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The Pfalz D.XII

Overview

In 1918 Pfalz Flugzeuwerke of Speyer built the Pfalz D.XII to address the German Air Service need for a fighter comparable to the latest enemy fighter aircraft. The prototype made its first flight in March 1918.[i] The D.XII was one of the designs accepted for production in May 1918. D.XIIs began reaching front line service in August.[ii] The German Air Service received almost 800 D.XIIs before the war ended.[iii] Less than 200 of these were in service by October 1918.[iv]


[i] Airports-Worldwide, Pfalz D.XII, Pfalz D.XII (airports-worldwide.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

[ii] Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tony Holmes, © HarperCollins Publishers 2005, P.40.

[iii] National Air & Space Museum, Pfalz D.XII | National Air and Space Museum (si.edu), last accessed 12/19/21.

[iv] Aces Flying High, Australian War Memorial: Knights of the Sky – Pfalz D.XII Scout Aircraft – Aces Flying High (wordpress.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

Production and Service

Germany put in an initial order for 50 aircraft. Pfalz entered aircraft in a fighter competition in May/June. Almost all the evaluators favored the Fokker D.VII over the Pfalz. The exceptions were Ernst Udet and Hans Weiss.[i] The D.XII passed its official type text on June 19. Pfalz received a production order.[ii] D.XIIs came to squadron service, mostly Bavarian squadrons, in July 1918. D.XIIs served alone in some units in relatively quiet sectors. Other units had a mixture of D.XIIs and other aircraft.[iii] The D.XII was unpopular with it pilots and ground crews. Jasta 35 commander, Leutnant Rudolf Stark praised the D.XII’s high-speed dive characteristics. He pointed out its long takeoff run, heavy controls, poor handling, roll rate, and weak landing gear. The wire bracing required more maintenance than the Fokker D.VII.[iv] He wrote, “No one wanted to fly those Pfalz’s except under compulsion, and those who had to made as much fuss as they could about practicing on them.”[v] Anthony Fokker claimed pilots deliberately crashed their Pfalz’s so the engines could be installed in Fokker D.VIIs.[vi] This claim’s veracity is an open question. Many D.XIIs crashed because of its landing characteristics and weak landing gear. Two D.XIIs served in the Polish Air Force and fought against the Russians in 1919.[vii] They continued to serve with the Polish Air Force into the 1920s.


[i] Airports-Worldwide, Pfalz D.XII, Pfalz D.XII (airports-worldwide.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

[ii] Airports-Worldwide, Pfalz D.XII, Pfalz D.XII (airports-worldwide.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

[iii] Aces Flying High, Australian War Memorial: Knights of the Sky – Pfalz D.XII Scout Aircraft – Aces Flying High (wordpress.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

[iv] Airports-Worldwide, Pfalz D.XII, Pfalz D.XII (airports-worldwide.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

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[v] Aces Flying High, Australian War Memorial: Knights of the Sky – Pfalz D.XII Scout Aircraft – Aces Flying High (wordpress.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

[vi] Airports-Worldwide, Pfalz D.XII, Pfalz D.XII (airports-worldwide.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

[vii] Airports-Worldwide, Pfalz D.XII, Pfalz D.XII (airports-worldwide.com), last accessed 12/29/21.

Pfalz D.XII & Fokker D.VII

Source: Vintage Aircraft Recognition Guide by Tony Holmes (c) HarpersCollins Publishers (2005)

Pfalz D.XIIFokker D.VII

Weight (Empty)

1578 lb (716 kg)

1508 lb (684 kg)

Weight (max T/O)

1977 lb (897 kg)

2006 lb (910 kg)

Max Speed

106 mph (170 kmh)

117.5 mph (189 kmh)

Endurance

90 minutes

90 minutes

On To Hollywood

After the war the United States military brought many German aircraft to America as war reparations. The U.S. military evaluated these aircraft. After the military was finished with these aircraft movie companies acquired two Pfaltz D.XIIs. The D.XIIs appeared in both versions of The Dawn Patrol.[i] One probably appeared in Hells Angels and may have appeared in Men with Wings.[ii] Director, and World War I U.S. Army pilot, Howard Hawks flew a D.XII in the battle scenes for The Dawn Patrol.[iii]

One of the D.X11s that was in The Dawn Patrol is in The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington.[iv] Another Dawn Patrol D.XII belongs to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. The Smithsonian couldn’t much about the airplane’s combat record. The Air & Space Museum usually displays an aircraft in the paint scheme that makes the aircraft famous. The Air & Space Museum restored the aircraft to how it appeared in The Dawn Patrol. The paint scheme also fit its World War I exhibit Legend, Memory, and the Great War in the Air.


[i] The 1938 remake used much of the flying footage from the original 1930 movie.

[ii] National Air & Space Museum, Pfalz D.XII | National Air and Space Museum (si.edu), last accessed 1/4/22.

[iii] International Movie Database, The Dawn Patrol (1930) - IMDb, last accessed 1/8/22.

[iv] Museum of Flight, Pfalz D.XII | The Museum of Flight, last accessed 1/8/22.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Robert Sacchi

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