Sopwith Flying Characteristics

Flying 100 Year Old Technology

While the Sopwith family of aeroplanes have many controls (stick & rudder, ailerons, trim, and airbrakes) which are recognizable to a modern pilot, their use, combined with unique flying characteristics and an unfamiliar rotary engine, can be a bit of a challenge. Thus, the two-seat 1 1/2 Strutter is also available in a dual control variant, which allow pilots to acquaint themselves with the idiosyncrasies of flying a one hundred year old machine.

The Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter Flies

This GO Pro video with captions, explains many of the flying operations and characteristics of the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter. Check out our YouTube channel for additional test flight videos.

Off Field Landing

On July 3rd during an otherwise uneventful test flight, Kip discovered a flaw in the original Sopwith drawings which was specific to dual control Strutters. With only around 50 such versions being produced towards the end of the war for use as trainers, this flaw was most likely never recognized at the time, as it was never reported back to the drawing office.

What was discovered? No provision had been made to prevent the aileron rocker shaft from working it’s way aft, which in certain circumstances could allow the shaft to come free of it’s pivot bracket, and result in significantly degraded aileron authority. Not knowing the exact nature of the failure, pilot Lankenau chose to put the Strutter down in a corn field, rather than potentially risking the lives of the crew and others on the ground. Both crew members were able to walk away; however, Lankenau suffered a broken ankle. Currently, the Strutter is in our main workshop undergoing depot level repairs for return to flight, with notations made to the original drawings to prevent future occurrences.

Forced landing of Sopwith Strutter in corn field after aileron failure July 2020.

For pilots, excerpts from the official NTSB incident report is a detailed read and contains many flying characteristics of the 1 1/2 Strutter which may be of interest. Click here to read the Pilot’s Incident Report.

May 6, 2022 NTSB released their final report determining the probable cause of the incident on July 3, 2020, as an inflight loss of aileron control due to movement of a control connector. Click here for the NTSB Final Report.