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Aces of Aviation

Fokker E I of Max Immelmann

Fokker E I of Max Immelmann

Fokker E I piloted by Lieutenant Max Immelmann of the Feldfliegerabteilung 62, in Douai, in August 1915.

Wingspan: 9.52 meters.

Length: 7.20 meters.

Height: 2.40 meters.

Engine[s]: Oberursel of 80 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 130 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 3000 meters.

Range: 1.5 hours.

Armament: One Spandau 7.92-millimeter machine gun.

Along with his good friend and rival Oswald Boelcke, Max Immelmann created a legend in the History of Aviation which has never been surpassed. These two men were the first who successfully personified the figure of war pilot. The Fokker Eindecker with machine gun firing through the arc of the propeller was considered during many months, in a critical period of the First World War in the Western Front, an invincible airplane.

Born in the ancient Saxon city of Dresde the 21st September 1890, Max Immelmann was admitted in the Fliegertruppe with a mission the 12th November 1914. After being assigned to him a first line position, in April of the following year he received the order of joining the Feldfliegerabteilung 10, an artillery unit based in Vrizy. Fifteen days later he returned to Germany, where he was destined to the Feldfliegerabteilung 62, serving in Döberitz under the command of the veteran combat pilot Hauptmann (Captain) Hermann Kastner. When the front reached Douai the 13th May, Kastner dedicated himself to instruct Oswald Boelcke, one of his pilots, on the subtleties of the first Fokker E I monoplane fighters, which were then being delivered. Boelcke, one of the eleven pilots qualified to fly the Fokker, passed his knowledge to the young Fahnrich (Non-Commissioned Officer) Immelmann.

The 14th July Immelmann was promoted to Lieutenant and the 31st July he piloted a Fokker E I for the first time. The following day, at the controls of the airplane number 3/15, he shot down his first victim. After Boelcke, who piloted another Fokker, had to leave the combat when his machine gun was jammed, Immelmann attacked the British airplane, probably a BE2c, piloted by Lieutenant William Reid. After a long and fierce combat Immelman forced his opponent to descend until crashing. The British airplane was practically defenseless by lacking an observer, but Immelmann had great difficulties to down it as his own machine gun was jammed for three times.

During a short period Immelmann and Boelcke continued flying and fighting together, but this latter was destined in September to a mission to escort a bomber, so Immelmann remained as the only fighter pilot defending the area of Lille. Decorated with the coveted Cross "Pour le Mérite" in January 1916, he was the creator of the "Immelmann Loop" - a slow turn effectuated upwards to perform a half loop -, which he used with good results to place himself behind the tail of his opponents.

The "Hawk of Flanders" was shot down the 18th June 1916 during a battle against an FE2b two-seat airplane of the 25th Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. His aircraft was seen hit in the air and his downing was attributed to Lieutenant G. R. McCubbin and Corporal J. H. Waller. However, the Germans stated that the Schneider firing mechanism had failed - as it had already happened two times in the Fokker piloted by Immelmann - and broken the propeller. To Immelmann was attributed the destruction of fifteen enemy aircraft.