Pilot Crashes Replica Sopwith Triplane

A pilot’s display flight of a replica SopwithTriplane recently took a literal nosedive when the plane clipped a fence and consequently crashed into the ground. The pilot was lucky enough to have escaped unharmed, and his flight still went according to plan (for the most part) as the crash did not occur until it was time to land. The replica SopwithTriplane, however, was much less fortunate than the pilot.

Pilot Roger “Dodge” Bailey was set for landing on a grass landing strip. He had been flying his replica fighter plane for the Shuttleworth Military Pageant at the Old Warden airfield. The Sunday flight in Bedfordshire, near Biggleswade, had almost been pulled off without a hitch at the time of the crash. Now, the SopwithTriplane lacks a propeller and the front has sustained damage. The plane was nearly vertical at the time of the crash, leaving the tail suspended in the air. Bailey had to be pulled from the wrecked plane after the crash, as he was too stunned to move.

It does not appear that the crash was Bailey’s fault. According to witnesses, the weather was sunny but not quite favorable, as wind speeds were somewhat high. Many of them believe that the SopwithTriplane may have been forced off of its course, which is what caused the undercarriage to graze the fence. Since he was about to make a landing, Bailey was sustaining a fairly low altitude at the time. Otherwise, he might not have made it out unscathed.

The plane’s engine is also suspected to have faltered during the crash. The engine also might have saved Bailey’s life, as its weight is what kept the plane sticking vertically out of the ground after the nose struck the dirt. Had the SopwithTriplane rolled over, Bailey might have been hurt quite badly. It also would have caused more damage to the plane, which currently just lacks its propeller and its undercarriage, and has sustained some damage to the top wing, the Mail Online reports.

As of now, it appears that the replica SopwithTriplane will eventually fly again. It may not fly again this season, but the damages are estimated to be light enough that the plane will not be beyond repair. A precise replica of an aircraft that flew under the employ of the No. 8 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War, the SopwithTriplane flown by Bailey has been flying for over twenty years and will not be retired if it can be avoided.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE