Smoke me a kipper...
June 17, 2009 6:02 AM   Subscribe

Need to build an FE2b, or perhaps an SE5a? Need to keep the Hun at bay with an RE8 ? Haven’t a clue? Don't worry Vintage Aviator’s got your back. You’ll need to source the correct linen be able to splice cable, and learn how to make the

The site has an excellent section on posters, and galleries - Album 1, 2 and 3
posted by mattoxic (24 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
...reproductions of the original white metal bearings
posted by mattoxic at 6:07 AM on June 17, 2009

Fuck, that's a good looking website. Thanks.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:18 AM on June 17, 2009

Most excellent!
posted by artaxerxes at 6:27 AM on June 17, 2009

Wow. Cool.

Notice how thin the wings are in the construction photos. Aerodynamic theory back in the early 1900s was all based off of the "flat plate" airfoil; wings were all designed to be as close to flat plate as possible. It took a number of decades before people figured out that thicker airfoils had significant advantages to thin ones.
posted by backseatpilot at 6:29 AM on June 17, 2009

It is an excellent site, but I've gotta say the water mark on EVERY image/movie is a bit over the top
posted by mattoxic at 6:46 AM on June 17, 2009

I love it. Some folks stateside built 7/8 scale Nieuport 11 replicas (via).

Omaka in New Zealand apparently has flying replica Fokker Dr.I copies. Anyone for a little dogfighting?
posted by exogenous at 6:51 AM on June 17, 2009

Looking at these I get the same thought I got when I saw the Mercury capsule at the Air and Space Museum: They flew in these things?!
posted by tommasz at 6:55 AM on June 17, 2009

I watched the The Great War Flying Museum at an air show a week and a half ago. After a morning of watching Spitfires and Hurricanes doing their flybys, you get an interesting perspective on just how slow and frail these WWI planes were. I'd need more than white metal bearings to take that job.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:07 AM on June 17, 2009

backseatpilot Thicker airfoils aren't necessarily aerodynamically better, but they are structurally advantageous. With the materials available during WWI, thin airfoils meant that the wings had to be braced externally. Also, biplanes were preferred as the two wings formed a sturdy "box": early monoplanes like the Blériot XI had an unnerving tendency to lose their wings in tight maneuvers.

All this changed with the Junkers D.1, the first all-metal, internally cantilevered wing monoplane fighter. Produced in the late days of WWI, it was a bit of a flop. The aerodynamics of its thick airfoils were still perfectible, which made it unloved by pilots. After the war, however, Hugo Junkers persisted with the concept, building in 1919 the surprisingly modern-looking F.13 passenger aircraft. While Junkers had quite a lot of success in promoting air transport during the interwar period, other aircraft makers took a while to follow his rather revolutionary ideas. By the '30s, however aircraft makers had recognised that thick-profile cantilevered wings not only allowed to eliminate "draggy" struts and bracings, but that they had the additional advantage to offer quita a lot of internal space for things like retractable landing gears, fuel tanks, and armament (for instance, the Spitfire carried no less than eight machine guns and their ammunition in its wings).

Hugo Junkers was quite an exceptional character. Quite the pacifist, he believed in the power of air travel to bring the world together. Sadly, his views had him ostracised by the Nazis, who then proceeded to put his last and greatest design to alternative uses.
posted by Skeptic at 7:09 AM on June 17, 2009 [3 favorites]

Thicker airfoils also tend to give you much more forgiving stall characteristics - more of a gentle "hit the top of the roller coaster hill" than a sharp snap.

