Sopwith Tabloid

Sopwith Tabloid Seaplane, Schneider Trophy, 1914

The Sopwith Tabloid was constructed in 1913 as two-seater racing aeroplane. The design was one of extreme simplicity. The engine was the popular 80 h.p. Gnome rotary enclosed in a peculiar metal cowling, with two small cooling slots in front. The fuselage, a wire-braced woods box girder, was rather broad, for the pilot and passenger sat side by side in the one cockpit. The wings were of usual fabric-covered wooden construction, with raked tips. Wing warping was used for lateral control. The undercarriage was equipped with twin skids.

Flown by Harry Hawker, the Tabloid performed excellently on test at Farnborough. reaching a speed of 92 m.p.h and climbing to 1,200 feet in one minute, with pilot. passenger and fuel for two and a half hours' flying. Its first public appearance at Hendon was sensational; it easily outclassed the monoplane, which had hitherto been supreme.

The original machine was taken by Hawker to Australia- he returned in June 1914; by then the aeroplane had a plain vee undercarriage and the fabric had been removed from the rear end of the fuselage.

On April 20th, 1914, Howard Pixton, who had take over Hawker's duties, piloted a seaplane version of the Tabloid to victory in the Schneider Trophy race. This model had the 100 h.p. Gnome Monosoupape engine and plain rudder and fin.

Production commenced in the spring of 1914 for both the R.F.C. and R.N.A.S. The service machines were single seaters, had rudders and fins resembling those of the Schneider seaplane, and twin-skid undercarriages. A few had extra bracing struts to each skid.

Sopwith Tabloid Seaplane, Schneider Trophy, 1914  Pilot C. Howard Pixton is on the port float

Four Tabloids went to France shortly after the outbreak of war, and were eventually attached to squadrons for fast scouting duties. An early success was obtained by Lieutenant Norman Spratt, who forced down a German machine by circling his Tabloid around it; his only 'armament' at the time being a bundle of steel darts! Some R.N.A.S. machines had Lewis guns fitted on their top wings to fire above the revolving airscrew. One naval Tabloid had a Lewis gun fixed on the starboard side of its fuselage to fire through the airscrew arc; deflector plates protected the blades from damage-a device invented by the French engineer Saulnier and used on the single-seater Morane Saulnier monoplane.

The type scored its greatest success in the light bomber role. On October 8th, 1914, the first two R.N.A.S. Tabloid' to reach the front, Nos, 167 and 168, took off from beleaguered Antwerp to raid the Zeppelin sheds at Cologec and Dusseldorf. Squadron Commander Spenser Grey, flying 167, was unable to find his target, and bombed the railway station at Cologne, flight Lieutenant Marix dropped his 20 lb. bombs on the airship shed at Dusseldorf and destroyed the new Zeppelin Z.IX. Both aeroplanes were forced to land, but the pilots reached Antwerp before the town was evacuated by the Allies.

Later machines had ailerons for lateral control, In place of wing warping. It is believed that about forty of the type were built.

A specially modified Sopwith Tablid was the winner of the Schneider Trophy race, in 1914. alterations consisted of the addition of two floats and a more powerful engine. On April 20, 1914. at Monaco, Howard Pixton flew an average of 86.9 mph (39.6 kph). In two extra laps, he reached 92 mph (148 kph). establishing a new seaplane speed record. Thus the Sopwith biplane had its revenge on the Deperdussin monoplane and gave Great Britain its first major international success in aviation.

The special version of this plane prepared for Britain's first appearance at the Schneider Trophy was not substantially different from the model that had appeared the previous autumn. The land version of the Tabloid was designed by T. O. M. Sopwith and F. Sigrist. as a demonstration and racing aircraft. It was built in great secrecy, and preliminary tests were made at Brooklands in autumn 1913. These were followed by the official evaluation tests, and the plane immediately demonstrated its speed and manoeuvrability.

At the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough, where the tests were conducted, the Tabloid reached a top speed of 92 mph (148 kph) in horizontal flight and showed a rate of climb in the order of 1,200 feet per minute (365.75 metres per minute). The same day, November 29, test pilot Harry Hawker flew the plane to Hendon, where one of the popular Saturday air meetings was being held. The new Sopwith was seen by more than 50,000 spectators, and flew two low-altitude laps round the course at more than 87 mph (140 kph). After that, the plane was ordered in large numbers by the army and the navy as a single-seater reconnaissance  aircraft.

Sopwith Tabloid Seaplane, Schneider Trophy, 1914

Then the Sopwith company readied one of its single-seaters for the upcoming Schneider Trophy race. Since the race was restricted to seaplanes, the aircraft had to be modified. The landing gear was removed, and a large central float was installed in its place. The 100-hp Gnome engine was also modified for the occasion. The single float did not stand up to tests, the plane capsizing. There was very little time left before the race, so the Sopwith designers decided to slice the original float in half to make two new ones. This time flight and landing tests on the Thames were successful, and the Tabloid was sent off to Monaco on April 8, 1914. The final modification before the race was the installation of a better propeller. The rest is history.

Back in England after the race, the floats were removed at Sopwith's factory at Kingston-on-Thames, and a V strut landing gear was installed. Now the plane was ready for R. H. Barnwell to fly at the 1914 Aerial Derby. But because of poor visibility the plane did not complete the race. That was the end of the Tabloid's racing career. War broke out, and the Tabloid served as a reconnaissance plane during the first months of the conflict, when its speed and general handiness became very useful military assets indeed