M.Goodall, A.Tagg British Aircraft before the Great War (Schiffer)
Deleted by request of (c)Schiffer Publishing
SOPWITH AVIATION Co. (Canbury Park Rd.. Kingstonon-Thames & Brooklands, Surrey)
The Sopwith name is so well known from the wartime successes of aircraft such as the Pup and the Camel, that only a brief introduction is required. Tom Sopwith who had previously flown as a balloonist, began flying at Brooklands on Howard Wright aircraft in October 1910. He achieved an immediate success by winning the .4,000 Baron de Forest Prize for the longest flight from Britain to the Continent, in December of that year. He followed this with a most successful tour of the flying meetings in America, commencing in May 1911, where he won a considerable amount of prize money. He returned to England in October and decided to set up a flying training establishment.
The Sopwith School of Flying began operations from 1 February 1912 with four aeroplanes, Howard Wright and Bleriot monoplanes, a Howard Wright biplane and a Burgess-Wright biplane, bought in America. This latter machine was important in that it was the basis for a reconstruction, which became known as the Sopwith-Wright biplane, accepted as an all-British aircraft, and the first to bear the Sopwith name.
This aircraft, and a few that followed, were built at Brooklands in Sheds 21 and 31, but larger premises were acquired for manufacturing, in the form of a disused roller skating rink at Canbury Park Rd., Kingston, which was used from January 1913 onwards. In 1914, with the war approaching, a new building was constructed further along the road, which was progressively expanded to become Sopwith's wartime base and later, the main center of the successor Hawker company, who continued to use it as late as 1962. In all his early work Sopwith was ably supported by Fred Sigrist, a practical engineer, who contributed much to the early designs. From 1912 Sopwith was creating an organization and he gave up flying. The company was reconstituted in March 1914 as a limited company, registered as 'The Sopwith Aviation Co. Ltd.' An employee and former pupil of the school, H.G. Hawker, became chief test pilot from October 1912, and in addition had a great influence on the design of the early aircraft.
The early types were evolved by Sopwith, Sigrist and Hawker with R.J. Ashfield as a draughtsman detailing their ideas on drawings, and carrying out stress calculations, from late in 1912. He became the leader of a small drawing office in the rink, but later Herbert Smith, working separately for a time, eventually took on the role of chief designer in wartime.
This machine was a reconstruction of the Burgess-Wright biplane bought in America during Tom Sopwith's tour in 1911. The work, for which Fred Sigrist was largely responsible, was carried out at Brooklands. Flight reported that nothing of the original aircraft remained after reconstruction, although the basic configuration was much the same.
The aircraft was a twin pusher propeller type, with two bay wings, with extra interplane struts to mount the propeller shafts. The front spars were at the leading edges of the wings, with flexible overhangs aft of the rear spars for warping control. Closely spaced tail booms, parallel in both views, carried twin rudders of narrow chord, mounted on common pivots within the booms. The tailplane had tips tapering to a point and the rear portion was flexible to act as an elevator. Two square shaped panels hung below the top wing on the front intermediate interplane struts.
The engine, on the lower center section, was offset to port with the pilot and passenger in a nacelle to starboard, with a large fuel tank behind. The drive to the propeller shafts was by chains, the starboard being crossed to provide contra-rotation. A radiator was mounted fore and aft on the starboard inboard interplane stints and an oil tank above the engine.
The main structure incorporated twin skids with triangular 'blinkers' as additional surface area for directional stability, and the skids extended aft to support the tail as well as the extended tail booms. Two pairs of wheels were mounted and rubber sprung on the skids. The machine departed from the Wright system of interconnected warp and rudder control, having the Farman system of separate control lever and rudder bar, with which Sopwith had experience. The Farman control had been fitted to the original Burgess-Wright by Burgess at Sopwith's request.
