H.King Sopwith Aircraft 1912-1920 (Putnam)
To identify this relatively obscure Sopwith ‘one-off' civil aircraft-originally registered G-EAKS - these facts may be set out:
(1) It was closely related to the earlier Atlantic, and sometimes shared with that machine the denomination 'Transport' the general form of aircraft represented by this pair being a prospective passenger-carrier or freighter.
(2) The Wallaby resembled the Atlantic not only in appearance and dimensions, but also in having a Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine.
(3) It differed from the Atlantic in having three-bay, instead of two-bay, wings, in its passenger accommodation and structure, and in dispensing with the extra-heavy fuel provision and special emergency facilities (notably the lifeboat and the jettisonable landing gear).
(4) As its name suggested, the Wallaby had very strong Australian associations, for it was built at Kingston-on-Thames under the personal supervision of an Australian (Harry Hawker) to compete for the ?10.000 prize which had been offered by the Australian Government in March 1919 to the first Australian who would fly back to his homeland within the space of thirty days, before the year's end, in an aircraft of British or Commonwealth manufacture. Not only was the Wallaby's nominated crew Australian (as detailed later), but a Sopwith-associated company the Larkin-Sopwith Aeroplane Company (of Australia) - had been established with offices in Melbourne in anticipation of competitive and commercial success.
(5) Even beyond these personal and commercial ties, there was a strong nationalistic feeling towards the undertaking, expressed with special warmth in this message from the Australian Prime Minister to Capt G. C. Matthews (former Camel-pilot, and first pilot and commander on the imminent venture): 'Wish you and Serg. Kay every success in your great adventure. While every one of your fellow-citizens hopes that an Australian aviator may be the first to fly from Europe to Australia, and so achieve what will be easily the world's record in aerial navigation, I want you to take no unnecessary risks. Plug on day after day doing your best, but do nothing foolhardy. If you cannot make Australia in thirty days never mind. The main thing is that an Australian should get here first. If you do that you need not worry. Good luck. (Signed) Hughes, Prime Minister.'
As first pilot, Matthews (having been a master mariner) was credited with 'twelve years of practical navigation’, while the aforementioned Sergeant Kay - though primarily a mechanic - was competent to 'take turns in flying the machine'.
Much had happened since Harry Hawker had taken the Tabloid to show the folk down-under in 1914.
The following contemporary account of the Wallaby has a particular interest and value, the interest being apparent at the very outset, where the earlier Sopwith type-name 1 1/2 Strutter is explained with unusual clarity as connoting, in effect '1 1/2 bays'. Thus the Wallaby:
'It is a three-strutter machine, with a slight dihedral, of somewhere about the same size as the Transatlantic machine, to which, of course, it bears much resemblance. It is, however, a good deal more lightly loaded than its predecessor, as it only carries 200 gals, of petrol instead of 350. [N.B. The true fuel capacity of the Atlantic was closer to 400 gal (1,818 litres.)] The actual machine is slightly heavier and stronger in construction. The arrangement of the cockpit has several features of special interest. The pilot's seat can be raised so that he looks out over the top of the fuselage [Author's note: A preview of the Heinkel He 111P?] or lowered and a lid pulled down over his head so that the occupants are entirely enclosed. There are two rudder bars at different heights. The passenger's seat can similarly be moved, and there is a complete set of dual controls, the joy sticks being removable. The whole place is quite roomy, and has windows of triplex glass. Captain Matthews finds he can see perfectly well from inside the fuselage, which has a window below as well as at the sides. There is an air intake to bring fresh air to the occupants instead of air tainted with engine oil, and windows at the side can be opened. It is, of course, well fitted out with instruments; besides the usual engine one, the compasses, and the airspeed meter, there is a turn-meter, which by recording the difference of air pressure on the two wing tips, tells the pilot if he is keeping on a straight course when he is in a mist; there is a flow meter, recording the rate of consumption of petrol, which works out at about 15 gals, an hour [this seems astonishingly low – Author]; a spirit-level for sideways motion, and an inclinometer for measuring the angle fore and aft; and an azimuth mirror for checking the compass by readings from the heavenly bodies on a system patented by Captain Matthews himself. The window below the pilot too is marked in degrees so that he can observe the direction of drift. There is a wheel at the side for altering the angle of the empennage in flight. The modern pilot, especially if he is also the navigator, has plenty to attend to.'
Clearly, this last remark was true - especially on such an arduous expedition; and after setting out from Hounslow on 21 October, 1919, Matthews and Kay clearly deserved the success that was nevertheless denied them by bad weather, one arrest, and damage in Persia. Eventually they crashed when landing in Bali, in the Netherlands East Indies, on 17 April, 1920.
