Often overshadowed by its more famous contemporaries Fokker and Albatros, Pfalz Flugzeugwerke GmbH was nevertheless responsible for manufacturing what was possibly the most elegant of all Great War aircraft, the Pfalz D.III and D.IIIa fighters. After spending the first few years of the war essentially building aircraft designed by other manufacturers, in 1917 Pflaz became serious about entering the competitive German fighter market with one of their own designs.
Their Pfalz D.III incorporated many design features and construction techniques learned while manufacturing Roland aircraft, the most obvious of which was the extremely streamlined fuselage and their innovative construction method. Each fuselage half was created from 2 layers of long plywood strips of between 70mm to 100mm wide, each layer applied at an opposing angle, formed over a buck. Once completed each half of the fuselage was glued and tacked onto the internal framework, the centerline seams were taped and then the whole fuselage was finally covered with doped on fabric. This technique allowed the lightweight construction of a sleek fuselage featuring many compound curves without resorting to the many small panels of Albatros’ D.V design. The 2 LMG08/15 ‘Spandaus’ were positioned inside the fuselage out of the air stream contributing to the very sleek lines of the aircraft.
Despite all this the Pfalz D.III was received with mixed reactions from the Jasta pilots when it entered front line service in September 1917. The maneuverability was excellent but performance in other areas was lacking when compared to its contemporary the Albatros D.V. One area which raised much concern was the internal gun arrangement which made clearing a jam particularly inconvenient during combat. Part way through the initial production run of the D.III the specifications were altered to include a tailplane of larger cord and raising the guns so they were mounted externally, thereby creating the improved D.IIIa. Unfortunately not a single Pfalz D.III or D.IIIa survives to this day. Any history here is of necessity very brief, therefore we encourage you to seek out any, or all, of the reference books mentioned below for a more thorough understanding of this important aircraft.