The Sopwith-Wright flew for the first time with a Green engine on Thursday 2 May 1912, with further flights the following day and on Sunday 5 May 1912, when Raynham competed in the Cross Country Handicap and achieved third place. On Friday 17 May 1912 it was reported that the first flight was made with the ABC engine. The aircraft was flown in other competitions and Raynham won the Shell Speed Trophy at Hendon on 8 June 1912, but much of it's life was devoted to instructional work at the Sopwith School of Flying. The most significant success of the machine took place on 24 October 1912, when Harry Hawker flew for 8hr 23min, for which he won the 1912 British Empire Michelin Trophy No. 1 and a prize of .500. This performance was a new British duration record.
35hp Green four-cylinder inline water-cooled.
40hp ABC four-cylinder inline water-cooled.
Both engines drove 8ft 6in diameter Bristol pusher propellers by chain, the starboard crossed to provide contra-rotation.
Span 38ft 9in
Chord 6ft 3in
Gap 5ft 3in
Area 475 sq. ft
Area tailplane/elevator 35 sq. ft
Area rudders 15 sq. ft
Length 29ft 6in
H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)
At this point we may reconsider the American-built Burgess-Wright biplane already briefly mentioned, for in 1912 this was quite extensively rebuilt by Sopwith - to such a degree, indeed, that the present writer was at one time led to contemplate a separate study of the machine. Such treatment was, in fact, quite understandably accorded it by Mr Peter Lewis in his Putnam book British Aircraft 1809-1914, under the heading 'Sopwith-Wright Biplane'.
Fred Sigrist, it seems, was largely, if not primarily, responsible for the reconstruction, which was undertaken in the interests of ‘school', or instructional, work, in which Sopwith became quite heavily involved at Brooklands during 1912. (To the credit of the American biplane, in its more-or-less original form, it must be recorded that among its passengers had been a Capt F. H. Sykes, later an eminent figure in the development of British military and civil aeronautics, and better known perhaps to certain readers as Sir Frederick Sykes).
One especially notable modification made to the American aeroplane was to give it side-by-side seating, in a sizable nacelle, with the pilot to starboard. In side elevation the nacelle drooped like a Concorde's nose - though permanently. Of no less interest was the fitting (after a 35 hp Green) of an A.B.C. engine instead of the original 50 hp Gnome. Together with its petrol tank, this A.B.C. engine was offset to port; it was nominally of 40 hp, though was sometimes credited with 45, and it drove two pusher propellers by means of crossed chains, housed in tubes.
Thus, by virtue of this last arrangement, Sopwith could now add contra-rotating propellers to his repertoire of exotic powerplant installations.
On the aeroplane just mentioned (which was described contemporaneously, if somewhat dubiously, as a 'Sopwith British-built biplane' or as a "Sopwith-Wright") Harry Hawker secured the 1912 British Empire Michelin Cup No.1 (and ?500) by staying airborne for 8 hr 23 min. The date of this performance, which constituted a new British record for duration, was 24 October, 1912.
That the foregoing was not Sopwith's first association with A.B.C. engines is affirmed by this report, published as early as March 1912: "The 40-50 h.p. vertical four-cylinder A.B.C. engine, which earlier in the year was put through some severe tests by its makers, has recently been put into one of the earlier Deperdussin monoplanes, and without any tuning up of the machine it flew at the first attempt, Lieutenant Porte. R.N., who piloted the machine, said that he had never flown at such a speed.
‘The same engine has now been refitted into Sopwith's Howard Wright monoplane and is provided with a new water-heated While and Poppe carburetter which has been specially tuned up by the makers, with the result that the engine is giving about twenty per cent, more power than ever.'
Thus here we find yet one more seemingly exotic powerplant - an A.B.C.
P.Lewis British Aircraft 1809-1914 (Putnam)
Early in the summer of 1911 T. O. M. Sopwith shipped his Howard Wright Biplane to the U.S.A. and proceeded to make a very successful tour, during which he gave exhibitions at several of the principal cities, including Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston and New York. He won several thousands of dollars in prize money, out of which was bought a Wright Brothers Biplane for further use in the tour. The machine was one of those built under licence by the Burgess Company, in which Farman-style elevator-lever and rudder-bar controls were installed in place of the original Wright form. The engine was a 50 h.p. Gnome.
