Friday, March 22

Kagero Publishing Legends of Aviation in 3D No. 2, Fokker D.VII - The Lethal Weapon in review…

Our Man Dave Rowe has been hard at work travelling the world – but he had one companion to keep him sane – Kagero’s new book about the Fokker D.VII – part of their new “Legends of Aviation in 3D” series – these books blend historical reference with modern profiles and 3D rendering – click on to see what Dave thought in his review….

Kagero Publishing:
Legends of Aviation in 3D No.2, Softcover.
Fokker D.VII - The Lethal Weapon
Text by Tomasz J. Kowalski.
3D Rendering by Marek Ryś.
ISBN: 978-83-62878-33-8
Available from the Kagero shop directly – soon to be available with Squadron in the US as well

As an aviation enthusiast, I have always been interested in all aspects of aviation and its history, from humankind’s early attempts to take to the air in balloons to the spectacular power and complexity of the vehicles used to take humans into space, and I have often had cause to wonder whether it is a blessing or a curse that the breadth of this interest has directly translated into the range of modelling subjects which I wish to pursue. In particular, I have always been fascinated by the first employment of the aeroplane as an instrument of combat and the rapid evolution of design, innovation, manufacturing and capability that this triggered; it is therefore very welcome indeed that for the second release in their “Legends of Aviation in 3D” series, Kagero have chosen to profile the truly remarkable, Fokker D. VII.
For those not familiar, the Fokker D. VII is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the aviation arms industry supporting the Germans and in common with the British S.E.5a, it was arguably the air supremacy fighter of its day, in much the same vein which nowadays is occupied by the modern day F-22. As the book’s author takes the time to point out in the very first paragraph, so highly was the aircraft’s capability regarded, that it was the only one mentioned specifically by name in the Armistice’s demobilization clauses.
The book is extremely well bound and printed on very high quality, heavy gauge, paper. All printing is in sharp register, in full colour with black and white period photographs. Whilst it is not broken into clearly delineated chapters, a cursory study of the contents page quickly reveals that it is broadly broken into two main parts; the first runs to 63 pages providing a detailed, written, overview of the aircraft’s development, operators, production numbers, and notable individuals associated with each and is punctuated by an excellent selection of period photographs, many of which I’d not seen before. This is followed by a further 102 pages of stunning, full colour, 3D renderings of the aircraft, systematically deconstructed in a logical, intuitive, fashion into its core components, and rounded out with multi-angle views of the markings of four specific aircraft which saw service. I believe special mention should also be made at this point of the excellent work of Kazimierz Zygadło, the series’ translator, who has performed a virtually flawless job of translating all text into English.

The book opens with a concise but extremely well researched introduction outlining the history of the Fokker factory and its undeniably talented but nonetheless pragmatic founder, Anthony H. G. Fokker, and details the very astute management skills which he employed to great effect to secure contracts for the licenced manufacture of the aircraft by subcontractors, which commercially speaking, were rather more advantageous to Fokker. Commencing on page 6, the reader is treated to a more detailed investigation of the aircraft’s development and testing, with particular reference made to the core differences between the experimental, prototype variants of the aircraft which were developed in support of this.
From pages 13 to 25 the aircraft’s combat history is studied, along with profiles of several of its most famous pilots, and including profiles of some of those lesser known individuals who were nonetheless associated with important milestones in the aircraft’s combat deployment (such as the aircraft’s first and last aerial victories). It is here that the impressive array of period photographs make their main appearance. This is followed by a detailed listing (ending on page 48) of all countries which operated the aircraft, whether captured or as a provision of the Armistice conditions and  it is here that some fascinating and at times surprising facts come to light; not unexpectedly, particular attention is paid in this section to the D. VII’s service with Poland.

