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Why biplanes won out as the warbirds of World War One

By Darren Orfd
via Popular Mechanics

Manfred von Richthofen isn't exactly a household name, but his alias is. During World War One, von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron, won 80 air combat victories, and he did so while flying biplanes. But why exactly were these two-winged planes (and in the Red Baron's case the three wings of the Fokker DR.I), the aerial weapons of choice during The Great War?

AircraftReal Engineering digs into the topic, exploring the different types of planes flown during the war and the continual progression of these airplanes. Biplanes were so popular because engines weren't nearly powerful enough for the task at hand. In order to attach any weapons at all (more than just a handheld pistol and a few grenades), engineers needed to figure out how to increase lift.

Since they couldn't simply install a more powerful engine, they turned to the wings. Increasing wingspan is another way to increase lift, but they needed to keep the wings as short as possible so the plane could still maneuver. That's how the stacked wings of the World War One biplane were born.

With its ability to fly over enemy lines, whether for battle or reconnaissance, the biplane rendered trench warfare obsolete, and the evolution of aviation (along with the development of tanks) would completely change the way Europe would fight a war only a couple decades later.

Read the whole article on the Popular Mechanics web site:

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