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Gorgeous Fokker D.VII Replica Visits AirVenture
What do you do when you’re a huge World War I history buff and want the chance to see one of the legendary aircraft of that bygone era take to the sky? Build one, of course!
Buck Toenges, a retired orthopedic surgeon, is captivated with anything and everything to do with the Great War. In the early 1990s, he commissioned the build of a Fokker D.VII replica, which was completed in 2009 and made its first visit to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh this year, arriving Monday morning.
Barnstormer and experienced vintage aircraft pilot Dewey Davenport, EAA 1009271, flew the airplane from Auburn, Indiana, to Oshkosh. Andrew King, EAA 275985, has also been involved with test flying the aircraft.
“He’s a history nut and a World War I nut, and he likes World War I airplanes,” Andrew said about Buck. “He could afford to have one built. He paid a guy in Texas to build him a Fokker D.VII. That’s how this particular airplane came to be. It was finished in 2009, but didn’t fly until 2018. It was a long process getting it built.”
Buck had a local pilot test fly it and then brought in Andrew to help work out some of the kinks in the airplane.
“The airplane wasn’t quite right. There were a few squawks that needed doing,” Andrew said. “Buck called me up because I’m kind of in the World War I world. I’ve flown two other Fokker D.VIIs.”
Because Andrew didn’t have the time to fly off the rest of the hours needed in the first flight testing phase, he suggested that Dewey do it. Between Dewey and Andrew, they suggested a number of adjustments to the airplane to make it easier and more practical to fly.
Although it’s a replica, Andrew pointed out that the airplane is as true to a Fokker D.VII as possible.
“It’s as authentic as they could make it, except the engine and the tail wheel,” he said. “Little things.”
The airplane uses a de Havilland Gipsy Queen engine, as opposed to an original Mercedes.
“It’s a British engine in a German airplane flown by American pilots,” Andrew quipped. “By some miracle, everything works so far.”
After some of the tweaks they’ve made to the airplane, Dewey and Andrew said the airplane flies very well in comparison to some of the other World War I era aircraft they’ve flown over the years.
“It’s not far from being on balance,” Dewey said. “It can fly almost hands off.”
“It all depends on what you compare it to. Compared to a Curtiss Jenny, it flies fantastic,” Andrew added. “One of the great things about the Fokker D.VII was they could take a 30-hour pilot and put him in it to send him out and get shot down by a [Sopwith] Camel. It was easy to fly. When we first started flying it, we couldn’t believe how easy it landed. … The ailerons are a little bit heavier than they should be, the rudder’s a little bit too small, but it’s a 100-year-old design. It certainly shows it’s a 100-and-some-year-old design. But as a World War I airplane, I’ve flown, I think, 11 or 12 different World War I airplanes, and this is one of the two or three best flying World War I airplanes.”