Pages 48 and 50 deal with the colours and markings typically found and pleasingly, the author takes the time to point out that these were invariably altered at individual unit level and acknowledges that this potentially contentious issue warrants a separate publication in itself. This is followed by a two page overview of the aircraft’s construction, the materials and manufacturing techniques employed in its assembly, and technical data pertaining to its armament, power plant and performance. Pages 53 and 54 include a bibliography and Endnotes relating to the above. Finally, the text is rounded out by three appendixes; the first, not unexpectedly, is a biography of Anthony Fokker but pleasingly, the second is devoted to a biography of Reinhold Platz, the brilliant, and oft overlooked chief constructor who succeeded Martin Kreuzer following his death at the controls of a Fokker Dr. I. A specialist welder who was self-taught and had a natural intuition concerning all matters aeronautical, Platz was instrumental in the development of Fokker’s two most iconic aircraft and was deemed sufficiently important by Anthony Fokker that he chose to flee Germany with him at the War’s end. However, true to previous form, Fokker failed to credit Platz’s invaluable contribution to the company’s success; it is therefore appropriate that the author has identified and sought to redress this here. Appendix three details paint schemes, notable aerial victories and interestingly, includes a table of pilots who scored 10 or more confirmed victories against the D. VII. This is followed by four pages of black and white orthogonal elevations of the D.VII drawn in 1/72nd scale (including production variations), with detailed elevations of the wing’s rib and spar arrangement drawn in 1/24th scale.
As mentioned previously, the remaining two thirds of the book are devoted to the incredible 3D renderings of Marek Ryś. For those not familiar with Mr Ryś’ work, each and every one of these are true works of art. I have always had the greatest respect for 3D modellers. Like those of us working in the medium of styrene, or wood, metal and tissue, 3D renderers are confronted with all of the same complexities, trials and tribulations associated with researching their subject matter, finding a program and computer system capable of rendering, texturizing, colouring and weathering it to their exacting standards, and are no strangers to the frustrations of getting part way through a project only to have a newer and better program hit the market. One look at the near photographic quality of Mr Ryś’ renderings and the attention he has paid to such fine details as scratches on the surface of sheet metal work, evidence of the lathe cutter’s path, or imperfections on the surface of the Spandau’s bluing, and you will be convinced that Mr Ryś is a true master of his craft.
The renderings follow a logical pattern, starting with four, full page, oblique views of the aircraft (sans fabric covering), followed by a further five, full page orthogonal elevations of the aircraft, again in uncovered state. The aircraft is then systematically de-constructed into its component parts, starting first with several full page views showing the components, their relative location in relation to one another and then progressing to dedicated views (both oblique and then orthogonal) of each component, its related subsystems, and the manner in which these are fastened to one another, with applicable reference notes at each point.
This process works exceptionally well as a means of presenting the whole, in much the same way that one associates with a modern aircraft walk around and is employed in turn for the D.VII’s engine, radiator, fuel tank, cockpit, seat, instrument console, compass, yoke, rudder, throttle and control cables. This is followed in turn by the wings, tubular metal fuselage, landing gear struts, horizontal and vertical stabilizers, control surfaces, internal bracing, landing gear, suspension systems, armament, and ammunition. In short, no aspect of the aircraft or any of its sub-assemblies is forgotten, and as the majority of these are large and rendered in exquisite detail on their own page, they serve as a perfect reference for the modeller. Finally, the remaining 40 pages are rounded out by a collection of multi-view renderings of three German and one Polish example of the aircraft, along with a sample page of both the four and five colour lozenge camouflage patterns, as found on both the upper and lower surfaces of the aircraft.
In conclusion, I believe the book is an indispensable reference for anyone interested in the design philosophies behind the development and operational employment of World War I aircraft and in particular, for anyone building any of the excellent kits available from Eduard, Roden or Wingnut Wings, just to name a few. Both the book and the series from which it comes serve to consolidate Kagero’s reputation as a publisher of reference works of the highest quality and I greatly look forward to future releases in the “Legends of Aviation in 3D” series.

David Rowe

Thanks are due to Kagero for the review sample.