Our Fokker Triplane – or Dreidecker
Fokker Triplane G-FOKK is a full scale replica of the famous German WW1 fighter aircraft, the Fokker Dr1 Dreidecker. Built as a response to the British Sopwith Triplane, the Fokker Dr1 was by no means a copy of that aircraft. From the factory of the legendary Dutch designer, Anthony Fokker, the Fokker Dr1 is amongst the most instantly recognisable aeroplanes from WW1, so it is surprising to learn that Fokker only produced 320 Dr1’s, none of which are in existence today.
The most famous exponent of the Fokker Dr1 was Manfred Von Richtofen, “The Red Baron”. With his Triplane painted in the distinctive, blood red, colour scheme, Manfred von Richthofen was feared by allied pilots on the western front, claiming 70 victories until his death in 1918.
Triplane Replica G-FOKK was scratch built from Ron Sands Plans by Paul And Sarah Ford, assisted by a team of dedicated friends & family. Years of painstaking research went into getting everything, including the colour, as accurate as possible. G-FOKK was finally test flown at Sywell Aerodrome in April 2008, almost 5 years since the build began
On Saturday 26th July 2008, having received CAA Approval just 2 days previously, G-FOKK made her first ‘official’ public appearance at Sywell Aerodrome. The occasion was a Memorial Flypast with an SE5, to pay tribute to the British Flying Ace Major Edward Corringham, ‘Mick’ Mannock DSO** MC* (1897 – 1918).
Piloted by Matthew Boddington, G-FOKK delighted the assembled crowd.
This event was organised by Sywell Aerodrome Museum, which is well worth a visit. For more information on the museum please click here, and then made several display appearances at the end of the 2008 season to exceptional reviews.
Now in her fifth year of Display Flying, G-FOKK continues to thrill fans throughout the UK.
About The Aircraft
The Fokker Triplane
No original Fokker Triplanes exist today. The last known example was lost during the Second World War when the Berlin museum in which it was housed was destroyed by Allied bombing.
Our Fokker Triplane is a full scale replica of the original aircraft.
She was built from scratch by her owners using traditional methods, from Ron Sands plans, in a workshop in Cambridgeshire.
They were assisted by many friends and family members, to whom they are deeply grateful. The build took around five years, or 3,500 hours.
The first flight took place in April 2008 at Sywell Aerodrome.
She now appears regularly at Air Displays & Private Events in the UK & has appeared with The Great War Team generally piloted by Dan Griffith as Paul Ford is currently working towards his formation display authorisation.
For the purists among you, they have replicated 477/17, his reserve aircraft. Research lead them to believe that this triplane was painted red at the factory. His first red Triplane was, we believe, painted using requisitioned paint in a variety of differing shades of red – these allegedly include British red dope!
Our Fokker Triplane is a replica aircraft, and we have attempted to authentically reproduce the sight, sound and handling characteristics of the WW1 original, however, one of the items in the aircraft’s cockpit offers the latest in 21st Century technology.
G-FOKK is being used to demonstrate the latest Airbox Aware and Clarity, self contained GPS navigation units developed by Airbox Aerospace Limited in conjunction with NATS (National Air Traffic Services).
They combine satellite navigation with the Aware airspace warning device to aid navigation and help reduce the risk of airspace infringements, while not compromising the authentic appearance of the vintage cockpits.
This collaboration with Airbox Aerospace is very exciting news for us, however we are still looking for sponsorship.
Back to the Fokker now. Her registration – G-FOKK – does not appear on her, as this would have detracted from the paint scheme.. We have a CAA Exemption that allows us not to show the registration, and CAA Approval for the German WW1 paint scheme.
The Triplane is fitted with a Lycoming 0-320 injected flat four engine, which develops 160 hp. Dummy barrels were constructed to give the aeroplane a more authentic appearance. Originally Fokker Triplanes were fitted with Oberursal rotary engines. For reasons of practicality & safety we have fitted a more modern, user friendly engine – however the dummy engine enclosure means that even aviation experts have been fooled!
Dummy Spandau Machine Guns are also fitted to give the aircraft authenticity.
