here is one of my most recent projects: first combat plane
Before WWI military planes were usually only used for scouting and reconnaissance missions. The first known “heavier-than-air” reconnaissance mission was made by Italy over Turkey in 1911. In the first Balkan war, planes had been used by the Bulgarians to drop bombs at night. In 1913 bombs were dropped from a plane on a Mexican gun ship. These were rare occurrences, and all the bombs were thrown manually which made it difficult to fly and be effective. Also shootings were not forward firing, as the pilots used a pistol and shot sideways.
The French first began to solve the problem of forward firing guns by putting metal on the back of the propellers protect them from being destroyed by the bullets from the guns. This allowed a pilot to fly directly at the enemy and shoot at them.
The Germans and the English led the way in developing planes to effectively fight in battles. These planes had forward firing guns. They also developed a system of synchronization between the gun and the propeller. The English developed the Sopwith and the Germans developed the Fokker. These two planes are considered to be the first of the combat planes. They were developed at about the same time with the Sopwith Camel leading the way with the first flight. The Fokker Dr. 1 had its first flight about 6 months later.
The Sopwith Pup was a fighting scout plane, but the Sopwith Camel was built for combat. The wingspan of the Sopwith Camel is 28 feet (8.5m), the length is 18 feet (5.68 m), and the maximum weight for take-off is 1482 lb (672 kg). It had sensitive controls and heavier armaments then the pup.
The Sopwith Camel first flew on Dec 22, 1916. It went into service with the RAF in June 1917. By February 1918, 13 squadrons were equipped with the Camel.
There were over 5,490 camels produced. It is called the camel because of the protecting metal surrounding the machine guns created sort of a hump.
The plane was very difficult to fly. The pilot, engine, guns and fuel tank were all in about seven feet of space. The rotary engine made it difficult to control and steer, because it made the plane want to rotate in the opposite direction. However, if pilots were trained and had skill the plane had some of the best moves and so, was one of the best for combat. One of the problems was that there was not enough time to train pilots properly.
Another problem was that the Camel’s engine was very sensitive to the fuel-oil mixture. If it was not balanced it would make the engine stall. Many pilots crashed even before takeoff. With a full tank of gas this was usually deadly.
If you look closely you will find that the gap between the wings was less at the tips than at the roots. This is because the fuselage pushed the wings apart in the middle, but not at the tips. They call that a dihedral curve.
One very important date for aviation history is August 11,1916 when a Sopwith Camel
Lifted off a barge in the North Sea for a combat flight, making the barge the first aircraft carrier.
Even with it’s difficult handling characteristics, the Sopwith Camel killed more enemy aircraft than all other allied planes combined.
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