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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Camel


David B

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We all know that the Sopwith Camel was a magnificent fighting machine probably because of its high rate of turn to the right, aided

by the torque of its rotary engine and very good manouverability.

My questions are -

1. Did the German develop tactics to counteract this advantage, say for instance attacking from the left where its rate of turn was a

lot slower and

2. Were other aircraft that were fitted with rotary engines also have the advantage of high turn rates to the right, but slowere in the other direction

David

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From reading Victor Yeates' Winged Victory, recounting his Camel pilot experiences, I gather that one main advantage of the Camel was that it was inherently unstable. Some aircraft are stable by default - take your hands off the controls and the plane will fly on straight. Some act the other way, and need constant control to keep straight and level. Slack off the controls and the plane will go all over the place.

This was the case with the Camel - it could become unpredictable in its course, and the successful pilot used that to effect.

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I've seen a comment by one camel pilot that with some manouvers even the pilot couldn't be sure which way the aircraft would be travelling when it came out of it, let alone an enemy pilot. Instability in itself is not a guarantee of manouverability. Some of the early Morane Sauliner monoplanes (and aircraft based on them such as the Fokker and Pfalz eindekers) were inherintly unstable because of the lack of fixed tail surfaces. This proved very tiring for the pilot who had to constantly make minor movements on the controls but the aircraft were not as manouverable as, say, an Airco Dh2 fighter

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Because of the large spinning mass of cylinders and propeller all rotary-engined aircraft would have experienced torque and gyroscopic effect to some degree. Airframes in those days had to built lightly built because of the lower power output of the available engines. The difference with the Camel was that it had a much more powerful engine which accentuated these forces.

The standard Sopwith Pup on the WF was fitted with an 80 hp rotary, the Camel with anything from 110 to 150 hp. That is a lot more power in a similar sized airframe, which would obviously lead to far greater forces trying to act on it. In WW2, a Merlin-powered Spitfire compared with a Griffon one would be a similar analogy.

Pilots would tend to hold the stick with the right hand and use the left to manipulate the engine controls, so a right turn is also more natural for that reason too. Later, adjustable trim controls were fitted to aircraft rudders and elevators to counteract some of the stick or rudder forces which can be quite tiring to push against for any length of time. The Camel had limited trim and tended to fly tail down.

The Fokker DR1 was also noted for its manoeuvrability to the right. That had a 110 hp rotary.

TJJ

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One of the key reasons for the Camel's maneuverability was the placing of the pilot well forward so that the main mass of him, the guns and ammo, engine and fuel were all close together allowing the aircraft to pivot in any direction around its centre of gravity. A price paid for this was pilot upwards visibility - hence the cutaway section on most aircraft

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am I right in thinking that a rotary had two positions of the throttle either off or full blast

david

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am I right in thinking that a rotary had two positions of the throttle either off or full blast

david

Thats why aircraft had a blip switch allowing the pilot to blip the engine off and on, off and on when needing to slow down for a landing approach

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We had this discussion before, and came to the conclusion that at least some types of rotary did have a throttle, but it was very difficult to use as the petrol and air both had to be adjusted. See Mike W's post in this thread:

 

Cecil Lewis talks in Sagittarius Rising about there being no throttle, only a blip switch (he refers to it as a "button switch") - but he is talking in that passage about the Gnome Monosoupape which was pretty crude even compared to other rotaries.

Frank Courtney talks in The Eighth Sea about opening the throttle of a Camel, in the context that if you did this too violently in order to hasten recovery from a spin, you were liable to go into an inverted spin, in which case the controls would operate in the opposite way!

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Cecil Lewis talks in Sagittarius Rising about there being no throttle, only a blip switch (he refers to it as a "button switch") - but he is talking in that passage about the Gnome Monosoupape which was pretty crude even compared to other rotaries.

Some Camels were fitted with Gnome Monosoupape engines. In addition Gnome developed a version in which it was possible to cut the fuel to pairs of cylinders to reduce power, right down to the point were only one cylinder was firing. At least two Camels were fitted with this but it was regarded as too complicated.

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my god and airmen went up in those things

david

G'day David,

Thought you might like this quote regarding a Camel pilot-

"But in the hands of a master there was nothing a Camel wouldn't do. There was a certain celebrated Captain Armstrong of 44 Squadron who would loop a Camel on take-off and who specialised in snap rolls at fifteen feet, or even on one occasion, with the wing tip brushing the grass as he rolled. But there are old pilots, as the saying goes, and bold pilots, but no old bold pilots, and even Captain armstrong spun in eventually, just two weeks before the war ended."

