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Schatzberg, Eric, 1956- / Wings of wood, wings of metal : culture and technical choice in American airplane materials, 1914-1945

2. Engineering enthusiasm: World War I and the origins of the metal airplane,   pp. [22]-43

Page 27

Figure 2.3. Typical Junkers wing construction. This wing assembly, probably for the
J9, is typical of those developed after Junkers switched to duralumin. National Air
and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution (Wright-McCook photo no. 9419).
cure the gas bags and maintain the airship's exterior shape. Such structures
allowed rigid airships to reach huge dimensions, which gave the zeppelin
a flight range and load capacity far superior to any airplane before World
War I. In 1914 the Zeppelin company began using duralumin for its airship
structures, which created a large demand for the alloy and gave the Zeppelin
engineers invaluable experience in using the new material. Spurred on by
the fanatical nationalism of Count Zeppelin, the German military invested
considerable resources to turn the rigid airship into a military weapon,
using it for dramatic but ineffective bombing raids on British cities. 12
At the beginning of the war, Count Zeppelin became convinced of the
need to complement the airship with large, long-range bombing airplanes.
In mid 1914, Zeppelin organized a company at Staaken to build these
planes, which became known as R-planes (for Riesenflugzeuge, or giant air-
planes). The Staaken organization turned out R-planes using conventional
mixed wood-and-metal construction, similar to Fokker practice. However,
Count Zeppelin also believed in the ultimate superiority of all-metal air-
planes, and in late 1914 he placed Dornier at the head of a separate project
to build all-metal seaplanes in the town of Seemoos on Lake Constance.'3
There, Dornier built a line of metal seaplanes for the German navy.
Dornier's seaplanes used a mix of alloy steel and duralumin. In contrast to

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