The Fokker E.I is one of the most famous combat aircraft in history as it was the first successful fighter aircraft and many argue the first ever aircraft designed to be a fighter - that is with the sole purpose of intercepting and shooting down enemy aircraft. It first entered service with the German Army Air service in mid 1915 and proved devastating to the allied aircraft which were designed for reconnaissance and light bombing. Until the Allies developed fighters of their own the Germans had air superiority and this period was often known as the “Fokker Scourge”
Based on the earlier Fokker M.5(A III) reconnaissance aircraft the E.I one was the first fighter to carry a synchronized gear firing mechanism which allowed the lone pilot to use a fixed forward firing machine gun, either a Parabellum LMG 14 or a Spandau LMG 08. This gave the pilot a huge advantage over other aircraft in accuracy and in air combat as other solutions to the problem of mounting a forward firing gun which included armoured deflectors on propellers had proved less than successful. Without the need for a gunner the aircraft could be lighter and faster and the pilot aiming the guns was more instinctive and gave more control.
Anthony Fokker with the help of two German pilots, Lt Parschau and Lt Wintgens introduced the first armed version in early 1915 for evaluation. The first fighter combat victory belongs to Lt Wintgens on 1st July 1915 when he shot down a Morane-Saulnier Type L two seater aircraft.
The German Army air service was the main user of the Fokker E.I, although some did serve with the Austro-Hungarian air force and the German Fleet air arm. By the time the first E.I were entering service the improved E.II was already a flying prototype. Despite this availability of engines meant the E.I continued in production at the same time as the E.IIs and E.Is were even still in production after the E.II had been replaced by the E.III. Many of Germany's future ace pilots cut their teeth on the E.III including Boelcke and Immelmann. Boelcke achieved 19 of his 40 kills in an Eindecker while Immelmann famous for the Immelmann turn manoeuvre achieved 15 confirmed victories in Eindeckers. Parschau, Wintgens, Boelcke and Immelmann all received the ‘Blue Max’ award while flying Fokker Eindeckers.
It is still worth remembering that the Fokker Eindeckers (monoplanes) were still fairly primitive aircraft, the technology of flight was still in its infancy. All Eindeckers had a gravity fed fuel tank which sat behind the pilot and fuel had to be pumped by hand to the engine fuel tank every 10 minutes or so. They had no ailerons so rolling the aircraft relied on wing warping. Some pilots complained that it was also difficult to maintain level flight. By early 1916 newer allied fighter aircraft could compete with the Fokker monoplanes. Just over 400 Eindeckers of various types were produced.
Gross Weigh: 610kg (1,342lbs)
Max speed: 87 mph (140km/h)
Max ceiling: 11,480 ft (3,500m)
Endurance: 90 mins
Weapons: One 7.92mm machine gun (two guns in final E.IV version)