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WARPLANE: A Century of Military Aviation Advances
Parts One and Two: Wednesday, November 8th, 9-11pm   |   Parts Three and Four: Wednesday, November 15, 9-11pm

The Warplanes That Changed The World
Fokker E.I-E.IV "Eindecker"
(The specs below relate to the E.III model.)
Type: Fighter
Crew: One
Length: 23 feel 11 inches
Wingspan: 32 feet 11 inches
Range: 150 miles
Maximum Speed: 93 mph
Armament: One machine gun
Dates in Service: 1915-17

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See this warplane in action
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The brilliant Dutch designer Anthony Fokker -- working for Germany for the duration of the First World War -- attached the world's first "interrupter gear" to his M.5 reconnaissance aircraft and came up with the E.1 "Eindecker." The interrupter gear synchronized the plane's machine gun to the propeller, interrupting the firing of the gun whenever the propeller blades passed in front of it. This allowed the pilot to fire directly forward without shooting off his own propeller, and made the Eindecker, in the eyes of many historians, the world's first true fighter plane.

Underpowered, unstable, and difficult to maneuver, the Eindecker was an altogether mediocre aircraft. Even with all those drawbacks, the plane's interrupter gear gave it a dramatic advantage over its opponents. Instead of having to shoot sideways like most other planes of the time, the Eindecker's pilot could aim the plane's single Parabellum or Spandeau machine gun simply by pointing his airplane at the target.

As Eindeckers began methodically slaughtering their Allied opposition, the first few months of 1915 became known to the Allies as the "Fokker Scourge." British pilots began referring to themselves as "Fokker Fodder." And the Germans considered the interrupter gear to be such a critical advantage that they refused to let any Eindeckers fly over enemy lines, for fear that the interrupter gear might be captured and copied.

Ironically, the "Fokker Scourge" was eventually put to an end by the arrival of two new allied aircraft, the French Nieuport 11 and British Bristol Fe2.B, that didn't even use the interrupter gear -- the former had a machine gun mounted above its top wing, while the latter was a "pusher" with the engine and propeller located at the rear of the aircraft. Still, their much-superior flight performance and their ability to shoot forward was enough to drive the Fokker from the skies.