Siemens Schuckert D.III
- : Germany
- : 1918
- : Siemens-Halske SH.III Rotary
- 112 mph (180 km/hr)
- 1598 lbs (725 kg)
- : Static Exhibit
- : Reproduction
The Siemens-Schuckert D.III entered service in spring 1918 powered with an unusual 160 HP rotary engine. The 11-cylinder engine, developed by Siemens-Halske, offered two counter-rotating masses that cancelled out gyroscopic forces. A clever application of bevel gears allowed the crankcase, cylinders and propeller to rotate in one direction at 900 rpm, while the inner workings of the engine (crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods, etc.) rotated in the opposing direction at 900 rpm, delivering a combined 1800 rpm. The aircraft climbed fast and performed well at altitude, but cooling issues combined with the poor grade of lubricant available reduced engine life to a handful of hours.
The Siemens also demanded an experienced pilot, particularly on landing. Many front-line pilots found themselves hanging upside down by their shoulder harnesses seconds after touchdown. The Siemens was best known for its phenomenal rate of climb and nimble handling. During the Fighter Competition held in January 1918, the Siemens D.III outmaneuvered a Fokker D.VII prototype flown by the great ace, Manfred von Richthofen. Despite the outstanding performance, the lack of Castor oil lubricant doomed production of the rotary engines and the aircraft they powered.
The museum’s example is a reproduction built by Cole Palen in 1969. A 160 HP Gnome takes the place of a Siemens-Halske as none were available at the time of construction. It has been taxied, but never flown. In 2000, Aerodrome volunteer Paul Savastano refurbished the Siemens and refinished it in the colorful markings of the aircraft long thought to have been flown by Ltn. Georg Von Hantelmann of Jasta 15 in the spring 1918.