Sopwith TriplaneMagnificent Flying Machines
At a Glance
- Power System - Rubber Free Flight
- Wingspan - 18" (460mm)
- Approximate AUW - 25g
- Difficulty - Beginner
SOPWITH TRIPLANE - A MULTI-WINGED MARVEL
Sopwith’s Chief Engineer, Herbert Smith, developed the Triplane on the orders of owner Thomas Sopwith as a private enterprise for a new scout (fighter) aircraft, with superior rates of climb, roll, and better all-round visibility than current designs. Smith believed that three staggered, narrow chord wings, set wide apart, each with its own set of ailerons would fit the bill. The prototype flew in May 1916 piloted by Sopwith test pilot Harry Hawker (later to form the Hawker Aircraft Company of Hurricane fame). Astonishingly for a maiden test flight, Hawker successfully looped the aircraft three times. Subsequent flights proved that Smith was right and that the "Tripehound" as many pilots came to know the aircraft, had far better rates of climb, manoeuvrability and visibility than any other domestic or enemy aircraft of the day (although this was tempered by slower dives than German aircraft of the same period).
Most Triplanes served with the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS) where they proved to be excellent fighting machines, although their service was short lived. They were difficult to maintain in the field, and the pace of development at the time saw them overtaken quickly by better designs such as Sopwith’s own Camel and the SE5A. Such was the German admiration for the performance of the basic design, that Anthony Fokker studied a crashed example and went on to use it as inspiration for what became the Fokker DR1 - the triplane flown by the infamous "Red Baron”, Manfred Von Richthofen. Overall nearly 150 aircraft were built. Few original aircraft survive, none in airworthy condition, although a number of reproduction aircraft can be seen, the most famous being “Dixie II” at the Shuttleworth Collection based at the Old Warden Aerodrome, Bedfordshire, England.
This kit is designed for you to build a traditionally constructed, rubber-powered, free-flight model of a 1917 Triplane of No.1 Squadron RNAS. This is a simple but striking scheme, but you can decide to do your own favourite or more complicated scheme if you wish as there are many triplane schemes to choose from. The No.1 Squadron RNAS (latterly 201 Squadron RAF) flew Triplanes between December 1916 and December 1917 over the Western Front before being belatedly re-equipped with Sopwith Camels.
Construction of the model from this kit uses the traditional method of ‘stick and tissue’, that consists of a built up balsa wood skeleton (framework), covered with a tissue skin. The balsa frameworks are built over a plan that is printed at the exact scale of the model, which is in essence a real engineering drawing.
Power is provided by rubber strip motor that is wound up before flight. Free flight means just that – once the model is launched, it is on its own. It must follow a predetermined flight path established when the model is initially adjusted for flight or ‘trimmed’. This type of traditional building technique and flying requires a degree of patience and skill, but is extremely rewarding.
The Sopwith Triplane is just one of a series of kits designed and manufactured by the Vintage Model Company. Aeromodelling was very popular from the 1950s until the 1980s and following a decline and the loss of UK manufacturers such as FROG, KeilKraft and Veron, a revival is now underway. The advent of modern technology such as laser cutting of parts and the growth of the internet giving access to information on the skills and techniques required to successfully build and fly these models, means new enthusiasts are discovering the joys of aeromodelling every day.
Typically for a small model and in the spirit of the traditional kits, profiles are simplified and adjusted from the original and a relatively large propeller is used. This is done so that the model is light and stable enough to fly on its own, is simple in construction and can work with the rubber motor. These adjustments have been done with care and sensitivity so that the shape and spirit of the original aircraft is preserved as much as possible. Also in the spirit of the traditional kits, additional items required to build the model are things that can be found in the kitchen drawer or are easily available on the high street.
Four balsa sheets with precise laser cut parts and strip wood.
PVA glue for building the wooden frames.
One 150mm diameter plastic propeller.
One pre-bent motor hook and shaft.
A 150mm long piece of 6.4mm diameter balsa dowel for the engine cylinders and gun details.
Three low friction plastic ‘nose’ bushings– one for the propeller and two for the undercarriage wheels.
Piano wire for the main undercarriage legs.
A matchstick for the tail skid.
Three cocktail sticks or toothpicks, one for the motor peg and the others for use in various details
Rubber motor strip.
Tissue to cover the model.
Parts reference sheets (W), full size summary plan sheets (X), scheme diagram sheet (Y) and scheme markings (Z) printed on lightweight paper.
SOPWITH TRIPLANE ORIGINAL INSTRUCTION BOOKLET COPY
Download a spare copy of the instruction booklet included in your kit here:Sopwith Triplane Instruction Booklet
SOPWITH TRIPLANE MARKINGS SHEET
Click the link below to download a pdf version of the markings sheet included in the Sopwith Triplane kit.
The markings sheet should fit onto a single A4 page and may be printed onto your own paper or decal transfer sheet.
Additional roundels for those of you that wish to re-create an alternative scheme
SOPWITH TRIPLANE PATTERNS SHEET
Click the link below to download a pdf version of the patterns for paper/card parts originally drawn on the plan.
This will save you from having to cut into your beautiful plan!
Built, filmed, edited and produced by the amazing Rob Brennan
- 18" (460mm)
This was my first build after a very long break from the hobby. I made it more challenging by converting the model to electric free flight. I eventually got the model trimmed properly and it flies very well. See the video here :- https://youtu.be/-f00zOEvsCE The kit comes with good quality balsa and parts, and the instructions and plans are clear and easy to follow. I have since built the VMC Fokker DVIII (which is ready for its first flight), and I'm currently browsing for my next project. [originally posted on our old website 06/09/2019]
I built one of these and fitted micro rc gear in it operating rudder and elevator. Power is from a small brushless motor and a 2s 300 mAh lipo battery. It weighs 85g ready to go. I flew it for the first time today and it was a pretty good flyer it looked really cool with the sun light showing up the internal construction. It was pretty stable and quite easy to fly. Well worth converting! [originally posted on our old website 02/06/2018]
Your addition of the Triplane keeps up the very high standard of quality. Detailed accurate plans, well-selected balsa wood, and the framework goes together with remarkable accuracy. Assembly of all those wings works well with the jigs supplied, but I would highlight the importance of getting the top wings glued to their centre section with exactly the same incidence on both wing panels. Otherwise the lower wings will 'follow' and also be slightly out of whack. The only detail that didn't work for me was making the half cylinders for the engine. Mine looked a bit miserable, so I made some aluminium ones on the lathe, just a bar turned to size, drilled, and I cut a fine thread along for the fins. It was a simple job, and they weighed next to nothing. That would be a very nice addition for the rotary engine models. Sixty years after first tangling with a keil kraft Spitfire, this series are a pleasure to build. [originally posted on our old website 20/03/2018]
This is the second kit from the magnificent flying machine range I have built and only my third ever balsa build. But I do have to complement VMC on another excellent kit. With the detailed build guide along with more instructions on the plans and the download of the paper templates and decals sheets made this a most enjoyable if a little tricky (due to the triple wing configuration) build. I would recommend this kit to anyone who may be looking for something other than the usual monoplane kit. [originally posted on our old website 08/02/2018]