Rise of Flight add-on offers a new perspective on World War I air combat.
The developers of Rise of Flight, the impressive World War I flight simulation reviewed in the January issue of Aviation History, continue to enhance that package, creating more purchasable aircraft. One recent add-on is the Gothaer Waggonfabrik Gotha G.V bomber ($15, requires Microsoft 64-bit Windows XP/Vista/7 and an installed copy of Rise of Flight, Intel 3Ghz quad core processor or comparable, 4GB RAM, 10GB hard drive space, 1GB 3-D video card, 777 Studios, riseofflight.com), which is a very interesting airplane to fly. While 777 Studios now offers several aircraft, I selected the Gotha G.V in honor of the approaching anniversary of the bomber’s August 1917 service debut.
Since I’ve read considerably less about the Gotha G.V than later aircraft, I found out the hard way that many surprises await its pilots. What I learned about the G.V seems to be borne out well by the sim developers’ efforts. This big biplane bomber is beautiful to watch, but can be ungainly to pilot, and full of contradictions. Where most aircraft tend to fly better when lighter, the G.V seems more stable at altitude when loaded. Though it’s temperamental when free of its bombload, it is certainly easier to coax a lighter G.V to lift off the ground.
Another contradiction: If you apply too much aileron, the control input behaves as if it had been reversed. Gotha pilots had to respect this large beast, constantly using gentle, controlled movements to keep it in line. This proved to be true in my sim flights. Long flights must have been stressful and tiring for the real pilots.
Another historical aspect borne out by the simulation is how challenging it can be to land this big bomber. Landings reportedly resulted in significant damage to Gothas. And therein lies another contradiction: I found the G.V needs some power to maintain enough stability for landing, yet that amount of force led me to flip over on touchdown several times. Had I been a German WWI pilot, I think I could have been the undoing of the Luftstreitkrafte all by myself! The Germans later added extra landing gears, called Stossfahrastell, to compensate. These apparently worked well, though they’re not modeled in Rise of Flight’s version of the G.V.
Yet my landings were not fatal, since the sim version of the G.V never caught fire, unlike its predecessor, the G.IV—owing to a design improvement that moved fuel storage away from the engines, relocating it behind the pilot’s seat. This move indeed improved the fire risk, but some sources point out it came at the expense of losing a gangway, which had allowed the crew to reach the tail gun position. Since the Rise of Flight G.V clearly has an gangway, there’s a potential discrepancy here, though not one that tangibly affects gameplay. Finally, kudos to the artists who have done a fine job with re-creating various surface textures, insignia, cockpit details and lozenge camouflage for the bomber.
The Gotha G.V and its older siblings in the series were not the only bombers in action nearly a century ago, but they were among the pioneers in day and night bombing. Gotha strikes over London served as a precursor to Germany’s WWII attacks on the British capital, while its restrictions as a two-engine bomber can be seen as a preview of the Luftwaffe’s limitations in that later conflict. Rise of Flight gives players a chance to appreciate the courage of the men who flew the Gotha, as well as the bomber’s gracefulness in the air.
Originally published in the September 2011 issue of Aviation History. To subscribe, click here.