This chapter of accidents was not the Wallaby's end, however, for it was shipped on to Australia, rebuilt as an eight-seater, and its registration changed to G-AUDU - on behalf of Australian Aerial Services Ltd.
Whatever truth there may have been in the story that the terminal letters of the new registration signified 'down-under at the end’, the Wallaby must be assessed as a true advance in the development of the modern airliner, if only by reason of the special attention given to crew comfort and navigational aids.
Thus, this particular Sopwith might best be dismissed with these thoughts: that it was actually called a '3-strutter', as distinct from a '1 1/2'; that it had a special sighting panel in the floor; and - a fact not hitherto recorded - that smoke-bombs were actually dropped from the machine while in England, with the peaceful intention of 'observing the direction of drift’. Kinship with the B.1 was closer than might have been supposed ...
While cogitating on 'swords into ploughshares' it must finally be added that the true Sopwith 'Transport' was intended to have carried either of these loads: five passengers and one pilot (four passengers inside and one in the cockpit with the pilot); or 1.500 lb (680 kg) of cargo - still with 'pilot and passenger'. Cruising at 90 mph (145 km h) the five-passenger machine would have a six-hour endurance, while the corresponding figure for the freighter was quoted as eight hours.
Wallaby (Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII)
Span 46 ft 6 in (14.1 m); length 31 ft 6 in (9.6 m); wing area 547 sq ft (50.8 sq m). Empty weight 2,780 lb (1,260 kg); maximum weight 5,200 lb (2,359 kg). Maximum speed 115 mph (185 km/h); cruising speed 107 mph (172 km/h).
N.B. Reference having been made in the text to the greater strength of the Wallaby as compared with the Atlantic, it may be noted that a factor of safety of 6.5 was quoted. The 'slightly heavier' construction is not reflected in the respective figures for empty weight; but for this there could be several explanations.
Flight, October 16, 1919.
SOPWITH (AUSTRALIA) TRANSPORT MACHINE
360 H.P. Rolls-Royce "Eagle"
WITHIN the next few days, probably even before this week's issue of FLIGHT is distributed - to wit, Wednesday is the actual day selected - at least one of the machines entered for the Australian Government Prize Flight from England to Australia will have left Hounslow on its long journey. This machine, a large biplane built by the Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Co., Ltd., is already finished, and during the last few days has been undergoing final tests at Brooklands, her performance and general ease of handling having proved very satisfactory. Through the courtesy of the Sopwith firm we are able this week to place before our readers a detailed description of this new Sopwith (Australia) Commercial aeroplane, illustrated by photographs and scale drawings. The machine, it will be seen, is not unlike the Transatlantic Sopwith in general outline, although being of somewhat larger dimensions. As a matter of fact, that machine has more or less formed a basis for the design of the "Wallaby," as the new biplane is called, and the experience gained with the Transatlantic 'bus has been made good use of in the design of the "Wallaby."
Being designed for such a long journey, one of the first considerations, next to aerodynamical efficiency, has naturally been the provision of the maximum of comfort for the occupants. As will be seen from the accompanying illustrations, the "Wallaby" has a very deep fuselage, forming an enclosed cabin for the pilot and engineer. Inside this cabin are arranged the two seats, that of the pilot-navigator being in front. These seats are mounted on a tubular framework which can be raised and lowered, running on vertical tubular guides, and locked in any desired position. If, therefore, the pilot wishes to be absolutely protected from the weather he lowers his seat and draws the sliding panel in the roof of the cabin over the circular cockpit, when he is as comfortable as possible, out of the draught and noise. Just before landing, or if, for any reason, during the voyage he wishes to obtain a better view than that afforded from inside the cabin, it is a matter of a few seconds only to slide the panel forward, raise the seat, and he is then in the same position, relatively to the fuselage and wings, as in an open machine. The rear cockpit is similarly arranged.
All the controls are in duplicate, the "stick" being a tube which slips into the socket on the control shaft. At a moment's notice, therefore, either of the occupants can take over the control of the machine, the other withdrawing his "stick" and placing it on the side of the fuselage, where suitable clips are provided. An interesting feature of the pilot's controls is that the rudder bar is in duplicate, one bar being placed low near the floor, the other higher up to correspond with the highest position of the seat. In this manner, no matter at what height the seat is placed, one foot bar is in a comfortable position, and as a matter of fact even with the seat at its highest position the lower foot bar is within reach, thus allowing the pilot to stretch his leg's without taking his feet off the rudder control. For a flight of the duration of that contemplated, this is a point that deserves consideration.
