PlaneSpottingWorld welcomes all new members! Please gives your ideas at the Terminal.

Pfalz D.III

From PlaneSpottingWorld, for aviation fans everywhere
Pfalz D.III
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Pfalz Flugzeugwerke GmbH
Designed by Rudolph Gehringer
Maiden flight April 1917
Primary user Luftstreitkräfte
Number built approximately 1010
Pfalz D.III prototype in April 1917

The Pfalz D.III was a World War I fighter aircraft, the first major original design from Pfalz Flugzeugwerke. The D.III was widely used by German fighter units from the fall of 1917 until the end of the war.

Design and development

Prior to World War I, Pfalz built Morane-Saulnier monoplane designs under license. These entered military service as the Pfalz A-series and E-series. In September 1916, Pfalz began producing the first of 20 Roland D.I and 200 Roland D.II fighters under license.

In November 1916, Pfalz hired Rudolph Gehringer from Flugzeugbau Friedrichshafen GmbH. As Pfalz’s new chief engineer, Gehringer immediately commenced work on an original fighter design. The resulting D.III emerged in April 1917. Like the Rolands, the D.III used a plywood monocoque fuselage. Two layers of veneer strips were spirally wrapped in opposing directions over a mold to form one half of a fuselage shell. The fuselage halves were then glued together, covered with a layer of fabric, and doped. This Wickelrumpf method gave the fuselage great strength, light weight, and smooth contours compared to conventional construction techniques. However, it also proved to be more labor intensive and expensive. Furthermore, the D.III fuselage was prone to twisting or warping from side to side as it aged, a defect variously attributed to the use of insufficiently seasoned wood or to moisture absorption in damp conditions.

The wings were of conventional construction, with a flush Teeves and Braun radiator offset to the right side of the upper wing. The ailerons were of wooden construction, rather than the more convention steel tube construction. The horizontal stabilizer had an inverted airfoil section, which facilitated dive recovery and permitted the use of an unbalanced elevator.

The Idflieg found the prototype promising. It directed Pfalz to halt license production of the Roland D.III and to complete the balance of the contract, 70 aircraft, to the new design. After a Typenprüfung (type-test) at Adlershof in May, the Idflieg ordered modifications to the rudder and ailerons. In June 1917, Pfalz received a second order for 300 aircraft.

Operational history

Pfalz D.III (serial 4114/17) of Marine Feld Jasta II
Pfalz D.IIIa (serial 8413/17) displaying hastily applied Balkenkreuz markings

Deliveries to operational units began in August 1917. Jasta 10 was the first recipient of the new aircraft, followed by Jasta 4. While markedly better than the earlier Roland designs, the D.III was generally considered inferior to the Albatros D.III and D.V. German pilots variously criticized the Pfalz’s heavy controls, lack of speed, lack of power, or lack of climb compared to the Albatros. The Pfalz stalled sharply and spun readily. Recovery from the resulting flat spin was difficult. The D.III also slipped in turns, leading to crashes when unwary pilots turned at very low altitudes. Accounts of Allied pilots similarly showed that they did not hold the Pfalz in high regard.

The Pfalz’s primary advantage was its strength and sturdiness. The Albatros scouts were plagued by failure of their single-spar lower wings, a design that had been forced on Albatros by the Idflieg. The Pfalz, however, could safely dive at high speeds due to its twin-spar lower wing. For this reason, the Pfalz was well-suited to attacking observation balloons, which were usually heavily defended with anti-aircraft guns trained to the balloon's altitude. Attacking a balloon was generally attempted by approaching at a higher altitude, and then diving on it at high speed to give the guns defending the balloon as little time to fire as possible.

The most immediate complaint about the new Pfalz was that the guns were buried in the fuselage, preventing pilots from clearing jams in-flight. This feature had been carried over from the earlier Roland designs. Pfalz responded by producing the slightly modified D.IIIa, which moved the guns to the upper decking. The D.IIIa was distinguishable by its enlarged semicircular horizontal stabilizer and cropped lower wingtips. It also featured a more powerful Mercedes engine. The D.IIIa entered service in November 1917.

Pfalz built approximately 260 D.III and 750 D.IIIa aircraft. Most were delivered to Bavarian Jastas. Once Pfalz completed the final batch in April 1918, production shifted to the D.IIIa's successor, the D.XII. As of June 1918, about 430 D.IIIa scouts were still in service. By August, that number had declined to 166, and most examples had been withdrawn from frontline units.


Template:Country data German Empire

Replica aircraft

Today, there are no known surviving examples, although several flying replicas exist. Two such aircraft were built from de Havilland Tiger Moth airframes for the film The Blue Max. They are currently based in New Zealand. Other reproductions are now under construction in Europe.

Specifications (D.IIIa)

Template:Aircraft specification


  • Herris, J. Pfalz Aircraft of World War I (Great War Aircraft in Profile, Volume 4). 2001. ISBN 1-891268-15-5.

See also

Related lists

Template:Idflieg fighter designations

cs:Pfalz D.III de:Pfalz D.III fr:Pfalz D.III

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Pfalz D.III".