Founded in 1909, the Berlin based Albatros aircraft works produced a range of capable and respected aircraft designs until they were merged with Focke-Wulf in 1931.
The name Albatros will forever be associated with some of the finest aircraft Germany flew into battle with during the First World War. Of the many types designed by Albatros, it was the B Series that brought them to prominence as a manufacturer in international circles.
The B Series started in 1913, prior to the outbreak of the war, with the B.I. Ernst Heinkel, who would go on to establish his own company in 1922 and become famous for a series of pre WWII floatplanes and a variety of German WWII combat aircraft, was working for Albatros at the time and had a hand in the design of the B.I.
A Sentinel On High
The primary role of the B Series was reconnaissance, or scouting as the role was known at the time. Many military people of the day were skeptical or outright dismissive of the value of aircraft to military missions. Aircraft like the Albatros B Series and the valuable information they gathered about enemy movements were instrumental in changing many minds about the contributions aviation could provide to a military.
The B Series was built in three basic variants: B.I, B.II and B.III. The B.II was the major production variant and considered the most important member of the B Series. All members of the B Series were unarmed, though often were modified in the field with mounts for defensive machine guns.
The B.II first flew in 1914 and was based on the B.I but featured shortened wings and a variety of different engines covering the 100 to 120 horsepower range.
The B.II also served as the basis for a modestly produced floatplane variation known as B.II-W or W.I as well as a purpose built trainer which bore the desgnation B.IIa.
The B.III, which appeared in 1915, was destined for a very short front line service life as it was that year when the remaining B Series aircraft were replaced on the front lines with the armed and improved C Series.
The B Series would continue to serve as trainers through the remainder of the conflict and did enjoy post war service in Finland, Lithuania, Poland and Sweden.
What Remains Today
There appear to be three intact examples of B Series aircraft preserved in museums today:
The only surviving example of a B.I, and the subject of the photos in this entry, belongs to the Austrian Army Museum in Vienna. It was on loan to the air museum in Zeltweg at the time I photographed it.
Two examples of the B.IIa are known to exist; one at the Swedish Air Force Museum in Linkoping and the other at the Polish Aviation Museum in Krakow.
A flying replica of a B.II was built in Germany in 2000 and spent the early part of the decade on the European airshow circuit. By the end of the decade, it had become a static exhibit at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in New Zealand. According to that facility’s website, the Albatros replica is no longer in their collection. Its current whereabouts and disposition seem to be a point of conjecture and speculation on a number of internet sites and forums.
The following links will take you to information and photo galleries of the Polish Aviation Museum’s B.II: