Sopwith Triplane

Said to be the progenitor of the Fokker Dr I Triplane -- and therefore various other less successful German Triplanes -- the Sopwith Triplane single-seat fighter was nicknamed "Tripehound". First flown in prototype form on 28 May 1916, it had been evolved as a faster-climbing derivative of the Pup, with even better maneuverability and improved vision for the pilot. Wing span remained the same as for the Pup, but each wing was of much narrower chord and had an aileron fitted.

Initial production Triplanes, with the 110 hp Clerget rotary engine, had been ordered for the Royal Flying Corps. In the event they were delivered to the Royal Navy Air Service, as were later examples with the 130 hp Clergies engines fitted. The top exponent of the Triplane was Raymond Collishaw, who commanded 'B' Flight of No. 10 (Naval) Squadron from April 1917 -- a unit which received some of the first Triplanes. Known as the "Black Flight" because of the colour of its Triplanes, and the names given to individual aircraft (Black Maria, Black Prince, etc.), it was composed exclusively of Canadian pilots, who accounted for 87 kills between May and July. Collishaw managed to average more than one kill every two days throughout June. He ended the war as the highest-scoring RNAS pilot, with 60 victories.

The whole triplane era of World War I only lasted a little more than a year, higher-powered Camels replacing Triplanes and the Fokker Dr I's career coming to an abrupt end with the death of Manfred von Richthofen in April, 1918.

The exact number of Triplanes that became operational with the RNAS is not clear. What is known is that the first prototype was followed by three more fitted with Clerget and Hispano-Suiza engines of 150 hp and 200
hp. A further 148 aircraft were built, of which five were presented to France, another three were loaned and probably returned, and one went to Russia.




Country: Great Britain
Manufacturer: Sopwith
Designation: Triplane "Tripehound"
Service date: June, 1917
Wingspan: 26'6"
Length: 18' 10"
Height: 8' 6"
Takeoff weight: 1,541 lbs


One or two Vickers 0.303 machine guns.


Engine: 95kW Clerget 9B rotary engine 127 hp
Max. speed: 113 mph
Endurance: 2hrs. 45 min.

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