The Albatros fighter series consisting of D. I through D. Va models were the primary German fighter aircraft of World War I. The D. I model was introduced in September 1916, just as the first German fighter squadrons were being formed.
The D. V and D. Va types, the most produced and widely used of the Albatros fighters, were put into service in May and October 1917. More than 2,500 D. V/Va’s were made. Their use was so extensive that in April 1918, at the time of the great German spring offensive, almost 50 percent of all German fighter aircraft were Albatros. Although replaced in the summer of 1918, the type remained in wide service until the Armistice on November 11, 1918. Virtually all German aces flew the Albatros at some time in their careers. Aerodynamically designed and especially noteworthy was its unique rudder and horizontal stabilizer configuration. This feature was readily identifiable from great distances.
The aircraft also had two important structural characteristics: the fuselage was of plywood semimonocoque construction and the lower wing was of smaller chord than the upper wing, resulting in greater maneuverability and better downward visibility. The difference between the V and Va models was minor, consisting of a change in aileron control wire configuration.
The aircraft on exhibit in the Museum is in the markings of Joachim von Hippel of Jasta 5, the third-highest scoring German Jasta (squadron). It illustrates well the flamboyant and famous german “Flying Circus” coloring system. The green, red-outlined tail, green wheel covers, and red propeller spinner were the markings used on all aircraft in the squadron. These colors were well-known to the British, who called them “The Green Tails.” The gray fuselage with the red lightning bolt was von Hippel’s personal marking which distinguished his fighter from other aircraft. He named his aircraft “Blitz” (Lightning). Also noteworthy are the purple and green wing colors painted at the factory as part of a standard camouflage pattern.
There are only two original Albatros in existence, one in the Australian War Museum, the other in the Smithsonian. The Museum’s aircraft is powered by a rare 1917 212 hp Hall-Scott L-6 engine, which was based on the original 160-180 hp Mercedes. Purchased in July 1980, the Museum’s Albatros was built by, and the engine was overhauled by, Jim and Zona Appleby of Antique Aero, Ltd. in Riverside, California.