Friday 11 April 2008 by Andrew Pearce. 6 comments
Aircraft 1914 - 1918, Collection, Conservation, Aircraft Conservation

The Memorial has been able to gain access to substantial amounts of the original fabric, which was removed from the Albatros during the 1960's restoration with the exception of the rudder and the ailerons. Significant analysis of this material has been carried out in order to determine the correct details for fabric colours, panel widths and orientations, seam widths, rib stitching and the dimensions of rib tapes.Photographic evidence shows the starboard aileron to have been covered in lozenge on both upper and lower surfaces. The upper surface of the port aileron appears to have been painted to match the upper camouflage finish while the rudder was overpainted to match the fuselage finish.

With the exception of the underside of the upper wing where the lozenge was left exposed, all fabric surfaces were overpainted. The original fabric is a mixture of undyed and five colour lozenge printed linen. The underside of the upper wing is stitched with the seam running spanwise rather than chordwise. All lozenge surfaces have lavender coloured rib and seam tapes. The tapes appear to be mass produced and mechanically cut in standard widths of 20mm and 30mm. Surrounding the radiator installation 7mm lavender tapes are also present.

Lavender Rib Tapes

Similar bulk cut tapes in undyed fabric are found on the assemblies covered in undyed linen with the exception of the upper surface of the top wing, where the lavender tapes are continued from the lower side.

The Albatros is being re-covered using five colour lozenge linen printed in Germany in 1991. Comparison of this linen against non light-exposed samples of the original Albatros fabric, either from beneath seams or where it was used as rubbing strips on the leading edges of lower wings and tailplanes show it to be a very accurate match both in lozenge pattern, lozenge overlap and colour for both upper and lower fabrics.

Topside linen shown against chafing strip on leading edge of lower wing

Topside linen against tailplane leading edge rubbing strip

Underside linen against purple and blue original fabric

Underside linen against original yellow and pink

Underside linen against original green and blue


Pen Roberts

What a fabulous project!Your forensic inspection of the original aircraft fabric covering calls for a new combined term, 'archaeo-conservation', as you are excavating the past! I look forward to further installments.

Gary Sewall

May I ask where you acquired this 5 color lozenge fabric? I am looking for such accurate lozenge fabric for a Fokker D.VII project. Thanks, Gary Sewall

Roger Delgado

Dear Sirs: Where can one buy this fabric? Thank you, Roger Delgado

Andrew Pearce

Apologies for the delay in getting back to you Gary and Roger. Work on the aircraft has limited my blog time for the last few months. As far as I'm aware, the fabric was only a limited production run for a Halberstadt project in the early 90's and is long out of production. There is other lozenge available commercially today but it differs significantly on a number of the colours.

Kevin Burgemeestre

Hello Andrew, what a fabulous blog & website. The Vintage Aviator Limited in New Zealand has scanned and measured this unique bird in preparation for their incredible recreation. Did they do this while this restoration was in progress? Do you anticipate further collaboration with this incredible company?Their amazing work with engines and airframes of this era is beyond belief. Have they sourced any of their engines from the AWM collection? Thanks for the inside running on these unrepeatable events, I am a total fan.

Andrew Pearce says:

Hi Kevin, many thanks for your comments. The Albatros at the Australian War Memorial is one of only two surviving examples and the opportunity to have a close look at it was taken up by several groups from Europe and Australia as well as TVA. The aircraft was accessible for about two years, the period after the fabric was removed and before the AWM conservation work reached an advanced stage. As many of these groups co-operate it is likely that a few more flying D.Vas will emerge in the next few years. TVA are also doing great work on engines but we have had very limited involvement with this side of their operation. I understand that a number of companies in Europe are involved in the replication of some key WW1 engine types, while others are being built in NZ. The AWM has been able to assist TVA on a couple of occasions. They examined our RAF4A in some detail, and when we offered a Benz engine for disposal last year I understand that their tender was successful.