1/48 Eduard Albatros D-III Oeffag

Gallery Article by Mike Muth on June 30 2020

 

      

Oesterreich Daimler Motoren AG was a subsidiary of Skodawerke AG and obtained a license from the German company Albatros to build an Austrian version of the famous Albatros D-II and D-III fighters. The Austro-Hungarian fighter pilots had been using the Hansa Brandenburg D-I, which was outclassed by the Italian flown Nieuports. The D-III quickly went into production. It was divided into 3 series: 53, 153 and 253. The main visual differences among the series was the presence of a rounded spinner on the series 53. Series 153 usually had the spinner removed but not always. The series 253 saw the removal of a spinner and a rounder design of the nose of the airplane. Series 53 was powered by the 185 hp Daimler and Series153 was powered by the high compression 200 hp Daimler engine. The Series 253 was powered by a 225 Daimler.

While similar in appearance to the German built Albatros, the Oeffag version had a stronger lower wing and was generally liked by the pilots who flew it. It continued to be a sought after fighter at the end of World War I and was used by the newly formed Polish Air Force. 45 Series 53, 280 Series 153 and over 300 Series 253 were built by Oeffag.

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Eduard has produced a beautiful kit of the Oeffag D-III. While there are numerous boxings, including a weekend version and overtrees, if you purchase the series 253 you can build any of the other series since the parts are included in the Profipac boxing of the series 253. Before Eduard produced this kit, your only other choices for an Austro-Hungarian D-III were the Glencoe kit and a Blue Max kit. The Glencoe kit is a mess and not worth purchasing. I am not sure about the Blue Max kit, never having seen it.

The Eduard series 253 Profipac boxing has decals for 6 D-IIIs, masks for the wheels and pe for those who like that kind of stuff. This kit also has the raised rib markings found on the newest kits from Eduard (SS D-III, SE5a, Fokker Dr1 and D-VII). These are pretty prominent but look ok if you use lozenge decals for the wings (not on the SE5a!). The kit goes together without any major problems other than the tight tolerances where the parts come together. Treat this like a Wingnut Wings kit and make sure there is no paint where surfaces touch each other and you should be fine. I have now built this kit 3 times and still have trouble getting the cabanes to fit properly with the top wing. There are small carve outs on the cabanes that fit on 2 bumps on the underside of the top wing. If either are painted before gluing, you can't get a good fit. Because of the way I paint biplanes, I usually paint the top wing before attaching it to the cabanes. Anyway the cabanes should be between the bumps and the fuselage. If you have a steady hand, the cabanes, usually in gloss black or natural metal on D-IIIs, can be painted after attaching them to the fuselage and the top wing.

The attachment points for the undercarriage, ailerons, rudder and stabilizer are pretty small so I drilled holes and replaced them with thin wire. The undercarriage is butt joined to the fuselage and this just won't do. I drilled holes into the undercarriage legs, ca the thin wire and insert it this way into the fuselage. This still leaves the airplane a little wobbly due to the thinness of the legs, so to strengthen things I use a thicker wire instead of the thread rigging used elsewhere on the airplane. It may be out of scale, but it holds the airplane sturdy. The bottom wing has very small tabs to insert into equally small slots on the fuselage. I shaved off the tabs, drilled a few holes, used ca to attach some wire, and slid it into the fuselage holes, secured with more ca. Takes a little time, but the result is a sturdier model.

The Austro-Hungarian D-IIIs have very striking personal markings and many have a unique camouflage scheme. Oblt. Frank Linke-Crawford was the Dual Monarchy's 4th leading ace with 27 confirmed victories before falling in combat in July of 1918. His personal marking was a stylized black falcon outlined in white that was painted on both sides of his D-III. I used the decal from Pheon's excellent Oeffag Albatros D.III Volume Three sheet (# 48016). This sheet has decals for 13 D-IIIs. Pheon also produced 3 other sheets that let you build just about any of the D-IIIs that have  something other than factory finish.(CDL on the wings, varnished plywood for the fuselage and dark black or natural metal for the struts, cabanes and undercarriage.) The falcon is a unique marking that sticks out. Linke-Crawford became known as the "Falcon of Feltre."

The camouflage scheme is what really makes many D-IIIs stand out. Dr. Martin O'Connor did an exhaustive study of Austro-Hungarian aviation, in particular colors and markings. This is only a partial summary, in particular as it applied to Link-Crawford's Albatros. The factory finish for the D-III was a clear-varnished plywood fuselage, and clear doped natural linen wings. The metal panels were left in their metallic color. The struts, cabanes and undercarriage, usually left in natural metal, were gloss black on Link-Crawford's plane. 

Hauptman Godwin Brumowski was the Dual Monarchy's top scoring ace in WW I with victories over 35 Allied airplanes. He was the commanding officer when Flik 41J received their first batch of Series 53 and 153 D-IIIs. He had the top of both wings as well as the top of the fuselage, tailplane, and rudder painted a dark green. Then, he directed that a mustard yellow sworl be applied over the green up to the rear center cabane strut. I believe there were some D-IIIs that had a similar camouflage with light green underneath the sworls. The result, when paired with the pilots' personal markings is quite dramatic.

So, the million dollar question is how to get those little yellow squiggles. I guess you could paint them, but that is way beyond my skill set. I think Pheon once had a decal sheet, but it is out of print. I have been saving up decals to do Austro-Hungarian D-IIIs for over 20 years and found in my stash a sheet from FCM, Austro-Hungarian Sworl (S4806). I had used FCM decals in the past without any problems; not so much this time. For the green undercoat I used a Model Master enamel called Japanese Army-Navy dark green. The color was a perfect match for the many profiles I have seen. So, I cut out the decal on one sheet to cover the entire top wing, sans ailerons. Using Micro-set and Micro-sol, I waited overnight to see the results, only to be met with disaster. The decal wouldn't lie flat over the prominent wing ribs. I tried a few more applications of Micro-Sol and even used some Walther's Solvaset. Same bad result.

I was tempted to throw the whole thing into a box that would be swallowed up in the closet of doom, when I remembered I had a very old decal sheet from Americal/Gryphon (#59 Brumowski Distribution). It was probably designed to fit the earlier Blue Max or Glencoe kits. A quick bit of measuring showed it would work for the Eduard kit. So, I took a photo of the botched job to show what happened to the FCM decals, stripped off the paint and decals, repainted the dark green and then cut out the Americal top wing decal. It laid down perfectly over the raised ribs with only a single coat of Micro-Sol. I finished the rest of the sworls without incident. Americal/Gryphon was the brainchild of Dr. Glen Merill. He researched and created a wealth of WW I themed decals.It was pretty much a cottage industry inspired by his love of World War One aviation. The only way to get his decals now is second hand. 

So, there it is: an Oeffag Albatros D-III in the Brumowski scheme flown by the Falcon of Feltre. I hope to do another Oeffag D-III in Polish markings with an even crazier color scheme, (think of the covering on your grandmother's couch) assuming I can find the right decals. For more information on the Oeffag D-III, Windsock Datafile #19 and the decal instruction sheet from Pheon are a good start. 3 books are also helpful: Albatros D.II & D.III Oeffag by Petr Tesar published by JaPo, Air Aces of the Austro-Hungarian Empire 1914-1918, by Dr. O'Connor and Austro-Hungarian Army Aircraft of World War I by Peter Grosz, George Haddow, and Peter Schiemer.

Mike Muth

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Photos and text by Mike Muth