A bright, mostly clear day is always a great day for flying, especially when flying a WWI crate - there are very few aircraft that connect pilots to flight as closely as these birds did.
Today’s Career mission is a Line Patrol along the no-man’s zone at Arras. Hanz von Ganzs reports in as #3 in the flight of Albatros D.IIs. Start up is as easy as pressing a button (‘E’), but, as usual, right after takeoff my flight streaks off at full power, slowly pulling away from me.
This almost always happens to me in RoF. I don’t know if this is an issue with my controllers (throttle axis need some saturation?), my technique (not fully coordinated flight?), or if it’s just bad AI lead behavior (lead should always pull back a little throttle to enable wingmen to stay with them), but it’s a very frustrating experience. In most cases, I miss out on the action, and often end up flying home solo, but that’s not the case today!
Just a few minutes after takeoff, before the flight can get too far ahead of me, I spot some flashes of light off in the distance. Were those tracers? Yup, tracers. Someone is attacking one of our balloons!
Before we even get close to the balloon however, I catch a dark speck, way above us, maneuvering to get behind us. The speck dives and turns in, and I’m able to see the roundels as it overshoots us.
The Nieuport singles me out and turns in again. His zealousness defeats him, however, and he overshoots again - a grievous tactical error.
I immediately turn in and we begin our dance. The Nieuport throws energy away in every turn, but demonstrates they can gain it back quicker than my Albatros. I need to keep him turning…
I keep the Nieuport on their toes, constantly lagging back into position on his six. Although we’re just a few hundred meters above the ground, the Nieuport snaps their wing over and tries to execute a split-s. I extend straight and level, certain I’m about to witness a fiery crash.
Miraculously, the pilot avoids the ground, but the tremendous loss in energy puts me at a significant advantage. I execute a simple barrel roll to get onto their six and then line up the first shots of the engagement.
Undeterred, the Nieuport continues to fight, banking and yanking aggressively and almost at random. At one point, my energy excess leads me to nearly overshoot the Allied aircraft, and I pull into a high yo-yo to get back onto their tail. During the transition, however, we end up head-to-head - a potentially fatal situation for either of us.
Neither of us can line up a shot and we pass through the merge, nose to tail. With the superior energy, it’s just a matter of a couple of turns before I end up saddled back on their six and start connecting with tracking gun shots.
Although the enemy pilot continues to fight for their life – vigorously jinking and banking to throw off my aim – the airframe fabric is showing signs of shots that hit home, and, after one particular pass, the plane’s movements become even more erratic but slower - a sure sign of pilot injury.
Confident I’ve won this battle, I clear my six and slowly saddle up again for the final salvo. The shots are well concentrated in the cockpit area. I must have hit something critical because suddenly the Nieuport is coming to a sudden stop in the sky and I have to sweve to the side to avoid a collision. As we pass within a few meters of each other, the conclusion of the fight becomes painfully obvious.
I can hear the engine grinding to a stop and I’m almost sure I can hear the flames crackling. I’m not able to see the pilot through the blaze, but the propeller stops as the engine seizes and the burning aircraft gracefully plummets to the field below.
Both thrilled and horrified by my first kill of the day, I turn back towards my flight’s last direction to see if I can rejoin with them and continue the patrol.
TO BE CONTINUED…