On Thursday 18 May 2017 The Shuttleworth Collection’s Sopwith Camel successfully flew for the first time, in the hands of chief pilot Dodge Bailey.
This late model reproduction is a collaboration between voluntary society, Northern Aeroplane Workshops, (NAW) and the Shuttleworth Trust. It is NAW’s third aircraft and final project, when then Co-Coordinator Eric Barraclough, announced he had Sopwith Camel drawings in his loft that had been gifted to the society in the early 70’s (along with those for the Sopwith Triplane), but forgotten about in the interim. NAW approached The Shuttleworth Collection to finance the project and to supply a Clerget 140hp rotary engine. Work commenced on the build in 1995.
The aircraft was based in two workshops in the West Yorkshire area during its build period, using traditional methods such as marking dye, scriber and file to commence making the many, many small metal fittings. Nearly all materials were sourced from The Shuttleworth Collection, including wheels and tanks, and the very few castings were outsourced. The build was overseen by Popular Flying Association soon to become the Light Aircraft Association, our initial Inspector being Rob Millinship, a Shuttleworth Collection pilot.
The airframe is high grade spruce and birch ply, with the longerons and tail skid, made from airworthy grade ash. NAW built the fuselage jig, and once both sides had been braced with piano wire assembly of the basic fuselage was undertaken. A similar process followed with the four wings and later centre section all being assembled in jigs. Progress was maintained until, in August 2013, Shuttleworth Collection Engineers came to collect the uncovered airframe and continue the work at Shuttleworth including splicing cables, installing the air, fuel and oil systems, covering all sub-assemblies, and making the rotary engine airworthy, whilst NAW members completed the cowling and other panel work.
The Sopwith Camel is displayed as D 1851 named IKANOPIT, a 70 squadron RAF, the first front line RFC Squadron to receive Camels. 2017 is an appropriate year for another Sopwith Camel, as it was one hundred years ago when the initial batch of Camels was introduced into service to fight on the Western Front with the Royal Flying Corps. The hard work and passion of the members of voluntary society, Northern Aeroplane Workshops, (NAW) has made it possible for visitors to The Shuttleworth Collection to see this historic aircraft type flying as it joins the display line up later this season.
(With thanks to Robert Richardson, NAW, for background to the build).
[Image – copyright Darren Harbar Photography]