Flying Circus Vol 2’s aircraft set is slowly starting to grow and the second addition to the line-up is the last Fokker fighter of WWI – the D.VIII. This unique looking plane for the period has some really interesting attributes and adds some variety to the skies over the western front. This is my full review off the Fokker D.VIII for Flying Circus.
The history of the last of the Fokker scouts
Designed by Reinhold Platz and built by Fokker-Flugzeugwerke, the D.VIII represents the last of a breed of fighters that featured such greats as the Fokker D.VII and the Fokker Dr.I. The later which is so iconic it practically defines World War I fighters in popular culture.
In early 1918, Fokker submitted two monoplane prototypes to the fighter competition being held to produce new fighter aircraft. The E.V as it was initially designated made use of the 110hp Oberursel Ur.II engine already in use on the Fokker Dr.I and drew on a substantial supply of remaining engine stocks.
The D.VIII featured the same steel tube fuselage construction used on other Fokker designs and made use of a parasol style wing. The wing was a unique arrangement among WWI era fighters and pilots were mistrustful of the new wing configuration. Their fears were borne out as initial introductions into Jasta 6 and 19 in the spring of 1918 were halted after two aircraft crashed with wing failures.
An inquiry into the wing separations was initiated and it was discovered that improper quality of construction and materials was to blame though some blamed Fokker for changing the design. Whatever the case, the problems were resolved and the type was renamed D.VIII. Upgraded wings were put into production and the fighter began to roll off the production line. This delay took time and the type was reintroduced on the frontlines in the October 1918 – just weeks before the war would end.
It took me time but I eventually managed to gain an understanding of the Fokker D.VIII in both how best to fly as well as how to fight it in combat.
The monoplane design curbs drag considerably and it allows the 110hp Oberursel Ur.II engine to propel the Fokker D.VIII along at speeds and climb rates that are not too far behind the 232hp Fokker D.VIIF and 180hp Fokker D.VII. In-fact, climb rate is excellent and is only just slightly behind the impressively performing D.VIIF at lower altitudes.
The monoplane construction also makes the D.VIII roll more quickly than its closest competitor and that together with an effective rudder makes the D.VIII surprisingly responsive on all axis of control. Despite being powered by a rotary, I found far fewer of the unstable handling attributes of the Dr.I or Sopwith Camel. The D.VIII is a joy to fly and feels more like a spritelier Fokker D.VII than anything else.
To be clear, this is not a turn fighter and D.VIII pilots need to take great care not to bleed off too much speed as depleted energy states take longer to gather back with the 110hp engine. In this way the Fokker D.VIII is best flown as an energy fighter. It can turn tightly but only for a short period of time and it is best off extending out of the fight in a slight dive, gaining separation, and then rejoining. This will work against most other types but it does struggle to run from the faster SPAD XII.
Successes and challenges in combat
Against the AI, I found little trouble managing my energy to maintain a good fighting position in the D.VIII. I did make the mistake of trying to turn with Camels early in my exploration with the aircraft but quickly learned that this was not a good tactic and the Fokker D.VIII will shudder and stall when the speed drops off. Extending needs to be done with care but it is doable and the type’s moderately high top speed and good aerodynamics makes this possible.
The twin LMG 08/15 Spandau 7.92mm are standard weaponry for German scouts of the time and are hardly worth mentioning. They are effective and work well against other aircraft about equally as well as other types. They can be paired with a daytime, nighttime, or iron sight or the type can be flown without a gunsight. Closing to point blank range with the enemy is typical in WWI aircraft in any case and at that range the sighting on the machine guns or just aiming ahead works well too.
In multiplayer on the Flugpark server I had a great experience achieving an ace-in-a-flight during my first sortie on there in a couple of weeks. That ace-in-a-flight status was undoubtedly part luck, part teamwork with other fellow pilots, and part the capabilities of the Fokker D.VIII but it did carry me well. I loved the climb and climb angle that helped me get into combat near our base at one point during the battle.
The Fokker D.VIII is relatively tough and in one case I took quite a few hits from enemy machine gun fire before going down. Its weak spots appear to be in two areas.
First, the rudder control cables which invariably get hit (seemingly on the first bullet) are a common problem for the type and a common problem with many aircraft in Flying Circus right now. Second, the engine, which doesn’t so much succumb to enemy fire all that often as it does to dives and over-revving the engine.
The RPM gauge is located awkwardly behind the control column and is hard to glance at. Proper blip switch management is essential and is clearly not something that I’ve mastered as I broke the engine in combat three or four times in one night.
Visibility out the back is excellent as it is with most WWI aircraft but visibility forward and to the sides is unusually good minus the position of the wing which is close to eye level. That seems like a big issue but relative to the other types from the period, it’s actually still quite good. I rarely lost sight of the enemy in diving turns and that is thanks to the good visibility.
A new favourite and final impressions
I wasn’t expecting to find a new favourite with the German WWI aircraft line-up the way I did with the Fokker D.VIII but right now it’s sitting at or close to the top of my list together with the Fokker D.VII.
In many ways, the D.VIII is just as impressive as the better known D.VII possessing most of the performance with far less available engine power. That’s an achievement in and of itself at a technical and engineering level and that fascinates me about aircraft design. It’s a bit of an ugly duckling with the unique wing configuration. I find it frequently just doesn’t “look right” with the parasol wing but after spending several hours with the type, I’ve grown to appreciate it.
With great overall handling, good visibility, standard firepower, and high end performance, the D.VIII is a good aircraft to take into combat in Flying Circus. That is provided that you manage your energy and speed well, avoid prolonged turn fights, and are at the ready on the blip switch during steep and fast dives.
As usual, Ugra Media and 1CGS have done a great job of translating this aircraft from Rise of Flight to IL-2: Great Battles and the Flying Circus Vol 2 aircraft collection. Textures are crisp, cockpit details are plentiful, and there are ample modification options. This aircraft also has the new dynamic vehicle damage system, the new tactical codes (which you see in many of these shots), and just overall looks, sounds and flies well. I’m really happy with this one – I just wish the control cables wouldn’t give up quite so quickly.