as much as possible behind original-looking
cowlings. The D-VII biplane rides behind an American Ranger inline
engine, which necessitated a slight fuselage extension plus the addition
of 40 pounds of ballast in the nose, King said. The Fokker triplane
mounts a Lycoming radial engine of 180 horsepower, giving it a margin of
safety suited to the high Colorado altitude where it spends most of its
Museum representatives told a gathering
of AirVenture 2010 visitors the thing that makes the Fokker triplane
such a good fighter is its relative instability. Stable airplanes
require more control inputs, hence more time in a split-second
environment, to overcome that stability to maneuver in a dogfight.
Engineers have long known this phenomenon; modern computerized
fly-by-wire fighters lack inherent stability, relying on computers to
keep them stable until the pilot commands a quick maneuver. But the
simple old Fokker lacks stability-inducing dihedral (upsweep) in its
triple-decker wings. Its manual controls must be manipulated constantly
by the pilot. "You let go of the controls and it may go left, it
may go right, it may go up, it may go down," one of the pilots
explained. "It's a great flying airplane. It's just not a
The ravages of World War I and subsequent
razing of so much of Europe in World War II destroyed all original
Fokker triplanes. Several latter-day homebuilders created workable
plans, and new-build triplanes have been aloft for several decades. The
Fokker Dr-I replica in the EAA Museum was built by Walt Redfern using
plans he devised. Anthony Fokker embraced simplicity in construction;
all three wings have the same chord, and use basically one size rib.
There's a hardware solution evident on the triplane replica at
AirVenture that recreates a German field modification: wooden ax handles
run parallel to the undersides of the lowest wingtips, acting as skids
to prevent groundloop damage. Fokker subsequently used this simple fix
on the production line, Parks said.
The Vintage Aero Flying Museum brought
rare artifacts from World War I fliers to display in a tent adjacent to
the aircraft. Like properly aged wine, the essence of this exhibit is
distinct from any collection of World War II or more modern memorabilia
and aircraft. A silver cigarette case autographed in 1918 by Manfred von
Richtofen, Hermann Goering, and other German pilots of the day
complements a piece of fabric from the Red Baron's triplane; an original
fin and rudder from a 1918 Fokker D-VIII broods darkly in one corner,
its original finish still sporting a factory Fokker decal.
When not engaging audiences at major
aviation events, the people and planes of Vintage Aero Flying Museum
show their treasures at their museum on Platte Valley Airport near