The Etrich Taube also called Rumpler Taube (German, "dove") was a pre-World War I monoplane aircraft, and the first mass-produced military plane in Germany. Being the Germans' first practical military plane, it was used for all common military aircraft applications, including as a fighter, bomber, surveillance plane and trainer from its first flight in 1910 until the beginning of World War I. The plane was very popular in the years immediately prior to the First World War, and was used by the air forces of Italy, Germany and Austria-Hungary. By 1914, however, it quickly proved lacking as a serious warplane, and was soon superseded.
Design and development
The plane was developed by Igo Etrich from Austria in 1909, with the first flight in 1910, and was called the Etrich Taube. The design was licensed for serial production by Lohner in Austria and Rumpler in Germany, and called the Etrich-Rumpler-Taube  . However, Rumpler soon changed the name to Rumpler-Taube, and stopped paying royalties to Etrich. Etrich subsequently abandoned his patent.
Despite its name, the Taube's unique wing form was not modeled after that of a bird, but after the Zanonia macrocarpa seeds, which glide to the ground in a slow spin induced by a single wing. Similar wing shapes have also been used by Karl Jatho. While Etrich had tried to build a flying wing aircraft based on the Zanonia wing shape, the more conventional Taube type, with "normal" tail controls was much more successful.
The design provided for very stable flight, suitable for observation. In addition, the translucent wings made it difficult for ground based observers to detect a Taube at an altitude above 400m. The French called it "the Invisible Aircraft", and it is sometimes also referred to as the "world's first stealth plane". The first hostile engagement was an Italian Taube in 1911 in Libya, using pistols and 2 kg bombs. Taube airplanes were able to detect the advancing Russian army during the Battle of Tannenberg. The plane was also used for bombing, when the pilot dropped small bombs in the Balkans in 1911 and 3 kg bomblets and propaganda leaflets over Paris in 1914.
During World War I, Imperial German units stationed at Qingdao, Shandong, China only had one operational airplane, a Rumpler Taube piloted by Lieutenant Gunther Plüschow facing the attacking Japanese who had a total of eight airplanes. On October 2, 1914, the Rumpler Taube attacked Japanese warships with two small bombs but did not score any hits. On November 7, 1914, shortly before the fall of Qingdao, Lieutenant Plüschow was ordered to fly top secret documents to Shanghai but was forced to make an emergency landing at Lianyungang where the lieutenant and his Taube were both interned by a local Chinese force. Plüschow was rescued by local Chinese civilians under the direction of an American missionary, and successfully reached his destination at Shanghai with his top secret documents, after he gave the engine to one of the Chinese civilians who rescued him and burnt the engine-less aircraft.
Poor rudder and lateral control made this plane difficult and slow to turn. Subsequently the plane was a very easy target for the faster and more mobile enemy planes at the beginning of World War I. Therefore, six months into the war, the Taube was removed from the front lines and instead used to train new pilots. Consequently many famous pilots learned how to fly using a Taube.
Due to the lack of license fees, a total of no less than 14 companies built a large number of variations of the initial design, making it difficult for historians to determine the exact manufacturer based on historical photographs. An incomplete list is shown below. The most common version was the Rumpler Taube with two seats.
Specifications (Rumpler Taube)
Published - July 2009
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