As the fuselage of the "Wallaby" is of considerable cross section, the instruments carried occupy only a small portion of the dash in front of the pilot. The space thus left is utilised by providing a locker, holding two ply-wood trays to which are pinned the maps of the country over which the machine is passing. Fixed to these trays with small metal clips are parallel rulers, dividers, etc., so that the pilot, who incidentally is also the navigator, has at his finger tips all the instruments required for working out his course. When not in use these maps are pushed into the locker and the door closed.
Triplex windows are provided in the sides of the fuselage, and a small window is also fitted in the floor in front of the pilot. The latter window is ruled with a set of lines, one running parallel with the longitudinal axis of the machine, and others forming various angles with it. By watching through this window the path traced out by objects on the ground the pilot can get a very good indication of the drift - that is to say, the angle between the course steered and the course made good. It is also of interest to note that Capt. Matthews has designed a special Azimuth Mirror, placed handy when not in use, which slides along the circular edge of the front cockpit, this being graduated all round.
The pilot-navigator of the Sopwith "Wallaby," Capt. Matthews, is an old hand at sea navigation, and therefore knows the idiosyncrasies of compasses. He is taking no chances, and is carrying no less than three, one large and two smaller, one of which is mounted in the engineer's cockpit. In order to facilitate communication between pilot and engineer there is no partition between the two cockpits, and the back of the pilot's seat is in the form of a canvas flap, which can easily be pulled down out of the way, allowing him if desired to walk back to the rear of the cabin. Placed in racks along the sides of the fuselage are a number of smoke bombs, which after dropping some 500 ft. ignite and produce a dense black smoke. When the machine is out of sight of the ground these will form a very useful means of ascertaining the drift of the machine. Incidentally, one would imagine that they might be very useful in case of a forced landing far away from inhabited areas, as smoke signalling is one of the oldest in the world and is used by most native tribes.
A very interesting instrument, which we, do not remember having seen on a commercial aeroplane before, is fitted to the Sopwith, This is known as a turn meter, and consists of two swivelling tubes, terminating in a funnel at the rear, mounted one on each wing tip in front of the leading edge. These two tubes are connected up to an indicator in the cabin, on which the slightest turn is shown. This instrument, which is, we understand, very delicate, should be very useful in case of flying in clouds, when a machine usually begins to swing off her course first to one side and then to the other, until the compass swings to such an extent that the pilot no longer knows quite what the machine is doing.
The Rolls-Royce "Eagle," Mark VIII, is placed immediately behind a nose radiator, and is supplied with petrol from a gravity tank placed in the top centre section. Petrol is forced from the main tank, which is placed between the engine and the cabin and has a capacity of about 200 gallons, to this top tank. A very ingenious flow meter is fitted on the latter, indicating at any time the rate at which the fuel is being consumed. In the top centre section is also placed a water tank holding about 25 gallons of water, connected up to the radiator by a flexible rubber tube. Another tube, it might be mentioned incidentally, runs from the nose of the machine, through the engine housing and to the cabin, supplying the latter with fresh air. Two long exhaust pipes run back to the rear of the cabin, and serve as very effectire silencers, the noise inside when the two panels in the roof are closed being almost negligible.
As will be seen from the scale drawings, the Sopwith "Wallaby" is a three-strutter, the large span making this arrangement advisable. The under carriage is of the usual simple Vee type, with rather a narrow track. Wing tip hoops have therefore been fitted.
For the rest, the Sopwith "Wallaby" follows standard practice in design and construction. The tail plane is provided with the usual trimming gear, the wheel control of which may be seen in the side view of the machine. There is a rectangular-shape vertical fin, to which is hinged the balanced rudder.
As will be seen from the general arrangement drawings, the total wing area is 550 sq. ft. The weight of the machine, empty, is 2,780 lbs., which gives a wing loading, empty, of 5.05 lbs./sq. ft. and a power loading, empty, of 7.75 lbs./h.p. As already mentioned, the tanks have a capacity of 200 gallons, and with the weight of occupants and full equipment the weight "all on" is 5,200 lbs. This gives a wing loading of 9-45 lbs./sq. ft. and a power loading of 14.5 lbs./h.p. With full load the maximum speed is about 121 m.p.h., and the minimum speed 48 m.p.h. The cruising speed at 5,000 ft. and at a petrol consumption of 15 gallons per hour, is 107 m.p.h., which gives a range of about 1,500 miles. This is ample for any overseas distance that has to be covered during the flight to Australia, and should also give a very good margin for any of the overland stages over country unsuitable for landing. As an example of the efficiency of the Sopwith "Wallaby" it is of more than passing interest to note that the ratio Useful Load / Total Weight = 2,420 / 5,200 = 46.5 per Cent., which is distinctly good. Incidentally, it might be mentioned that the usefulness of the "Wallaby" is by no means restricted to the flight to Australia. By altering the cabin and seating accommodation it is possible to get in eight people (including the pilot), when the machine would have a range of 500 miles at a speed of 107 m.p.h.
