Unlike other biplane fighters of its day, the Airco D.H.5 featured an unusual wing configuration. By positioning the upper wing toward the rear of the cockpit, designer Geoffrey de Havilland was able to improve the pilot's field of vision. Despite this improvement, at high altitude the D.H.5 was a poor performer due to its underpowered engine. By the end of 1917, it was removed from combat and used as a trainer.
Shortly after the development of the Scout Experimental 5, the improved S.E.5a was introduced. When it entered the war in 1917, it was superior to all its German opponents. Many pilots preferred it to the Sopwith Camel. It was easier to fly, it performed better at high altitude and its in-line engine produced less noise. It was also faster than the Sopwith Camel, allowing a pilot to break off combat at will. Disdained by Albert Ball, in the hands of airmen like William Bishop and Edward Mannock, the S.E.5a developed a reputation as a formidable fighter. With 54 victories, South African Anthony Beauchamp Proctor downed more enemy aircraft with this plane than any other ace.
The Royal Aircraft Factory S.E.5 was a British biplane fighter aircraft of the First World War. Although the first examples reached the Western Front before the Sopwith Camel and it had a much better overall performance, problems with its Hispano-Suiza engine meant that there was a chronic shortage of S.E.5s until well into 1918 and fewer squadrons were equipped with the type than with the Sopwith fighter. Together with the Camel, the S.E.5 was instrumental in regaining allied air superiority in mid-1917 and maintaining this for the rest of the war, ensuring there was no repetition of "Bloody April" 1917 when losses in the Royal Flying Corps were much heavier than in the Luftstreitkräfte.
The S.E.5 (Scout Experimental 5) was designed by Henry P. Folland, J. Kenworthy and Major Frank W. Goodden of the Royal Aircraft Factory in Farnborough. It was built around the new 150 hp (112 kW) Hispano-Suiza 8a V8 engine which while it provided excellent performance, was initially under-developed and unreliable. The first of three prototypes flew on 22 November 1916. The first two prototypes were lost in crashes (the first killing one of its designers, Major F. W. Goodden on 28 January 1917) due to a weakness in their wing design. The third prototype underwent modification before production commenced; the S.E.5 was known in service as an exceptionally strong aircraft which could be dived at very high speed so these changes were certainly effective.
Like the other significant Royal Aircraft Factory aircraft of the war (B.E.2, F.E.2 and R.E.8) the S.E.5 was inherently stable, making it an excellent gunnery platform but it was also quite manoeverable. It was one of the fastest aircraft of the war at 138 mph (222 km/h), equal at least in speed to the SPAD S.XIII and faster than any standard German type of the period. The S.E.5 was not as effective in a dog fight as the Camel as it was less agile but it was easier and safer to fly, particularly for novice pilots.
The S.E.5 had one synchronised .303-in Vickers machine gun to the Camel's two. It also had a wing-mounted Lewis gun on a Foster mounting, which enabled the pilot to fire at an enemy aircraft from below as well as forward. This was much appreciated by the pilots of the first S.E.5 squadrons as the new "C.C." synchronising gear for the Vickers was unreliable at first. The Vickers gun was mounted on the left side of the fuselage with the breech inside the cockpit. The cockpit was set amidships, making it difficult to see over the long front fuselage, but otherwise visibility was good. Perhaps its greatest advantage over the Camel was its superior performance at altitude - so that (unlike most Allied fighters) it was not outclassed by the Fokker D.VII when that fighter arrived at the front.
Only 77 original S.E.5 aircraft were built before production settled on the improved S.E.5a. The S.E.5a differed from late production examples of the S.E.5 only in the type of engine installed - a geared 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8b, often turning a large clockwise-rotation four bladed propeller replacing the 150 hp model. In total 5,265 S.E.5s were built by six manufacturers: Austin Motors (1,650), Air Navigation and Engineering Company (560), Curtiss (1), Martinsyde (258), the Royal Aircraft Factory (200), Vickers (2,164) and Wolseley Motor Company (431). A few were converted as two-seat trainers and there were plans for Curtiss to build 1,000 S.E.5s in the United States but only one was completed before the end of the war. At first airframe construction outstripped the very limited supply of French-built Hispano-Suiza engines and squadrons earmarked to receive the new fighter had to soldier on with Airco DH 5s and Nieuport 24s until early 1918.
