Monday, May 2, 2011

Britain 1916-1917 Wight Quadraplane

What a difference a Year Makes

Old and Shabby

I began working up my own aircraft profiles about 14 months ago. Over that time my work has changed. Hopefully it has been for the better. One of my early attempts was the Wight Quadraplane seen above. Over time that profile has been like a loose tooth, always there, never out of mind, there to annoy you. Today I had had enough and started over as a fresh new profile. What once took me several days took four hours of work this time around.

New and Shiny

Wight Quadraplane - 1917
Wight Quadraplane - 1917

Confusingly, aircraft of original design produced by the J S White company bore the appellation Wight, to link them with the location of the works at Cowes on the Isle of Wight. The last of some eight types developed under the direction of Howard T Wright as chief designer was the only Wight aircraft in the fighter category.

This was a quadruplane of most unusual layout, in which the fuselage filled the gap between the two middle wings, with the upper and lower main planes carried above and below it on struts. At first, single wide-chord struts were used for the cabane and for the single wing bays between the upper, mid-upper and mid-lower wings, all of which had ailerons. The bottom wing, of shorter span, was carried on pairs of struts under the fuselage, and from the mid lower wing. The main wheels were carried on single struts each side and were notched into the bottom wing, with which the axle was in line. Construction was of wood, with mixed fabric and plywood covering.

As first flown the wheels were recessed into the bottom wing and a large tail-skid was needed to prevent the trailing edge scraping the ground. This was replaced by a more conventional arrangement.

The engine was a 110hp Clerget 9Z nine-cylinder rotary, but there is no record of the planned armament. Early flight testing, in mid-1916, led to a complete redesign and rebuild, by Howard T Wright and his team, with a fuselage of increased cross-section area and changed profile in side elevation, an enlarged tail unit and a new set of wings of varying chord. The original broad-chord struts gave way to pairs of narrow struts throughout and the undercarriage was lengthened.

Possibly first tested at Martlesham Heath in February 1917, the Quadruplane acquired a third set of wings, with span progressively decreasing from top to bottom and ailerons on the two upper sets only. Further tests in July 1917 were unsatisfactory and the Quadruplane was written off in February 1918.

The wing section was an original and very inefficient design by designer Howard Wright. There w camber at the leading and trailing edges but a flat middle section. The Quadruplane's wingspan was less than the fuselage length, which by the time it appeared was the reverse of the established practice.


Paul´s Bods said...

What were they thinking? I´m no aeronautics expert but wouldn´t adding ever more wings just increase turbulance and drag on the trailing edges ??

W. I. Boucher said...

@Paul Part of the problem was aeronautics was still more an art than a science. Add the fact that many early designers would now be labeled as crackpot inventors. We also have the luxury of over 100 years of design experience, so we can spot a bad idea when we see one. The only saving grace is it gives me an opportunity to draw pictures of some very odd birds.