In 1912 the machine was reconstructed in Sopwith's works, the Gnome being replaced by a 40 h.p. A. B.C. with chain drive to the pair of 8 ft. 6 ins. propellers. The engine and its tank were offset to port on the lower wing, and the comfort of the pilot seated to starboard was improved by the addition of a small nacelle. The Sopwith-Wright was used by H. G. Hawker on 24th October for his successful attempt to capture the 1912 British Empire Michelin Cup No. I and ?500, when he remained in the air for 8 hrs. 23 mins., at the same time setting up a new British duration record.
Description: Single-seat pusher biplane. Wooden structure, fabric covered.
Manufacturers: Sopwith Aviation Co. Ltd., Kingston-on-Thames, Surrey.
Power Plant: 40 h.p. A.B.C.
Dimensions: Span, 38 ft. 9 ins. Length, 29 ft. 6 ins. Wing area, 475 sq. ft.
Flight, November 23, 1912.
THE SOPWITH-WRIGHT BIPLANE.
THAT excellent performance of Hawker recently with the Sopwith-Wright biplane in his flight for the British Michelin No. 1 draws attention both to a man and a machine comparatively little known. We say little known, because the pilot at any rate is a newcomer among the men whose names have been prominent in the front rank, and although the machine bears the most famous name in the world of flight, nevertheless, the Wright design is by no means so familiar to English students of aeroplane construction as ought to be the case, having regard to the pre-eminence of its originator.
This particular example of the Wright design, as modified by Sopwith, himself among the foremost British pilots, possesses the peculiarity of having a Farman instead of a Wright control, and for this reason alone an especial interest attaches to it and demands that it should find an early place in our gallery of machines even were the present occasion less opportune than it is.
It was during last year that Sopwith had the original of this machine made for him in America by Burgess, the well-known boat builders, who are constructing Wright biplanes under licence. He had the Farman lever and rudder bar control, with which he was already familiar, fitted to the machine instead of the Wright interconnected warp and rudder control with which the Wright machines are ordinarily supplied, and he also was the first we believe to place a Gnome rotary engine on this type of aeroplane. As now flying, however, the Gnome rotary is replaced by the splendidly successful British-built A B C engine, which drives the twin propellers made by the Bristol Co. through the usual pair of chains, one of which is crossed.
In the present machine, there is nothing, we believe, of the original aeroplane as purchased by Sopwith, the whole of it having been reconstructed in his own factory. It has, as our illustrations show very clearly, a small nacelle, somewhat resembling in appearance the familiar sidecar with which so many motor bicycles are nowadays provided. Behind this little shield the pilot is protected from the wind, which is especially a point of importance in the Wright machine seeing that ordinarily every inch of the pilot's body is exposed, and flying any machine in winter weather is a bitterly cold job at the best.
With the exception of the features that have just been mentioned, the reconstructed machine serves as an example of standard Wright practice; it has the same type of main planes with their front spars forming the leading edges and their struts mounted on flexible joints, which from the first has been a characteristic feature of the Wright design.
Diagonal wires turn the whole structure into a box girder, but the arrangement of wires between the rear spars differs from that in front, because the extremities of the rear spar are flexed in the process of wing warping.
The tail, which is carried on a light box girder outrigger, consists of a twin rudder mounted on a common pivot and the fixed horizontal plane with a flexing trailing edge that serves as an elevator. With the Farman system of control on this machine, elevating is performed by moving the control lever forward, while wing warping results from moving it sideways. The rudder is operated independently by foot. In the standard Wright control, the rudder is operated by a movement of the handle of the warping lever, which is hinged to the lever itself so that the rudder can be operated independently from, or simultaneously with the warp. The elevator in the Wright system is under independent lever control.