historyThe Pfalz D.IIIa was the follow on to the earlier D.III version of which 260 were built. The D.IIIa version differed mainly in two areas; it’s Spandau LMG 08’s were mounted on top of the fuselage decking as opposed to being enclosed, a feature that had proved very unpopular with the pilots, and balanced ailerons and a balanced rudder were incorporated in the improved D.IIIa design as well. Generally the D.IIIa proved no better then equal to the Albatros DV and Va’s and the Fokker DR1’s it was to replace. By April of 1918 the 433 D.IIIa’s serving at the front comprised 25% of the Fighter Force of 1751 fighter aircraft.
This model represents Pfalz D.IIIa 8304/17 as flown with an unknown Marine Feld Jasta (MFJ) in 1918, and as photographed before being broken up post Armistice in early 1919.
kit and accessoriesThe Kit is up to the normal superb standards of Wingnut Wings that we have all come to enjoy. The “standard” Instruction Booklet is very well presented and contains some excellent reference photos. I found the engineering of the Kit exceptional, the fit near perfect, and the quality of the moldings second to none. All in all a beautiful package.
Aftermarket additions to this Build included very basic items such as Instrument Bezels from Aeroclub and Czech Master Spandaus. The Kit was also augmented by a set of HGW’s excellent fabric seat belts, several Taurus Mercedes engine upgrades such as castellated manifold nuts and replacement valve springs, and Gaspatch Models Turnbuckles to augment the standard Bob’s Buckles. Last, I decided to add a set of 760X100 Spoked Wire Wheels from Steven Robson’s Spoked Wheel Shop.
The decals for this Build were from Wingnut Wings After market Sheet 30019 “Pfalz D.IIIa Flying Circus Part 1”. These are also a high quality product and as good as any decal I’ve ever used.
Scratch Built additions to the Kit started with a hand laminated and carved wooden Axial Propeller. Also added were several cockpit fuel and engine controls, radiator shutter adjustment handle, and spring release clips at the front of the upper engine cowling panels. The radiator supply and return lines were provided with pipe clamps made of Bare Metal Foil.
building and finishingThe Instructions were followed more or less in sequence for the build although, per my usual method, I used a modular approach where ever able. The cockpit was detailed and painted prior to full assembly and instrument bezels added, spring anchor points scratch built for the harness assembly, and all flight control cables installed. Once the cockpit was completed it was placed aside and the engine, guns, and landing gear assemblies were completed.
Most detail work on the engine, in this case the Diamler Mercedes DIIIa 180 hp version, was limited to the upper one third, given that most of the engine would be invisible with the high side cowlings left installed. Painting was done with various shades of Alclad II. RB Motion Spark plugs were added and wired, the valve springs replaced with Taurus Resin ones, and lifters and manifold detailed. After installing the engine into the forward fuselage and cockpit frame and adding flight control wires (.012mm Mono) the fuselage was closed up and the lower wing added. Minimum sanding / filling was required as the fit was excellent.
The fuselage was primed and then sprayed with a thin coat of Model Master Grey Primer followed later by two thin coats of the aluminium impregnated dope, “Silbergrau” which was applied to nearly all D.III and D.IIIa’s at the factory. I mixed Silbergrau from 2/3 Model Master Aluminium #1781, 1/3 Model Master Navy Blue Grey #2055, and added a few “squirts” of their Semi Gloss White to tone it down further. Next I applied a coat of Model Master enamel Gloss Light Ivory to the lower and upper wings to provide a glossy base for the lozenge decals.
Both wings received their coverings of Wood and Wire 5 Colour Lozenge, I used the “White Base” faded version. No pre-shading was done, rather I elected to post shade with chalk pastels and pigments later in the Build. The Lozenge proved very disappointing; the decals went on well with a little help from Microset and, in the case of edges and curves, careful application of Microsol. Unfortunately the decals tended to chip a great deal; the colours chipping off the white base at an almost unworkable rate. Ultimately patching followed at every step from that point on and over coating with future and/or Klear Kote did not improve the situation. The wings/fuselage assembly was then given a good coat of Future, fuselage and wing decals plus wing tapes applied (edge tapes were saved for later) and then all turnbuckle locations were pre-drilled. The entire assembly was then sprayed with two coats of Alclad II Klear Kote Semi Matte and left to dry for two days. All rigging was then applied to the top wing and bottom where appropriate. Last, the post shading of the ribs and weathering of the entire assembly was completed using pastels and pigments of black, grey, and some dark browns with thinned down acrylics for fuel and oil staining.
Once the guns, engine panels, and radiator fittings and lines were installed a sheet styrene template of the upper wing cabane mounting holes was prepared and used to install the cabanes at the proper spread and alignment. Once CA’d in place the upper wing was installed using thin CA on the cabane joints first before slipping in and gluing the interplane struts.
With the upper wing now in place all rigging was completed using .012 and .015 mm Mono, the wing leading and trailing edge tapes applied to tops and bottoms, and the edges carefully sealed with another shot of the Klear Kote. The mono wires were painted with a thinned down coat of Mr. Metal Color “Stainless”.
The last parts installed were the pre-finished undercarriage assembly and prop/spinner. The fit and alignment on the former were superb.
conclusion Another winner from that wonderful team at Wingnut Wings; this proved to be an exceptional Kit. I really enjoyed the Build with the exception of many hours of repairing the lozenge at seemingly every step, and I’m very pleased with the effect of the unique colour scheme and markings. Hopefully there’s a D.III Version in future to compliment this little jewel. I’m very pleased with the final result and to add her to my Display Case.