Sopwith Triplane

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For a single-seat fighter, the Triplane derived its rudimentary fuselage geometry and minor fittings from the Pup.

Biographical Note

It also included the same tail unit but with an adjustable tailplane. Although the wing span was the same as the Pup 26ft.

The Triplane was armed, like the Pup with a single mounted synchronised Vickers gun. Structurally, the Triplane was a bold and ingenious creation, with its three narrow-chord wings all of which were fitted with ailerons and plain but strong interplane struts that needed few bracing wires. The most desirable features of the Triplane were.

Sopwith Triplane | BAE Systems | International

For greater performance, the hp Clerget 9Z engine was later replaced by the hp Clerget 9B Rotary. T he first prototype Triplane, serial N was flown by Sopwith test-pilot Harry Hawker who dazzled those present by looping the aircraft three times within minutes of take off. The plane was an instant success with pilots and servicemen and apparently, was sent up on an interception mission within a quarter of an hour of its arrival in Furnes.

The Sopwith could out-climb and out-turn plus it was at least 15 mph faster. The Germans received a huge shock at the arrival of this new model fighter aircraft and it sent them into a brief Triplane-making frenzy. No less than 34 prototype Triplanes were produced by German and Austrian manufacturers by the end of the war. With a successful combat debut, the Triplane became famously flown by No.

Structural weakness also became an issue with the Triplane as its wings sometimes collapsed in steep dives and this - coupled with its single Vickers gun led to mixed results with armourment modifications and structural experiments. He was a founding member of the firm that later became responsible for creating a long series of successful fighter aircraft, including the Fury, Sea Fury, Hunter, Harrier and Hurricane. Becoming immersed in aviation, Hawker began instructing novice flyers and managing hangars at Brooklands Aerodome, the hub of British aviation.

Biplanes were obviously much more maneuverable in comparison with clumsy monoplanes, and were normally preferred, but in their constant effort to improve every important aspect of maneuverability, the designers of the Sopwith Company decided to risk fitting an additional third wing to the well designed and combat tested Pup. Multiplanes were not unknown, even before the war; however they were isolated and experimental designs.

Now the intention was to put such an aircraft into production, one which could compete on equal terms with the latest developments of the enemy. At first, the construction of the Pup's fuselage was to be unchanged, but the firm's chief engineer Herbert Smith decided to modify it. The new development with three wings inherited from the Pup only its horizontal and vertical tail assembly.


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Its wings had an unusually low chord in comparison with the Pup which would improve the pilot's view from the cockpit , and ailerons on each of the three wings. A powerful Clerget 9Z engine of hp was fitted to the plane, which was changed once production was underway for a Clerget 9B of hp.

Sopwith Triplane Reproduction

The armament of the fighter consisted of a single synchronized Vickers machine gun but at least six machines later boasted two machine guns. At a later stage of production the tailplane of the aircraft was given a new form and it now little resembled its predecessor. The first test flight of the new aircraft was in May The results were simply spectacular, especially as regards its maneuverability and rate of climb.

Raymond Collishaw WW1 ACE - Sopwith Triplane

The Sopwith Triplane as the fighter was now known was immediately sent to undergo military trials in France, and later the second pre-production machine was sent to the front. The first serious clash with the latest German fighter of that period, the Albatros D.

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III, led to astonishment amongst the German military: the new English triplane surpassed their own development in all respects, even speed. During one sortie two triplanes suddenly encountered a large German Albatros formation and knocked down at least three of them in a few minutes while the surviving enemy machines left the area immediately. Thus was born the legend of "the unsurpassed English design with three wings" which greatly influenced the Germans and encouraged Anthony Fokker to design his famous Fokker Dreidecker, his "response of the Germans to the British".

Seventeen aircraft were delivered to the French Aviation Maritime.