The Fokker Dr.I combined excellent maneuverability with a high rate of climb. The type was favored by Manfred von Richthofen, and Werner Voss, two of Germany’s legendary fighter pilots. Both of these men lost their lives in this type of aircraft in two of the most talked about air battles of the war.
The Dr.I was developed from the lesser known Fokker D.VI biplane, and both featured cantilever wings (wings which did not require external bracing). This wing design was a tremendous breakthrough in aircraft development, however, there were setbacks in the early stages. Many “triplanes” (as they are popularly known), suffered wing failures in flight, resulting in fatal crashes. The design was slightly modified, but there is a good deal of evidence that suggests the failures were caused by poor workmanship (insufficient varnish coverage of ribs resulting in moisture absorption and consequential deterioration of the wood).
There are no known original Fokker triplanes in existence. In 1967, Cole Palen constructed this reproduction, complete with a 110 hp LeRhone rotary engine, using drawing from several sources including drawings made by the British in 1918 from a captured aircraft.
It is fair to say that with this particular aircraft, Cole Palen became responsible for popularizing the idea of homebuilding full-scale World War I reproduction aircraft around the world. This aircraft also played a major role in the growth of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome, dogfighting Dick King’s authentic Sopwith Pup reproduction for many years. After twenty years of continuous use, flying in nearly every Sunday show, the Dr.1 was retired.