As a kid when you read about World War I, a couple of fighters immediately jump to mind and the Pfalz D.III is not one of them. Very much the ‘other’ fighter, the Pfalz D.IIIa is a competent complement to the Albatross D.III and D.Va fighters.
Pretty good but never exceptional
Impressed by the Nieuport 17 design, engineers at Pfalz Flugzeugwerke did their best to replicate that fighters famous one-and-a-half wing design while mating it to the nearly ubiquitous 6-cylinder Mercedes D.III engine.
Early versions found little favour with their pilots featuring heavy controls and some difficult handling characteristics and was generally regarded as too slow. The D.IIIa version had increased engine power and a larger tail fin. On paper it appears to have been about as fast as the Albatross D.III and D.Va fighters.
While the Albatross continued to struggle with structural issues in high speed dives, the Pfalz was sturdy enough to give its pilots confidence in faster dives.
Handling can be tricky
At first I thought that the Pfalz D.IIIa was fairly easy to handle and in normal flight its pretty good but it has some issues.
Roll rate is somewhat slow at speed and it takes considerable amounts of aileron and rudder to get the aircraft to flick over. The Albatross does this far better.
Turn is also good but not world beating and that means that a combination of tight turns and horizontal tactics are required. Structurally the Pfalz can handle a dive but never forget to throttle the engine back to prevent engine RPM overspeed – I did that quite a few times in testing.
Also it can get stuck into an unrecoverable flat spin in some circumstances. Typical spin recovery techniques proved useless. It doesn’t happen often but when it does it’s bad news for your virtual pilot.
Average visibility, good firepower
Thought not the best forward view, the Pfalz D.IIIa is perfectly adequate. The view for aiming on a target is certainly constrained by the tight viewpoint between the top of the engine cowling and the bottom of the upper wing. You do have easy visibility both up and down and the wing doesn’t get in the way too much while tracking targets except in some very specific circumstances.
The dual Spandau LMG 08/15 7.92mm machine guns are standard issue on German fighters at this stage of the war and they work well at bringing down enemy fighters and balloons. They offer considerably more punch than any of the single gunned fighters.
Pfalzing for it
Though quirky and less popular than the Albatross both in real life and on Rise of Flight multiplayer servers, the Pfalz is still an interesting fighter to fly.
This scout has a unique aesthetic that sets it apart from the Albatross fighters. I bought this plane mostly because I was interested in trying something other than the Albatross and the Pfalz fits into that niche nicely. Its inferior but it also has some added character.
Character isn’t really a desirable think if you were a real pilot sent up in one of these things but for a virtual pilot it can be entertaining.