Its from "The Great Planes" by James Gilbert. I think those old flyers were a breed apart.

Hope all goes well.

Scott

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my god and airmen went up in those things

Many came down in one piece too!

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It has allways been a mystery to me how the fuel and lubricants were fed to an engine that was constantly spinning in relation to the supply, did they have a special carbureter or manifold? :wacko:

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It has allways been a mystery to me how the fuel and lubricants were fed to an engine that was constantly spinning in relation to the supply, did they have a special carbureter or manifold? :wacko:

The crank case on all rotaries acted as a distribution chamber. Air is drawn along the hollow crankshaft and through a single carburetor into the crank case. There it is fed into the cylinders and different engines had various ways of doing this. Bentley Le Rhone and Clerget used an individual manifold for each cylinder leading to the cylinder head where an inlet valve was operated by a push rod. On the Gnome Mono there was no cylinder head valve and the mixture entered through slots at the bottom of the cylinder as the piston uncovered them during its strokes.

This design did not lend itself to conventional throttles and for landing blipping was used on all models. However to allow cruising and formation flying later models allowed the carburetor to be closed by up to 25 %. The pilot had to then manipulate the fuel mixture using a lever. This had to be constantly adjusted during flight. For combat full on running was standard. Inexperienced pilots could seriously b****r up things so that the engine ran too rich and plugs sooted up.

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The crank case on all rotaries acted as a distribution chamber. Air is drawn along the hollow crankshaft and through a single carburetor into the crank case. There it is fed into the cylinders and different engines had various ways of doing this. Bentley Le Rhone and Clerget used an individual manifold for each cylinder leading to the cylinder head where an inlet valve was operated by a push rod. On the Gnome Mono there was no cylinder head valve and the mixture entered through slots at the bottom of the cylinder as the piston uncovered them during its strokes.

This design did not lend itself to conventional throttles and for landing blipping was used on all models. However to allow cruising and formation flying later models allowed the carburetor to be closed by up to 25 %. The pilot had to then manipulate the fuel mixture using a lever. This had to be constantly adjusted during flight. For combat full on running was standard. Inexperienced pilots could seriously b****r up things so that the engine ran too rich and plugs sooted up.

Was the Gnome Mono a 2 stroke? If not it sounds very inefficient.
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Was the Gnome Mono a 2 stroke? If not it sounds very inefficient.

No all rotaries used in WW1 were conventional 4 stroke. Up to about 150 /180 hp they had probably the best power to weight ratio of any aero engine (although not fuel or energy efficient) after which they had breathing problems due to being limited to taking in air through the crankshaft.

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No all rotaries used in WW1 were conventional 4 stroke. Up to about 150 /180 hp they had probably the best power to weight ratio of any aero engine (although not fuel or energy efficient) after which they had breathing problems due to being limited to taking in air through the crankshaft.
Thank you.
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ok another question. monosoupape means one valve does it not ? Therefore what was the valve an exhaust valve or an inlet valve

As a guess I would say exhaust but will bow to better opinion

david

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ok another question. monosoupape means one valve does it not ? Therefore what was the valve an exhaust valve or an inlet valve

Yes, it was the exhaust valve. No manifold or exhaust pipe of course - the fumes vented through the apertures in the bottom of the cowling.

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David,

I'm pretty sure it would be an exhaust valve. They scavenge the fuel/air charge through the crankcase much as an older two-stroke does.

Scott (willing to be corrected!)

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scott,

what a strange Heath Robinson affair a rotary was - however they worked and were a good engine for the times until something

better came along

David

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Yes, it was the exhaust valve. No manifold or exhaust pipe of course - the fumes vented through the apertures in the bottom of the cowling.

Many aircraft had half cowls so there was no bottom - this saved lubricating oil building up there and of course gas was not trapped

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Rotary engines (and some others) were lubricated with castor oil (hence the trade name "Castrol") and the front ends of most rotary engined aircraft were covered in the stuff. Those who flew other aircraft sometimes refered to the Camel as an "oil swilling hump". It was essential that oil and exhaust were gotten rid off otherwise the fire risk must have been enormous.

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Did not the pilots manage to ingest the castor oil with "liquefying" results?
Yes they did! I remember reading somewhere about a Sopwith crash landing on a latrine. I leave the Tommies comments to your imagination :ph34r:

Indeed it must have been the case, I am not certain of the endurance of a Sopwith Camel but lets hope it was not longer than the pilots!

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