The Pfalz E.I was the company’s first fighter aircraft, and was an armed version of the Morane-Saulnier Type H. However it entered service after the Fokker E.I, and wasn’t as good as that aircraft, so was only produced in small numbers.
In February 1914 the young Pfalz company entered into a licence agreement to build the Morane-Saulnier Type L parasol wing monoplane and Type H monoplanes. These were both unarmed pre-war monoplanes, but one of the slightly larger but other similar Type Gs was the aircraft that Roland Garros had installed bullet deflectors on the propeller, allowing him to achieve the first aerial victories by firing through the propeller disc. Although Anthony Fokker was the first to respond with true synchronising gear, Pfalz weren’t far behind, and they soon had an armed version of the Type L ready for production.
The E.I was a simple monoplane, with a boxy fuselage and a mid mounted wing. It had two wing bracing and wing warping cables on each side, and this makes it fairly easy to identify in pictures, as the distinctive Pfalz paint scheme included black circles where the cables reach the wing. The upper cables were attached to a strong V shaped pylon just in front of the cockpit, which also helped protect the pilot if the aircraft crashed. The single lMG machine gun was mounted in front of the cockpit, between the Vs of the pylon. It was powered by a seven cylinder 80hp Oberursel U.o engine, the only one of the Pfalz E series to use that engine.
Two contracts for the E.I was known – one for 25 aircraft in September 1915 and a second for 20 aircraft in November. The September contract also included ten Pfalz E.IIs with a more powerful 100hp Oberursel U.I engine.
The E.I entered front line service in late October 1915 (four months after the Fokker E.I). The highest number of aircraft in service was 27, in April 1916. This had fallen to 13 at the end of June, 11 at the end of August and 3 at the end of October 1916. Although only a small number of E.Is were ever in service, they were used on both Eastern and Western fronts. By mid-August an order had been issued to withdraw the E types from front line service, but the E.I was already on the way out by this point.
The E.I was initially issued to a variety of reconnaissance squadrons. They were also used by the early fighter units, the Kampfeinsitzer Kommandos (KEK).
A direct comparison between the E.I and Fokker E.III, written by Vizefeldwebel Kurt Jentsch, survives. He described the Pfalz aircraft as having a shorter fuselage, but being heavier, with an unusually high angle of incidence for the wing, an uncomfortably high pilot’s position with too small a windscreen, and being more difficult to recover from a spin. Jentsch flew his E.I on the Balkan front, supporting the Bulgarian army. The unit started with three E.Is, but all three were lost in crashes by the end of April 1916. German pilots all seem to have agreed that the Fokker aircraft were superior to the Pfalz, proving that the Fokkers weren’t simply a copy of the Type L.
Allied airmen very rarely identified the Pfalz monoplanes, instead calling all German monoplanes Fokkers. The Pfalz aircraft did have one clear identification feature – they were painted white, with black outlines around the edge of the wings and tail surfaces and along the corners of the fuselage. This earned them the nickname of ‘flying death notices’, because death notices in German newspapers were outlined in black. They also tended to have more German crosses painted on them, with crosses on the rudder, elevators, wings and side of the fuselage – Fokkers didn’t have the elevator crosses.
Although the E.I wasn’t as good as the Fokker E monoplanes, it was used by several German aces, including Ltn Otto Parschau, who was awarded the Pour le Merite in July 1916 for his eight confirmed victories. However he was seriously wounded soon afterwards and later died of his wounds. Otto Kissenberth, a twenty victory ace and winner of the Pour le Merite also scored some of his victories in the E.I while flying with KEK Ensisheim (his last came in a captured Sopwith Camel). The future ace Willy Rosenstein also flew a number of missions in an E.I.
Engine: Oberursel U.O
Empty weight: 360kg
Loaded weight: 500kg
Max speed: 145 km/h
Climb Rate: 9min to 2,000m, 23min to 3,000m
Armament: One Spandau lMG 08 machine gun