Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Sopwith Triplane

Very early on, when writing Sorrel in Scarlet, I decided that my heroine's primary form of transport was a Great War style aeroplane. A biplane? I wanted something that seemed more unusual but was still believable – and so I chose a triplane. But the classic WW1 triplane is the Fokker DR1, the plane flown by the Red Baron.

Too corny and obvious. So, when picturing Sorrel's aeroplane (even though it actually crashes before the novel begins!) I had a mental image of a Sopwith Triplane. A well-made airframe, but not an image that was immediately familiar.


Revell made a plastic kit of the Sopwith Triplane – I spent a number of happy hours building one.


And coincidentally a Poser 3D model, Ace of the Skies, appeared at Renderosity – and it was clearly inspired by the Sopwith airframe. When I finally published Sorrel in Scarlet myself, it provided the wrecked aeroplane upon the cover – and also provided the bright yellow Belkani 3 on the cover of Sorrel Snowbound.

Sorrel's triplane is steam-driven, and a two-seater. The Sopwith Triplane was a single-seat fighter. Less than 150 were ever built. It was powered by a 130 hp Clerget 9B rotary engine. It was apparently very manoeuvrable with an excellent rate of climb, and apparently so impressed the Germans that they rushed a slew of triplane designs into production. It was successful in combat, and over 80 German planes were brought down by Sopwith Triplanes.

Only two real Tripes still exist – one at the RAF Museum Hendon, and one, strangely at the Central Air Force Museum, Monino, Russia. One flying replica exists, at Shuttleworth, and I had the privilege of seeing it fly.

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