If I remember correctly (not a huge history buff), the Sopwith Camel had some amazing maneuverability due to the center of gravity being placed so far forward. Unfortunately, that also made the plane incredibly prone to flat spins.
posted by backseatpilot at 7:13 AM on June 17, 2009

All this changed with the Junkers D.1, none were shot down apparently, shot at, but not down
posted by mattoxic at 7:19 AM on June 17, 2009

BTW, I'm not surprised that Vintage Aviation is based in New Zealand. There's a famous Kiwi aviation history nut with his own museum...
posted by Skeptic at 7:33 AM on June 17, 2009

Another neat thing about some WW I aircraft is that the whole engine would rotate, leading to weird gyroscopic effects that made it hard to learn to fly the aircraft (e.g, right rudder would pitch the nose down), but which apparently could be used to good result by experienced pilots.
posted by exogenous at 8:13 AM on June 17, 2009

Speaking merely as a long-time sim pilot on ww1 planes, yeah buddy, a well-modeled Camel is like walking a tightrope. Well, running on a tightrope. Despite my profile pic, I have come to the conclusion that my years of experience ripping the wings off this Camel or that Dr1 in an overly enthusiaistic dive contitutes poor training for actually flying one of these machines.

I pretty much can't stand simming later planes though. Give me cables, spruce and linen all the way!
posted by mwhybark at 8:14 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

For speeds under ~300 mph, thick aerofoil profiles are better, as they give more lift than flat profiles for similar drag. At higher speeds the flow over the wing will start to go sonic, causing lots of nasty wave drag and controllability issues.

Fokker's late-war aircraft also had cantilever wings, as their chief designer Reinhold Platz had studied Junkers's construction, although Platz used plywood for the wing structure.

posted by Jakob at 8:22 AM on June 17, 2009

How utterly coincidental. It happens that just now I am reading Derek Robinson's trilogy of WWI flyers. Great good stuff, and funny too. You should all read it.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:43 AM on June 17, 2009

TVAL has gone to great lengths to recreate actual A.I.D. inspection marks and the actual font and size of parts numbering on components.

Wow. The attention to detail is almost neurotic, seeing as only those making the plane would notice these details. That, or they're trying to change history by increasing the number of planes in combat. I wonder where they installed the flux capacitors.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:43 AM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

RE: Skeptic's Junkers JU-52

If you happen to be at the Dübendorf airport in Switzerland, you can still hire a JU-52 for sightseeing trips. Even after 60+ years, there are 52(according to Wikipedia) of these that are still in operation. I would love to be able to do that.
posted by chambers at 9:17 AM on June 17, 2009

Fantastic post. I'm going to spend hours looking over this stuff. Thanks so much.
posted by gofargogo at 9:33 AM on June 17, 2009

I have a sudden urge to go play some Crimson Skies
posted by Nauip at 1:20 PM on June 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

I found this model of a JU1, quite impressive
posted by mattoxic at 12:05 AM on June 18, 2009

Thanks mat for a great post. My only real exposure to WW1 flying is through too much Capt. W. E. Johns.

Skeptic, "perfectible" is a great new euphemism.

Nauip, others, what's the best (including most accessible/fun) WW1 combat flying sim?
posted by wilful at 6:18 PM on June 18, 2009

wilful, that's a tricky question.

If you are on a Windows OS, an arcade-level sim with decent graphics can be had at It's in-browser, relies on direct-x (iirc, thus PC only) has no customizability to speak of, and you use a mouse to control your plane. Instant Action also seems to have some other neglected genres in addition to ww1 available via their in-browser thingy.

BUT! It's free, there is a planeset, and it's POV, so honestly, in terms of accessibility that might be the way to go.

My favorite sim was Dawn of Aces 2.7x, derived from the massively-multiplayer Warbirds. Dawn is currently at 3.x and moribund, alas. iENT still maintains online arenas but they are rarely well-populated. They had to redo the flight models for 3 and the game was never quite as fun. They did deliver an overhaul that brought the game past beta in conjunction with a movie tie-in for the flick Flyboys, and that added Nieuports to the game (finally), but the zeps are still not in release, which is really too bad.

There is also a community-derived overhaul of Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator 3 called Over Flanders Fields which looks interesting. I have not tackled it as the install requirements seem a bit daunting (you must first obtain CFS3 and then separately the OFF install materials) and I have not set up my MacBook for dual-boot - yet.

This topic is probably worth a genuine post with real research behind it. Next time I wonder the same thing as you just did I'll take better notes.
posted by mwhybark at 4:02 PM on June 19, 2009

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