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FEATURE – Albatros D.Va aerial debut

Photo: Jean-Michel Munn flying Albatros D.Va G-WAHT DARREN HARBAR

 

Almost a year after arriving in the UK, a reproduction Albatros D.Va with an edelweiss-adorned black fuselage made its long-awaited aerial debut. Darren Harbar tells its story…

The UK once welcomed the tell-tale shape of two airworthy replica Albatros D.Vs – the first is now grounded and on display in Hendon’s RAF Museum, while the other was returned to New Zealand after sustaining damage during a forced landing on September 15. Almost two years to that day, the skies were filled once again with the putter of a Mercedes D.III engine as a third example took off from the revered grass of Old Warden, Bedfordshire for the first time.

Although this tribute to the legendary German fighter is operated by the WW1 Aviation Heritage Trust (WW1 AHT) based at Stow Maries, Essex, it is owned by Oliver Wulff, a staunch supporter of the group. As a Bavarian, Oliver had good reason to add an Albatros D.Va to his growing aircraft collection (which includes an airworthy BE.2, along with a Fokker D.VII and an SE.5a that are both currently in the workshop), but also for his choice of colour scheme. He explained: “As far I am concerned, the Albatros is one of the most beautiful aeroplanes of the Great War, as well as being the backbone of the German fighter force during the latter stages of the war. If you are in love with aviation of this period, how can you not want to own one? The combination of its sleek fuselage and a big Mercedes engine, along with its overall shape and attractive scheme, make the whole affair aesthetically pleasing – despite the somewhat morbid reality of war.”

Bavarian Synergy

Oliver’s example carries a rather striking scheme depicting the mount of Deutsche Luftstreitkräfte (German Air Service) ace Otto Kissenberth when he commanded the Royal Bavarian Jagdstaffel 23. The aircraft sports an all-black fuselage emblazoned with a huge white and yellow edelweiss, which is complemented by beautiful five-colour, lozenge-patterned fabric on the wings.

Oliver remarked: “I think it’s an awesome colour scheme. There were several reasons I went for it – one of which is that Kissenberth was a fellow Bavarian. Apparently, he was quite a character and a masterful pilot. He was also a holder of the Pour le Mérite medal, one of the highest Prussian orders of World War One. He used to fly a captured Sopwith Camel in German markings and the story goes that he shot down a British aircraft while flying it.”

Although it is known that Kissenberth flew at least three different D.Vs, Oliver has opted to recreate Albatros D.2263/17, in Otto is said to have scored the majority of his 20 ‘kills’.

The aircraft itself is the result of craftsmen at Sir Peter Jackson’s New Zealand-based The Vintage Aviator Ltd (TVAL), which has produced several Albatros replicas since its first example flew in October 2009 – this being its sixth – and it took to the air for the first time in 2016. Oliver bought the airframe a year or so later and had it repainted, before shipping it to the UK. After it arrived at Old Warden in September 2018, Bedfordshire-based Flying Restorations were tasked with rebuilding the aircraft. While the assembly took very little time – the team having put together the two previous examples – the first flight didn’t occur for nearly a year due to several setbacks.

The lack of German aircraft of this variety in the UK fuels Oliver’s passion. He told FlyPast: “There is very little in the way of German-driven World War One activity in the UK. I wanted to bring the aircraft here and share it with both the aviation and Great War community through the work of the WW1 AHT. I received a wonderful opportunity to work and live in Britain and, as a result, I could afford the Albatros and BE.2. I met my wife here and my son was born in London, so I want to give something back. The idea of a German in his aircraft dropping poppies for the British fallen is tremendously appealing to me.”…

The rest of this feature – and exclusive air-to-air photos – can be seen in the current FlyPast, in UK shops now, or available at www.flypast.com

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