How Does G-FOKK Handle?
As a flying machine, the aircraft can only be described as ‘a handful’ due to its total lack of stability.
Like todays fighting machines, the more manoeuvrable the aircraft, the better it is at its job, this was achieved in 1917 by concentrating all the principle weights of engine, armament, fuel and pilot within a small area between a short wingspan, and this combined with complete lack of a fixed fin area, which would normally have given some directional stability, make the problems of flying the aircraft rather like those of the circus performer on a unicycle!
The Driedecker, in the hands of a reasonably skilled pilot, could run rings around many of the more ponderous machines of its time, though its flat out top speed at around 100 mph was never particularly high, due to the drag of all those thick wings.
In-flight visibility is fair, but on the ground and during landing, when the aircraft must adopt a nose-up attitude, the forward visibility is non-existent and has been compared with trying to look through a Venetian blind. The final part of the landing is carried out virtually by feel alone, without the pilot being able to see any outside references which would normally assist in keeping the wings level, or to judge the last few feet from the ground. There must have been almost as many aircraft written off as a result of these difficulties as by enemy action!
The aircraft cruises at 90 m.p.h. and is fitted with a coarse pitch propeller which is of advantage during ferrying trips to and from the Air Shows, though its rate of climb is rather less than that of the original.
The aircraft is available for public air displays; private air displays; corporate events; private events including weddings, garden parties; film work; photo-shoots.
Baron Manfred Von Richthofen – The Red Baron
The name usually associated with the Fokker Dr.l Triplane, is Baron Manfred Von Richthofen.
He will have used several Triplanes and is reputed to have had these painted in either, all red, or at least partially red, colour schemes, and has been known ever since as the ‘Red Baron’.
The son of a well-to-do German family, he was a keen horseman, and spent the early part of the war as an officer in the German Cavalry, but by mid 1915 he had transferred to the flying service, initially as an Observer, but by the end of the year he qualified as a pilot.
His first official victory did not come until September 1916, but after that his score rose steadily until, by April 1918, he had downed his 80th victim.
During this period he had become one of the most famous airmen of all time. He had been awarded many honours by the German High Command and was a national hero of the German people.
The exact circumstances of his downfall have never been fully explained. He had been engaged in a dog fight with several British R.E.S’s and was also attacked by Sopwith Camels of 209 (Naval) Squadron led by Captain Roy Brown D.S.C., a Canadian from Toronto. As the aircraft milled around, Von Richthofen fastened onto the tail of a Camel flown by Lt. May, another Canadian, and still a novice at air fighting. Seeing the red Triplane in pursuit of the British Sopwith, Capt. Roy Brown left the dogfight to try to assist his colleague, and swooped down on the RED BARON.
The chase continued down to a very low level across the French countryside and passed over an Australian Infantry Division, who also opened up on Von Richthofen with machine guns and rifles.
The red Triplane reared up, then sideslipped to the ground – the RED BARON shot through the heart.
Claims of having fired the fatal shot came from several sources, but it will never be known for sure whether ground fire or Captain Roy Brown had dealt the final blow.
Richthofen was buried at Bertangles Cemetary, about 7 miles from Amiens, not far from the spot where he died, but in 1925 he was returned to Berlin for a State Funeral to honour the National Hero. Museums and private collections in many parts of the world hold items relating to Von Richthofen or his aircraft, such was the fame of the flying ‘Ace’ of the First World War, but one bizarre event occurred as recently as 1969. An American collector and historian returned to the French cemetary at Bertangles with permission to search for an engraved plaque known to have been left at the original burial site. The plaque was never found but, amazingly, the original coffin, containing the bones of Von Richthofen, was still in the ground – the Germans had only returned the skull to Berlin in 1925!
Richthofen was in the habit of presenting himself with a small silver cup for each aircraft he shot down, all engraved with the date and details of the victim. These, and most of the rest of Richthofen family’s mementos of their famous son, disappeared when advancing Soviet troops took over their home during the Second World War, but subsequent attempts by the West German Government to have them returned, have been unsuccessful.