Archer's Aerodrome

In 1916, with the realization of the importance of aerial reconnaissance, the German Air Force decided to expand its Fl. AN. and Fl. AN. (A) Flights. Several factories undertook design and production of C type machines to enable newly created units to be raised to operational status with the minimum of delay. The A.E.G. C IV was one of the types selected for production under this program. Its short fuselage, combined with the considerable wingspan and the angularity of its tail surfaces, gave it a decidedly ungainly appearance and it was not an aircraft to delight the eye. Nevertheless, it performed very with front-line units. The exact number built is not on record, but a total of 658 C type A.E.G.s was produced, and it is known that the C IV predominated. With the exception of the wooden wing ribs, the A.E.G. C.IV was built almost completely of steel tube of varying gauge and diameter. In this respect it differed widely from its Albatros, Aviatik and L.V.G. contemporaries. By virtue of its experience of welded construction, the Fokker factory at Schwerin was ordered to build the C.IV under license, a situation which the egotistical Anthony Fokker personally found extremely galling. Power was provided by the 160 h.p. Mercedes D.III motor, which, splendid engine though it was, was a far from adequate installation for an aircraft of this wingspan. The bulbous nose paneling surrounding it paid scant heed to the demands of streamlining, and a large rectangular Daimler Mercedes radiator encumbered the underside of the center-section, being mounted directly under the main spar. A rhino-horn exhaust manifold of formidable proportions ejected vertically over the top wing. The fuselage was basically a braced box-girder; longerons and transverse members were of 16 mm. diameter steel tube, except for the three rear most stations, which were of 20 mm. tube, welded together with sheet steel lugs in the corners for the attachment of the bracing cables. A Ministry of Munitions report on a captured example stressed the quality of the welding. That considerable attention was paid to structural detail, if not to streamlining, is evidenced by the fact that at certain points in the fuselage where bracing wires lay in the same plane as cross members, such members were diagonally drilled and a small-diameter tube welded in place for the passage- of the wire. The wings were built on two steel tube spars some 40 mm. in diameter, the wooden ribs being interspaced with false ribs extending from the wooden, semicircular leading-edge member back to the front spar. The aileron wires ran through a steel tube in the lower wing mounted behind the front spar, which served as an additional structural member. The trailing edge was a simple wire member, which imparted a slightly scalloped profile, characteristic of so many German aircraft. The ailerons themselves were also of steel tube frame, unbalanced, and those of the production aircraft had a distinctive "bite" out of the trailing edge unlike those of the prototype aircraft, which were parallel. With its shallow cut-out, the center-section was supported on six steel struts in order to amply sustain the bulky radiator and gravity fuel tank which were fixed to it. The wings were rigged with a slight degree of sweep, not apparent from photographs, 1'10' in the upper wing and 1' 5' in the lower. All struts were of streamlined steel tube and bracing was by stranded cable wires. Again in all tail surfaces, steel tube was the constructional material; they were plain unbalanced surfaces of uniform "flat plate" section. A unique feature was the adjustable tail plane incidence. This could be pre-set to one of three different positions, according to the trim desired, and to permit this the tailplane bracing struts were ingeniously adjustable for length by virtue of a shackle end which screwed in, or out, of the top of the actual steel strut tube. Streamlined steel tube (70 x 35 mm.) formed the vees of the undercarriage chassis, while the shock absorbers were of spiral steel springs. The tail skid was an extremely robust affair, welded from sheet steel, mounted on the base of the stern post, and internally sprung by four spiral springs in direct tension. A total of 170 A.E.G. two-seaters were serving on all Fronts in June 1917, and 40 were still operational as late as August 1918.

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