The Flight Itself
With regard to the actual flight to Australia., the difficulties are many and the country over which the machine win have to pass is in many cases anything but inviting in case of engine failure. However, the Rolls-Royce Eagle, Mark VIII, has a good reputation for "sticking it." All possibilities have, however, been taken into consideration, and a number of spare parts will be taken, including a spare propeller. This is, we think, a very wise precaution, since it is quite conceivable that during a forced landing the propeller might be damaged, which, even if no other damage occurred, would effectively prevent getting off again, while if a spare propeller is carried it should be possible to effect repairs and proceed on the journey. As to the route followed, this will, we understand, be that known as Air Ministry Route No. 1 to India. It is indicated in the accompanying sketch map, on which are also marked some of the distances in miles. These are, it should be pointed out, only approximately correct. The direct route to Australia is shown on the map in dotted lines. It will be seen that this goes a good deal farther to the north than the route which it is proposed to follow, and that it is very considerably shorter. The start will be made from Hounslow, and the machine will then fly across France, down to Pisa. From there to Capua and Taranto, from which latter place the machine will make for Valona, in Albania, and proceed down across Greece and hence to Cairo. From Cairo to Damascus and Bagdad, and hence to Karachi. From Karachi to Delhi, Calcutta, Rangoon and Singapore, at which latter place there is a control. From Singapore to Batavia, and along the Dutch East Indian Islands to Timor, and then the last stage across to Port Darwin, Australia. The journey is one full of dangers, and the pilot who makes it may well be proud of his achievement. According to the terms of the Australian Government Prize, the maximum time allowed is 30 days, but as Capt. Matthews points out, he is, as a member of the Larkin-Sopwith Company of Australia, far more interested in demonstrating the possibility of making such a long-distance flight on a single-engined machine than in winning the cash prize, although naturally he will do his best to win it. He is convinced that Australia offers an excellent field for aeronautical development, and that the successful completion of such a flight would give a strong fillip to aviation in that country.
The height at which it is intended to fly will vary with local conditions, but Capt. Matthews expects to do the flight at an average altitude of somewhere between 6,000 and 10,000 ft. For supplies of food, etc., Capt. Matthews is relying on the hospitality of the countries in which he will have to land, but it may be mentioned that, acting on the advice of the Air Ministry, he is carrying a repeating rifle in the aeroplane, so that if any natives among whom he may find himself show signs of hostilities, these may be answered in a suitable manner.
The Pilot-Navigator and the Engineer
Before concluding, it may be of interest to give a brief reference to the careers of the two men who will attempt this hazardous journey. The pilot-navigator is Capt. George Campbell Matthews, A.F.C., of the Australian Flying Corps, and the engineer is Sergt. Tom Kay, also of the Australian Flying Corps. Capt. Matthews is 36 years of age, and has had a strenuous career, which particularly fits him for the rigours of this arduous flight. He has spent 12 years at sea in the Mercantile Marine as a practical navigator, and holds an extra-master's certificate. In his own words, he has been "all over the world and many other places."
On the outbreak of war, he was acting as chief officer of a passenger steamer off the Australian coast, but he at once left and joined the Australian Light Horse as a trooper. He received his commission at Gallipoli, and subsequently served 2 1/2 years with that Force at the Dardanelles and also in Egypt. Whilst in the latter country, he found himself unable to resist the attractions of a flying career, and joining the R.F.C., he took his pilot's certificate in February, 1917, afterwards proceeding out to France with the 1st Australian Scout Squadron, No. 68 R.F.C., in September. After three months in France, he returned to England to be promoted Flight Commander of the No. 4 Australian Scout Squadron, which was then flying Sopwith Camels.