The introduction of the 200 hp (149 kW) Wolseley Viper, a high-compression version of the Hispano-Suiza made under licence by the Wolseley Motor Company, solved the S.E.5a's engine problems and was adopted as the standard powerplant.
About 38 of the Austin-built S.E.5as were assigned to the American Expeditionary Force with the 25th Aero Squadron getting its aircraft (mostly armed only with the fuselage-mounted Vickers gun) at the very end of the war.
The S.E.5b was a variant of the S.E.5 with a streamlined nose and wings of unequal span and chord. The single example, a converted S.E.5a first flew in early April 1918. It had a spinner on the propeller and a retractable underslung radiator. The S.E.5b was not a true sesquiplane - as the lower wing had two spars. Its performance was little better than the S.E.5a - the increased drag from the large upper wing seems to have cancelled out any benefit from the better streamlined nose. The S.E.5b was not considered for production, probably it was always intended mainly as a research aeroplane. In January 1919 it was tested with standard S.E.5a wings and in this form survived as a research aircraft into the early twenties.
The S.E.5 entered service with No. 56 Squadron RFC in March 1917, although the squadron did not deploy to the Western Front until the following month, among other reasons so that the very large and unpopular "greenhouse" windscreens could be replaced with small rectangular screens of conventional design. The squadron flew its first patrol with the S.E.5 on 22 April. While pilots, some of whom were initially disappointed with the S.E.5, quickly came to appreciate its strength and fine flying qualities, it was universally held to be under-powered and the more powerful S.E.5a began to replace the S.E.5 in June. At this time 56 Squadron was still the only unit flying the new fighter; in fact it was the only operational unit to use the initial 150 hp S.E.5 - all other S.E.5 squadrons used the 200 hp S.E.5a from the outset.
In spite of the very slow build up of new S.E.5a squadrons due to a shortage of the type that lasted well into 1918, by the end of the war the type equipped 21 British Empire squadrons as well as two U.S. squadrons. Many of the top Allied aces flew this fighter including Billy Bishop, Cecil Lewis, Edward Mannock and James McCudden. Legendary British ace Albert Ball was initially disparaging of the S.E.5 but in the end claimed 17 of his 44 victories flying it. McCudden wrote of the S.E.5 "It was very fine to be in a machine that was faster than the Huns, and to know that one could run away just as things got too hot."
An agile, highly maneuverable biplane, the Sopwith Camel accounted for more aerial victories than any other Allied aircraft during World War I. Credited with destroying 1,294 enemy aircraft, it was called the Camel due to the humped fairing over its twin machine guns. Much like a real camel, this aircraft could turn and bite you. Noted for its tendency to kill inexperienced flyers, many pilots feared its vicious spin characteristics.
Until sufficient speed was developed during takeoff, Camel pilots maintained full right rudder to counteract the torque the rotary engine. Failure to do so often resulted in a ground loop with the Camel crashing on its starboard wingtip. During World War I, 413 pilots died in combat and 385 pilots died from non-combat related causes while flying the Sopwith Camel.
The type entered squadron service in June 1917 with No. 4 Squadron of the Royal Naval Air Service, near Dunkirk. The following month, it became operational with No. 70 Squadron of the Royal Flying Corps. By February 1918, 13 squadrons were fully equipped with the Camel.
Intended as a replacement for the Sopwith Pup, the Camel prototype first flew on 22 December 1916, powered by a Clerget 9Z. Known as the "Big Pup" early on in its development, the biplane design was evolutionary more than revolutionary, featuring a box-like fuselage structure, an aluminium engine cowling, plywood-covered panels around the cockpit, and fabric-covered fuselage, wings and tail. Two 0.303 in (7.7 mm) Vickers machine guns were mounted directly in front of the cockpit, firing forward through the propeller disc with synchronisation gear. A metal fairing over the gun breeches created a "hump" that led to the name Camel. The bottom wing had dihedral but not the top, so that the gap between the wings was less at the tips than at the roots. Approximately 5,490 units were ultimately produced.
