​​Millersburg RC Modelers

AMA Charter #2959

Albatros D Va 1/16 scale
Kit by Model Airways
A division of Model Expo Inc., Hollywood, FL
Price: $199.99

This kit contains all materials, including laser cut wooden parts, Britannia cast metal parts for the engine, cockpit details, 1908/1915 9mm Spandau machine guns, control surfaces and other details, wires, threads, and laser cut parts for the propeller. The finished and sanded propeller then has that laminated look we all know from this era. I indicated that to Gary. I hope others saw it as well.

There are extensive (48 pages) of detailed instructions with this kit. The wise builder will follow those to the letter exercising due caution and normally reading ahead to make sure the method of fitting together will not come as a surprise. I spent a number of months building this model.

I stained all of the wood. Some I stained initially and some after building. That is personal preference, acknowledging that some required re-staining later. I painted most of the cast parts. That included the ailerons, rudder, and elevator, in order to get a color like steel. On the engine I painted the cylinders and block black, the oil pan copper, and left the cam shaft, lifters, and piping unpainted. There is a length of black spring that you must cut to lengths for the springs in the lifters. That was an afternoon of careful work. I tried hard to resist swearing (in Swedish).

The construction begins with the wings. The plan will look familiar, but don't bet on the construction being familiar. The ribs give you a first idea of how involved the construction will be. Each rib has cut out sections to lighten the framework and top and bottom slates of wood to support the original covering. The pain comes in fitting the spars, since that required careful filing of openings for the spars. You had to have the top and bottom slates in place before you can file the holes for the spars large enough. Both wings also have wire trailing edges, which gave the German airplanes the scalloped trailing edges with which we are all familiar. These are affixed to the ribs by aluminum strips on the original and on the kit by strips if self adhesive aluminum paper, which you cut. But those strips and that wire trailing edge really look nice.

Of course leading and trailing edges must be sanded. Keep sizes by constantly comparing with the plan. 

The cross brace wires and turnbuckles really look nice on the upper wing. The kit supplied thread for the wires, but I used steel wiring about 1/32” (1mm) thick.

You need to be careful and follow the directions for mounting position on the ailerons. They are also held by aluminum strips.

The kit has laser cut wood for the fuselage jig and all the formers are laser cut. This is absolutely necessary if you lack twelve very small coordinated hands. But it does go together. Be very careful on the spacing of the formers. I thought I was being careful enough, but fell a bit short. This causes headaches later.

I now know how the bullet feed and dump worked on these German machines. My guesses were not far off.

But the model was a joy to build. Seriously. I did have to exercise patience and think a lot. But I was also learning constantly about all the functioning of all the components on the original. For example, I learned that the airspeed indicator is on the right strut and was a rotating weather vane, not a pitot tube. And the pilot had to adjust the radiator on the top wing to keep the engine temperature right. The adjustment rod hangs from the top wing just to the right of the cockpit.

Of course the cockpit is a marvel, but takes care. I put in the rudder bar, with foot pads and copper bands, intending to have the cables as on the original. But finally I gave up because that would have meant also adding the aileron controls to the joystick, which itself was no laughing matter to build. As well as the elevator cables.

Toward the end of the basic fuselage structure I tried to taper a piece of wood with a Dremel tool. Bad, terrible idea. I lost some fuselage formers. My excursion to the company website indicated that replacement parts could be found, but no instructions as to how to order them. So I wrote to the company describing my error and the drama of flying parts. I got a note from a real person and a copy of the internal email he had sent requesting a laser cut fuselage sheet be sent to me free of charge. I received that sheet two weeks later.

If I could afford it I would be tempted to get a Fokker Eindecker model like this from the company ($199.99) and then probably a Sopwith Camel for the same price to show that I have nothing against the English.

But this is really a winter project. I started it in early spring, but not early enough.