When the Australian Training Wing was formed in England, Capt. Matthews returned to it as Wing Examiner. He has flown some 21 different types of machines, and is a pilot of the most fearless and reliable type, his long maritime experience having proved of the greatest value to him in the air. A better air pilot could hardly have been chosen for this great air flight, for Capt. Matthews has an intimate knowledge of the Malay Archipelago, the Celebes Islands and other islands of the Pacific. Sergt. Kay, who is accompanying him, is one of the best Australian mechanics, and has had a long experience of internal combustion engines. He is not himself a qualified pilot, but whilst waiting to start, Capt. Matthews has trained him in the management of the Australian machine, "The Wallaby," so that he can act as a relief when the machine is in the air and at a fair height.
As an instance of the sporting spirit and good will which exists between British aviation firms, we think it should be mentioned that the Airco firm, who have had about two months' experience in regular commercial air services, have placed all their logs of the London-Paris Air Service at the disposal of Sopwiths, containing a vast amount of extremely useful data and experience, which is acknowledged to be of the very greatest assistance to Sopwiths in planning this long flight.
Flight, November 6, 1919.
THE FLIGHT TO AUSTRALIA
IN connection with the flight to Australia, for which the Australian Government has offered a prize of ?10,000, events now appear to indicate that this competition may almost amount to a race. The Sopwith machine entered for this flight left Hounslow some time ago, and was, as recorded in FLIGHT at the time, obliged to descend near Cologne. Some speculation as to the reasons for landing there has been occupying the minds of many interested in the flight. We are informed that the machine and engine are both quite all right, and that what caused the descent was exceptionally bad weather. The machine left Hounslow in reasonably good weather, but after crossing into France fogs were encountered and it was only occasionally that Capt. Matthews caught a glimpse of the ground. One of these showed him that he was over Ypres, and he had some trouble in finding Marquise aerodrome. However, this he ultimately succeeded in doing, and spent the night there. He left Marquise next morning, again meeting with very bad weather. Through a rift in the clouds he discovered a town below and decided to come down to enquire. After cruising about for nearly an hour he found a landing ground, and discovered that he was at Cologne. Apparently a very strong wind had upset all his calculations, and as he could not see the ground he had no means of ascertaining his actual drift. Continuous bad weather kept the "Wallaby" at Cologne until November 2, when a start was made. Even then, it was only possible to get on to Mayence.
In addition to the Sopwith "Wallaby" three other machines are now all but ready for the attempt, and are mainly waiting for an improvement in the weather before making a start. These are: A Martinsyde, an Alliance, and a Vickers-Vimy. As all the machines must start from Hounslow it would appear that the arrival of better weather will mean the start of all three machines more or less together, and an exciting race may therefore be looked to.
Flight, December 25, 1919.
SOME POST-WAR SOPWITH MACHINES
THE Sopwith Aviation and Engineering Co. is by no means disposed to rest upon its laurels, and testimony to this effect is furnished by the origination of the three new peace types: the "Dove," the "Gnu" and the "Transport." Further, the company's design and experimental department is being maintained at its full strength and is as busy as ever. Some interesting developments are likely to be heard of in the near future. With the single exception of lighter-than-air craft their experience as that of pioneer designer-constructors covers all types of aircraft, flying boats, sea planes and "land" machines. Furthermore they have built, and had standardised, everything from bombers and torpedo-carriers to high-speed scouts, and in every type they have attained eminence. No better proof of this could be asked than the way in which their type names have become household words.
The "Transport" can be adapted for use either as a cargo machine or for the purpose of conveying passengers. In the former case, accommodation is provided for one pilot and passenger with 1,500 lbs. of cargo, and in the latter, arrangements are made for carrying five passengers and one pilot, four passengers being carried in the centre of the machine and one in the pilot's cock-pit behind the wings.
Petrol is carried for six hours at a cruising speed of 90 miles per hour in the case of the passenger carrier, and, when adapted for use as a cargo, machine, fuel is provided for 8 hours at a cruising speed of 90 miles per hour.
The construction of this machine is on normal lines.
It is of interest to note that the "Transport" is practically identical with the machine upon which the Atlantic flight was attempted last May, and is also very similar to the "Wallaby" upon which Capt. Matthews flew to Australia, which was described in FLIGHT for October 16 last.
It is fitted with an "Eagle 8" Rolls-Royce engine, and has a factor of safety of 6.5. An adjustable tail plane is fitted. The following are the principal characteristics of both the passenger and cargo types :-
Span, 46 ft. 6 ins.; chord, 6 ft. 3 ins.; stagger, 3 ins.; dihedral, 2 1/2#; overall length, 28 ft.; height, 12 ft.; area of main planes, 547 sq. ft.; weight of machine fully loaded, 5,500 lbs.; speed, 115 m.p.h.