mystery biplane

I tried a number of searches with absolutely no luck. I remember a few that looked sort of similar without that smooth aerodynamic nose and body. I did try at least.

If this helps, the individual standing before the plane is believed to be of French origin or descent.

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting. It doesn't look like it's a fighter, as there's no armament visible, although it could be something in development. As a two-bay biplane with an inline engine, it's at least a little unusual. $\endgroup$
    – egid
    Apr 16, 2015 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ Sturtevant made aircraft with similar features (ivanpwheaton.blogspot.com/2012/02/…) although I don't see an exact match for this aircraft yet. $\endgroup$
    – David K
    Apr 22, 2015 at 20:49
  • $\begingroup$ My first guess would be an early Curtiss model. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    May 22, 2015 at 6:44
  • $\begingroup$ The Halberstadt family, predecessor of the Albatros has also some similarities. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Feb 19, 2016 at 10:47

2 Answers 2


It isn't German or even European, not with an OX-5 engine on the front - unfortunately there were hundreds of similar designs in the post-ww1 period, however the fact that it has a two bay wing and the struts are wire braced instead of having a diagonal narrows it down, and lo and behold, the Pitcairn PA-3 Orowing appears to be a match.

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This does not provide an answer to the question. To critique or request clarification from an author, leave a comment below their post - you can always comment on your own posts, and once you have sufficient reputation you will be able to comment on any post. - From Review $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Feb 19, 2016 at 9:38
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    $\begingroup$ @mins Yes, it does. It doesn't get much clearer than "the Pitcairn PA-3 Orowing appears to be a match." $\endgroup$
    – Dan Hulme
    Feb 19, 2016 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ Mike and @DanHulme: I agree, it's a valid answer. My bad, sorry for that. +1. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Feb 29, 2016 at 7:36

Two makes that immediately came to mind on seeing the picture were Pfalz and Albatross. Most "Albatri" had trapezoidal wings instead of square, though, and most Pfalz D.IIIs which would have had the aerodynamic shape were known for a much larger engine protrusion from the top of the fuselage (and a much lower top wing).

I'm not sure about the French origin of the plane; French (and British) biplanes of the era typically used radial engines, with the Se.5 being a notable exception (and the SE5 wasn't nearly so aerodynamic-looking).

My best guess is, maybe, a DFW C.V:

enter image description here

These were WWI reconnaissance aircraft that came in several different engine configurations as the war progressed. Austria's Aviatik firm made some of these as the C.VI, as well as some very similar designs like the C.1, C.II and C.III. Here's a picture of the C.III; body is similar but the lower wing is shorter:


The radiator in front of the top wing on the C.V is a little larger here than in your picture, but it's possible, even probable, that the radiator configuration also varied (could be as simple as a 90* rotation). Wing shape and strut configuration are very similar. Your picture may have been a "war prize" delivered to the French after the Armistice, and de-militarized (disarmed, markings removed) for civilian use.

Here's another C.V that looks a little more like yours but without the nose cone, but this makes it look like a much bigger plane than is depicted in your shot:

enter image description here

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There is no cutout of the top wing above the cockpit. $\endgroup$
    – user7241
    May 21, 2015 at 21:35
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    $\begingroup$ The amount of cutout varies from picture to picture; these planes weren't built fully assembly-line style like modern fighters. Engines, props, even tail configurations varied significantly between batches or between factories making them, especially toward the end of the war when the Germans were low on supplies and were piecing planes together more or less from spare parts. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    May 22, 2015 at 15:17
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    $\begingroup$ KeithS, I have accepted your answer because it's at least interesting and useful but I have a competing claim to the identity of this mystery plane from elsewhere: Pitcairn PA-3 Orowing. What do you have to say about it? $\endgroup$ Jun 2, 2015 at 21:01
  • $\begingroup$ In the right engine configuration, sure. The wings definitely match; I haven't seen a PA-3 with a cutout. However I've only seen one other picture with the engine shown in yours, and that one didn't have a nose cone on the prop: aerofiles.com/pit-pa3.jpg It would be nice if there were at least one other shot from a different angle, allowing us a look at the fuselage and tail; that would really pin it down. $\endgroup$
    – KeithS
    Jun 3, 2015 at 14:30
  • $\begingroup$ There's also the matter of the pushrod that connects the upper and lower aileron in this picture aerofiles.com/pit-pa3.jpg. That is not present in the aircraft that is being identified in this question. !http://imgur.com/8JRGoCV $\endgroup$ Jun 3, 2015 at 18:36

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