Developed as a private venture by DFW, it was a large biplane of conventional configuration with four engines mounted inside the fuselage, powering propellers on the wings via transmission shafts - two mounted tractor-fashion on the leading edge of the upper wing, and two mounted pusher-fashion on the trailing edge of the lower wing. The DFW R.I was unique, among the Riesenflugzeuge with internally mounted engines, in that each engine drove a separate propeller and was not connected to the other engines or propellers.
After factory tests proved promising, military acceptance trials commenced on 19 October 1916 and led to the aircraft being purchased for the Luftstreitkräfte. Soon thereafter trouble set in, with crankshafts repeatedly failing. This was attributed mostly to the engine design, but new engine mountings and universal joints for each end of the drive shafts were fitted to mitigate the problem, along with extended wings and other improvements.
Following these modifications, R.I (R 11/15) was deployed on the Eastern front with Rfa 500 at Alt-Auz, April 1917 to September 1917, from whence it raided Riga during the summer of 1917. On its second combat mission, the R.I crashed due to the failure of two engines, and was destroyed.
Specifications (DFW R.I (second version))
Data from The German Giants
- Crew: at least 5
- Length: 17.6 m (57 ft 9 in)
- Wingspan: 30.5 m (100 ft 1 in)
- Height: 6 m (19 ft 8 in)
- Wing area: 186 m2 (2,000 sq ft)
- Empty weight: 6,800 kg (14,991 lb)
- Gross weight: 9,400 kg (20,723 lb)
- Powerplant: 4 × Mercedes D.IV 8-cyl. water-cooled in-line piston engines, 164 kW (220 hp) each
- Propellers: 4 x 2-bladed
- Maximum speed: 120 km/h (75 mph; 65 kn)
- Rate of climb: 1.7 m/s (330 ft/min)
- Wing loading: 51.7 kg/m2 (10.6 lb/sq ft)
- Guns: Provision for dorsal, ventral and nose machine-gun positions
- Bombs: up to 2,600kg of bombs
- Related development
- Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
- Taylor, Michael J. H. (1989). Jane's Encyclopedia of Aviation. London: Studio Editions. p. 325.
- The German Giants, The Story of the R-planes 1914-1919, G.W. Haddow & Peter M. Grosz, Putnam & Company Limited, 42 Great Russell Street, London, First Published July 1962
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- "The German D.F.W. Commercial Four-Engined Biplane" Flight 25 September 1919, vol. XI, no. 39, pp. 1274–78. The R.I is only mentioned on p. 1274 and is not illustrated.