Unlike the preceding Pup and Triplane, the Camel was not considered pleasant to fly. The Camel owed both its extreme manoeuvrability and its difficult handling characteristics to grouping the engine, pilot, guns and fuel tank within the first seven feet of the aircraft, coupled with the strong gyroscopic effect of the rotary engine. The Camel soon gained an unfortunate reputation with student pilots. The Clerget engine was particularly sensitive to fuel mixture control, and incorrect settings often caused the engine to choke and cut out during takeoff. Many crashed due to mishandling on takeoff when a full fuel tank affected the center of gravity. In level flight, the Camel was markedly tail-heavy. Unlike the Sopwith Triplane, the Camel lacked a variable incidence tailplane, so that the pilot had to apply constant forward pressure on the control stick to maintain a level attitude at low altitude. However the machine could also be rigged in such a way that at higher altitudes it could be flown "hands off." A stall immediately resulted in a spin and the Camel was particularly noted for its vicious spinning characteristics.
The Camel proved to be a superlative fighter, and offered heavier armament and better performance than the Pup and Triplane. In the hands of an experienced pilot, its manoeuvrability was unmatched by any contemporary type. Its controls were light and sensitive. The Camel turned rather slowly to the left, which resulted in a nose up attitude due to the torque of the rotary engine. But the engine torque also resulted in the ability to turn to the right in half the time of other fighters, although that resulted in more of a tendency towards a nose down attitude from the turn. Because of the faster turning capability to the right, to change heading 90° to the left, many pilots preferred to do it by turning 270° to the right. Agility in combat made the Camel one of the best-remembered Allied aircraft of the First World War. It was said to offer a choice between a "wooden cross, red cross and Victoria Cross." Together with the S.E.5a, the Camel helped to wrest aerial superiority away from the German Albatros fighters.
By mid-1918 the Camel was becoming limited by its slow speed and comparatively poor performance at altitudes over 12,000 ft (3,650 m). However, it was then used as a ground-attack and infantry support aircraft. During the German offensive of March 1918, flights of Camels harassed the advancing German Army, inflicting high losses (and suffering high losses in turn) through the dropping of 25 lb (11 kg) Cooper bombs and ultra-low-level strafing. The protracted development of the Camel's replacement, the Sopwith Snipe, meant that the Camel remained in service until the Armistice.
The Dolphin was an unorthidox design with a reverse stagger to it's upper wing that was not received well in spite of it's performance in the field. Many pilots did not trust the design. With 20 victories, American Frederick Gillet scored more victories with the Sopwith Dolphin than any other ace
The Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin was a British fighter aircraft manufactured by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It was used by the Royal Flying Corps and its successor, the Royal Air Force, during the First World War. The Dolphin entered service on the Western Front in early 1918 and proved to be a formidable fighter. The aircraft was not retained in the postwar inventory, however, and was retired shortly after the war.
In early 1917, Sopwith's chief engineer Herbert Smith began designing a new fighter (internal Sopwith designation 5F.1) powered by the 200 hp Hispano-Suiza 8B. The resulting Dolphin was a two-bay, single-seat biplane. The upper wings were attached to an open steel cabane frame above the cockpit. To maintain the correct center of gravity, the lower wings were positioned 13 inches forward of the upper wings, creating the Dolphin’s distinctive negative wing stagger. The pilot sat with his head raised through the frame, where he had an excellent field of view. This configuration sometimes caused difficulty for novice pilots, who found it difficult to keep the aircraft pointed at the horizon because the nose was not visible from the cockpit. The cockpit was nevertheless warm and comfortable, in part because the radiator pipes ran alongside the cockpit walls.