Pfalz – Fighter Aircraft from Rheinland the Wine Country

As an experiment, the Pfalz P-59 was rebuilt into a single-seat fighter with its wing lowered and placed just above the fuselage. The machine was named Halb-Parasol. The construction improved visibility above and below. The wing used was that of the Pfalz E.II with triple wing braces which controlled the wing twist. The Halb-Parasol was powered by the 60kW (80hp) Oberursel U.0 engine and was not armed. Performance of the modified Pfalz was poor and the design was dropped although it was approved9 as fighter aircraft.
Another parasol modification was a biplane. Only a prototype was built.

Pfalz D.III 1366/17 with typical paint scheme and markings. [Krzyżan’s collection]

The Pfalz A.I and A.II fighters serving in Flieger Abteilung 9b were fitted with bomb racks containing ten10 4.5kg Carbonit11 bombs. The aircraft armed with bombs were flown only by a pilot since the observer would increase the plane’s weight. Such planes flew over the front in Tyrol (Italian front) as part of the German aid12 to the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy.
The Pfalz E.IV was another attempt to increase the monoplane’s performance by mounting a 14-cylinder, 118kW (160hp) Oberursel U.III rotary engine. To balance the heavier engine, a longer fuselage was needed. The fighter was armed with two synchronized machine guns. The double row of cylinders in the Oberursel U.III engine caused cooling problems and the aircraft’s performance only slightly exceeded that of the Pfalz E.II. Only 46 fighters were built but only a handful of them saw action on the front. They were easily recognizable by additional cooling holes in the front part of the engine cowling.
The E-type Pfalz was mistaken for the E-type Fokker not only in Germany but also by the Entente pilots. Thus, encounters with the Fokker E were most frequently reported although the Pfalz fighters had different paint scheme. They featured black cowling, black outlines and black forward fuselage. The pattern led to the E-types being referred to as flying death notices (newspapers outlined death notices in black).
The main disadvantage of the Pfalz (Morane) were difficult flight characteristics which forced the pilot to concentrate on the controls. The aircraft could perform an uncontrolled manoeuvre any time, especially during take-off and landing. Thus, experiments with stabilizers and ailerons were conducted. Between 1915 and 1916, experimental biplane machines were built by the Pfalz factory. They were the biplane version of the Pfalz A.I inspired by the LVG B.I biplane used by Flieger Abteilung 9b.

 Pfalz D.III of  Kest 8 crash. Tail of a snake, the unit’s emblem, can be seen.  [Krzyżan’s collection]


The Pfalz E.V was a version based on the construction of the Pfalz E.IV, powered by a six-cylinder, 75kW (100hp), water-cooled Mercedes D.I in-line engine. The aircraft’s performance was better than that of a machine powered by a rotary engine with comparable power. The weight was increased due to the water-cooling system which forced limitation of armament to one machine gun. The aircraft passed the Typenprüfung flight tests in July13 1916. An order for fifty Pfalz E.V fighters was placed to keep the production flow, however, new, better D-type biplanes entered the war. Of the 50 planes ordered, only three were sent to the front line units. Two Pfalz E.V fighters were delivered to the Navy air service.

That was not the end of the E-type development. The Pfalz E.VI was built in May 1916. It was powered by the Oberursel U.I engine, had a different rudder shape and two sets of wing bracing wires instead of three. The fighter was armed with a single synchronized machine gun. Twenty aircraft were built and sent to flight schools. None of them saw any action on the front.
It is worth noting that many Pfalz A and E fighters were fitted with engines from captured French and British machines. They were mostly 81kW (110hp) Le Rhône engines. The refit was usually done in combat units.
The aircraft’s weak construction was the cause of numerous accidents. A total of over 100 Pfalz fighters were destroyed. Their parts were salvaged to repair other damaged machines. The cost of losses sustained by the Bavarian and German air services exceeded 1,500,000 DM.
In the spring of 1916 the Idflieg14 proposed the main aircraft manufacturers to construct a biplane fighter armed with twin synchronized machine guns. The first to respond were the Halberstadt, LFG Roland, Fokker and Pfalz companies.

Pfalz D.IIIa cockpit. Machine guns mounted on the fuselage can be seen. [Krzyżan’s collection]