Flying the Albatros DVa – Help Us Bring it Back in 2018
From the moment the pilot sits in this roomy and lofty cockpit he begins to feel sense of command, bordering on superiority perhaps. The two Spandaus and the huge Mercedes engine dominate and inspire confidence in this seemingly sturdy machine. Inside the cockpit however, an ergonomic disaster awaits! There is a collection of no less than 4 fuel system selector valves with a bewildering number of possible combinations, the instruments are scattered about in random places both inside and out, and interspersed amongst these are such curiosities as: an auxiliary emergency throttle lever and; a water pump greasier! Even still it remains a simple enough machine to operate. The engine once started, cannot fail to raise the blood of any petrol head… the huge 15 litre behemoth creating a reassuring deep bark, with its open exhaust pipe belching black smoke and red hot spits of carbon….. whilst its exposed tappets lazily rock away in timely order.
Taxiing the aircraft is a nightmare for which she was clearly not designed to endure. The very heavy tail with a fixed tailskid responds only to full forward stick, lots of power and full rudder. This results initially only in a very disconcerting, rapid acceleration towards whatever you were trying to miss! Followed, if one is brave enough to persist, by a disappointingly large turning circle! Take-off into wind and she poses no particular problem. You are rewarded with brisk acceleration, a short take off run and the most satisfying throb from that slow revving straight six now thundering its steady beat. She doesn’t disappoint in the climb either, the engine drags the fuselage skyward behind it as if had no need for its burdensome wings.
Once airborne the fantastic all around view becomes immediately apparent, the upper wing is well placed at eye level affording a good view below and forward past the narrow fuselage and engine, with a completely unrestricted view above the wing and behind. All so essential for a fighter aircraft. Her beautifully streamlined shape picks up speed immediately the nose is lowered, she climbs and retains energy very well. Dive, fire and zoom away westward or back up above the fray to try again was this fighter’s modus operandi…. and for good reason, as the DVa cannot be described as manoeuvrable. The ailerons are heavy and ineffective the rudder very light, but also disappoint. To become embroiled in a turning dogfight would not be at all advisable. No … this is a Teutonic interceptor … one not easily swayed from its chosen path. Caution and superior tactics are essential to its success.