First impressions of Flying Circus’ Fokker D.VII and Sopwith Dolphin

IL-2 patch 3.011 came out earlier this past week and since then I’ve been trying to get as much time on the two new Flying Circus Vol 1 aircraft. The Fokker D.VII and Sopwith Dolphin are the two latest additions and here are my first impressions of both aircraft.

First impression: Sopwith Dolphin

When someone thinks about World War I air combat, names like the Sopwith Camel, Fokker Dr. I and Albatross D.V immediately jump to mind. Aside from Rise of Flight and a few other passing references, Sopwith’s follow up to the successful Camel received almost no attention from me. That was a mistake because it turns out that I like this plane a lot.

In early 1917, Herbert Smith, Sopwith’s chief engineer began work on a successor to the Camel using the new Hispano-Suiza 8B 200hp inline engine as the intended powerplant. The Dolphin was intended to redress a number of issues with the Camel including poor upward visibility while maintaining the agility and combat capability of the Camel. They succeeded and the Dolphin was generally popular with its pilots and considered a close match to the S.E.5.a – an excellent scout in its own right.

Flying the Dolphin

My experiences with the Dolphin so far have been very positive. Having never flown this type in Rise of Flight I can’t comment on how the two compare though I’ve heard from others that their impressions of the Flying Circus Dolphin are far more positive than of the one from before.

The cockpit visibility to the front is outstanding and it has the most unimpeded view of any type in Flying Circus so far. Forward and up visibility are absolutely excellent. Left and right are pretty good but rear visibility is more like an early WWII fighter than some WWI types with a completely clear rear view. The headrest and cockpit framing impede visibility and getting bounced from below and behind is a real concern.

The Dolphin is much easier to fly than the Camel. It’s more steady and stable while still having very good overall agility. Roll rate feels average but once you can achieve a turn-in, the aircraft can be turned tightly and without too much effort. Importantly and unlike the Camel, the Dolphin it can do this in both directions without much difference and there’s no need to blip the throttle to get rolling or turning in either direction.

Stall can be abrupt and uncoordinated maneuvering can lead to a spin that I find difficult to get out of it. I’ve crashed a few of these and not been able to escape the spin yet.

Armament flexibility

The Dolphin is also a “multi-role” aircraft for the era. You can do a lot with the available and optional armament.

Four 20lb Cooper bombs can be carried for ground attack and two different sets of Lewis guns can be fitted. Twin Lewis overwing guns can be fitted and aimed at different angles upwards. Twin Lewis underwing guns are more conventional and provide extra forward firepower (four machine guns instead of just the two standard 7.69mm Vickers) although only for a short time as the twin guns have a single 97 round drum each and there is no way to reload them.

I haven’t used the Lewis overwing guns at all so far. Eventually if we get bombers, recon planes and balloons in the future I may find a use for them.

My new Entente favourite

The Dolphin is my new surprise favourite for the Entente side. A jack of all trades fighter with a bit of a ground attack secondary role and the ability to potentially hunt bombers, recon aircraft, and baloons in the future means that the Dolphin can do just about everything. It’s excellent visibility forward, speed, and agility all combine together to make this a really great aircraft to fly.

I’m looking forward to getting to know the Dolphin more over time and we’ll see if I still like it later.

First impressions: Fokker D.VII

I’ve liked the looks and flying the Fokker D.VII in Rise of Flight since I went and purchased a bunch of Rise of Flight aircraft a few years ago. The Fokker is undoubtedly a more refined type than many of the other WWI aircraft and so it’s made easy to like but I also seriously appreciate the looks of the aircraft. My trip last summer to the Great War Flying Museum in Brampton Ontario and seeing their nearly completed Fokker D.VII helped cement that for me personally.

In 1917, Fokker and several other aircraft manufacturers for Germany presented their latest prototypes to frontline combat pilots for the first time. A modified Fokker prototype that was to become the D.VII was selected by Manfred von Richthofen (the “Red Baron”) as being the best of the competition and orders for 400 were soon to follow. By May 1918 the Mercedes D.IIIa powered Fokker D.VII was hitting the frontline and soon gained the respect of its opponents. A BMW powered D.VIIF possessed even more engine power although production was constrained and both D.VII and D.VIIF served on the frontlines until the end of the war.

Flying the Fokker D.VII

I find the Fokker D.VII immensely enjoyable to fly. Its fast, its agile, and it’s stall characteristics are benign for a WWI fighter. Combine all of these together and you have a plane that is imminently capable of doing the job of hunting enemy fighters, bombers, and recon aircraft with ease. Its handling is not as sharp as the Fokker Dr.I and that means that some are not going to like the D.VII but there is a lot to like here.

The cockpit and armament are very conventional and any WWI German fighter pilot fan will find the Fokker easy to step into and get going. Its strong wings and frame also make it a better boom and zoom type than most and this is the style that it favours.

Purpose built

Unlike the Dolphin, the D.VII is more of a purpose built aircraft designed for the scout/fighter role and not too much else. It does come with a whole list of modifications including a variety of gunsights (collimator day, night, ironsights, etc.), thermometer, and even a digit based ammo counter that makes reading the remaining ammunition at a glance incredibly easy to do. A very cool feature!

Not for all but a great option

The Fokker D.VII has for a long time been my go-to in Rise of Flight and it looks like it will stay that way for Flying Circus. Its all around performance and ease of handling compared to most other types make this immensely enjoyable to fly and fight in. The handling is not as sharp as the Dr.I so some aces out there will find that types agility an advantage but for the rest I think the Fokker D.VII is a go-to.

One final note is that the BMW powered D.VIIF is currently not available. Although I had thought it would be coming in the same patch it appears that it will be present sometime later (as confirmed by a recent developer diary). The D.VIIF adds extra engine power and very impressive 1,000-2,000 meter altitude performance.

Other thoughts

These two aircraft bring the Flying Circus Vol 1 aircraft list up to six from four and that means that we finally have some variety when it comes to dogfights and particularly for online dogfights. It also means that Flying Circus is now starting to come together a little more as a title although there’s still a ways to go.

Third party developer, Ugra Media, who has been responsible for doing the conversion of these aircraft from Rise of Flight to IL-2’s Digital Warfare engine and the Flying Circus Vol 1 title have done an outstanding job of things making sure that these aircraft are beautifully detailed. From the brass fittings to the wood and leather fabric… I’m impressed. Things look great! There’s no drop in quality here in any way and these fit into the IL-2 series as a cohesive whole. No complaints!

Screenshots

I’ll leave things with a few screenshots for you to enjoy. I can’t wait to get that Arras map for future aircraft images – until then you’ll see a mix of Kuban and Moscow trying to stand in for the fields of France.

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