Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Britian - 1917 Sopwith 5F.1 Dolphin

An Undeservedly Unpopular Fighter

Some aircraft are popular and good flyers. Some are good aircraft but served well despite the lack of trust of pilots. The Dolphin proved it's self in combat in spite of the distrust of many of the unusual wing design. Personally, I have always liked the look of the plane. I have done a few profiles of thi aircraft and plan on doing more in the future. Here are a couple examples of this misunderstood and largely unappreciated British fighter.

The Dolphin was an unorthodox 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.


  1. From Wikipedia Sopwith Snipe, "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sopwith_Snipe"
  2. Franks, Norman. "Dolphin and Snipe Aces of World War I (Aircraft of the Aces)". London: Osprey Publishing, 2002. ISBN 1-84176-317-9.


The Angry Lurker said...

That's a good looking robust plane.

W. I. Boucher said...

The irony is that the Dolphin was a safer plane to fly than the Camel for the majority of pilots. One of the nicknames for the Camel was Widowmaker.