Tags: Caboolture Airfield. Historical Airplanes. Replicas. History. War
In the Air with RENNI FORBES and the SOPWITH TRI-PLANE Replica
It is probably fair to say that whenever the subject of tri-planes is mentioned, most people automatically think of Manfred Von Richthofen and his famous red Fokker Tri-Plane and, considering the numerous times that his exploits and ultimate demise in the skies over France have been the subject of articles in the media, this is perfectly understandable. A fact which is much less publicised is that the Fokker Tri-Plane, and probably most of the others that were built in that era, were all inspired by the British designed and built World War 1 fighter, the Sopwith Tri-Plane.
Featured Image(above):Renni Forbes spent ten years building his
Sopwith Tri-Plane replica
Designed by Herbert Smith in early 1916, the Sopwith Tri-Plane N500 took to the air for the first time in May 0f the same year with Sopwith test pilot Harry Hawker at the controls and apparently, just three minutes into the flight, Hawker looped the plane three consecutive times. He later described the tri-plane as extremely agile with well-harmonised controls and it was these qualities that were to result in the aircraft becoming very popular with pilots. Whilst there was no denying the aircraft’s capabilities, it certainly did have a rather unusual appearance and it was said that, when rolling, it resembles a drunken flight of steps.
The Sopwith Tri-Plane cockpit
The Sopwith Tri-Plane was introduced into service at the end of 1916 and soon attracted the attention of other designers with Anthony Fokker going to extreme lengths in his efforts to get his hands on one and this, of course, was to result in the birth of the Fokker Tri-Plane. Taking a leap forward in time to the twenty-first century, Caboolture plasterer and keen pilot Renni Forbes has recently completed what was a ten-year build of a Sopwith Tri-Plane replica and he told me that he decided to undertake the project after learning that he was allowed to build his own plane.
‘I have always liked the look of World War 1 aircraft and had built a few models,’ said Renni. ‘I had read that the triplane handled well and was good to fly so I bought a set of plans then began the project,’ he added. Renni explained about having started the build while still living in Zillmere and then moving to the Caboolture area. ‘The one pre-requisite for what I bought up here was that it had to have a shed which was suitable for continuing the build,’ Renni pointed out.
The Sopwith Tri-Plane prototype
‘I found a place with a big high shed so you could say that I bought it for the shed,’ he said. He also told me that to achieve the idea of building his tri-plane, he had to buy several pieces of special equipment including a folder and guillotine. When Sopwith introduced their revolutionary tri-plane, it was powered by a Clerget 110 hp rotary engine, later replaced by a 130hp Clerget, whilst Renni’s replica is fitted with the Victorian Rotech 150hp radial and so one must think that it will most certainly not be underpowered.
Renni said that the ten-year project has taken approximately three thousand hours to complete and he admitted that the aircraft was basically a flying hot rod. ‘It’s not what you would call practical,’ he admitted. The Caboolture Airfield is home to many beautiful examples of replica and restored military aircraft from throughout the history of aviation and Renni’s Sopwith Tri-Plane is a perfect example. When not in the air, the aircraft is hangered along with other aircraft from the same era in the TAVAS Museum on McNaught Road. The museum is open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10 am to 3 pm.