Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe

In the spring of 1917, Britain's most famous World War I fighter, the Sopwith Camel, made its debut. Shortly after deliveries to front-line squadrons of the Camel began, Sopwith designed a new single-seat fighter called the Snipe. The new airplane was simply intended to be a derivation of the Camel, with improved visibility for the pilot, and gentler handling qualities, more reminiscent of the earlier Sopwith Pup. After nearly a year in development, the new fighter went into production in spring 1918, and the first examples arrived in squadron service on August 30 of that year.

The Snipe was well-liked by those who flew it, but many Camel pilots, having mastered the tricky habits of their previous mount, were reluctant to relinquish the Camel's superior combat maneuverability for the Snipe's more stable flight characteristics. Snipes generally were used for escort work, but the airplane could be equipped with four 9 kg (20 lb) Cooper bombs beneath the fuselage.

Bequest of James H. "Cole" Palen, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

Physical Description:
Single-engine, single-seat, British-built World War I biplane fighter; 230 horsepower Bentley B.R.2 engine; Olive drab upper surfaces, gray and olive drab fuselage, buff under surfaces.

Country of Origin
United Kingdom

Date
1918

Location
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Exhibition
Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Materials
Airframe: Wood
Fabric Covering: Linen
Dimensions
Wingspan: 9.1 m (30 ft)
Length: 5.8 m (19 ft 2 in)
Height: 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)
Weight: Empty, 592 kg (1,305 lb)
Gross, 914 kg (2,015 lb)

In the spring of 1917, Britain's most famous First World War fighter, the Sopwith Camel, made its debut. Shortly after deliveries to front-line squadrons of the Camel began, Sopwith designed a new single-seat fighter called the Snipe. The new airplane was simply intended to be a derivation of the Camel, with improved visibility for the pilot, and gentler handling qualities, more reminiscent of the earlier Sopwith Pup. It was not a radically different aircraft. Also in the spring of 1917, Britain's Air Board issued general specifications for future military aircraft designs. During the testing of six Snipe prototypes in the summer of 1917, modifications were made to bring the new Sopwith design in line with the Air Board's specifications. The most notable change was the expansion of the biplane wing cell to two bays instead of the typical single-bay configuration. By early 1918, the Air Board issued yet another set of aircraft specifications, referred to as Type I-Single-seat fighter (high altitude). The Snipe and three other new designs, the Austin Triplane, the Boulton & Paul Bobolink, and the Nieuport B.N.1, all intended to be powered by the new Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine, competed in Type I acceptance trials in February 1918. The four aircraft were judged to be generally similar in performance, and none was considered especially impressive. The Snipe was ultimately selected because it was thought the least undesirable overall, and because it incorporated many standard Sopwith components and its structural design was the least radical-features that increased its potential for rapid production and deployment. After nearly a year in development, the new fighter went into production in spring 1918, and the first examples arrived in squadron service on August 30 of that year.

The Snipe was well-liked by those who flew it, but many Camel pilots, having mastered the tricky habits of their previous mount, were reluctant to relinquish the Camel's superior combat maneuverability for the Snipe's more stable flight characteristics. Oliver Stewart, an experienced test pilot who flew all Sopwith's wartime aircraft, expressed the differences thus: "It [the Snipe] was, …, soberer and more dignified. It was more powerful and it had better all-round performance, but it had none of the qualities of lightning maneuver of the Camel. To turn from a Camel to a Snipe was like turning from an eight-horsepower sports car to an eight-ton lorry. The lorry is the more powerful, and it carries more and is bigger; the eight horsepower sports car is lighter and more responsive."

During the war, Snipes generally were used for escort work, but the airplane could be equipped with four 9 kg (20 lb) Cooper bombs beneath the fuselage. With the creation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918, it became the first fighter of the newly established unit of the British armed forces. But it arrived too late to have any significant operational impact. After the war, the Snipe became the standard R.A.F. night fighter. The cessation of hostilities caused a dramatic downturn in new aircraft development, thereby extending the operational life of the Snipe in postwar R.A.F. units; but by the mid-1920s no Snipes remained in active service.

The Sopwith Snipe in the NASM collection was built in August 1918. The original owner of record in the United States was Arthur Le Barron, possibly the importer of the airplane. It was sold to Leo Langevin from Binghamton, N.Y., who applied for registration in 1928. He refurbished the Snipe with new fabric covering, refinishing of the wood, and the mounting of a 130-horsepower Clerget engine. Langevin sold the airplane to Myron A. "Jimmy" Romberger of Endicott, N.Y., in September 1930. Romberger converted the Snipe into a two-place airplane and in August 1932 sold it to Roosevelt Field, Inc., Mineola, N.Y., which placed it in the aviation museum at Roosevelt Field. It was purchased by Cole Palen of Rhinebeck, N.Y., in 1951. The Snipe was among the original group of aircraft that formed the core of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum collection. Palen flew the Snipe in his air shows until August 1966, when the airplane was severely damaged in a forced landing after engine trouble while piloted by Paul Richards. It was restored by Gordon Bainbridge and retired to Palen's non-flying collection. During this period, the Clerget engine was replaced with the Bentley B.R.2 that is now mounted on the airplane. Palen lent the airplane to NASM for display in the museum's new World War I aviation exhibition in 1987. The airplane was re-painted and given minor restoration treatment in preparation for installation in the exhibition, which opened to the public in 1991. The museum obtained ownership of the Snipe in 1994 as part of a bequest in Palen's will that stipulated that one aircraft from his collection should be donated to the NASM after his death.

In the spring of 1917, Britain's most famous World War I fighter, the Sopwith Camel, made its debut. Shortly after deliveries to front-line squadrons of the Camel began, Sopwith designed a new single-seat fighter called the Snipe. The new airplane was simply intended to be a derivation of the Camel, with improved visibility for the pilot, and gentler handling qualities, more reminiscent of the earlier Sopwith Pup. After nearly a year in development, the new fighter went into production in spring 1918, and the first examples arrived in squadron service on August 30 of that year.

The Snipe was well-liked by those who flew it, but many Camel pilots, having mastered the tricky habits of their previous mount, were reluctant to relinquish the Camel's superior combat maneuverability for the Snipe's more stable flight characteristics. Snipes generally were used for escort work, but the airplane could be equipped with four 9 kg (20 lb) Cooper bombs beneath the fuselage.

Bequest of James H. "Cole" Palen, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome.

Physical Description:
Single-engine, single-seat, British-built World War I biplane fighter; 230 horsepower Bentley B.R.2 engine; Olive drab upper surfaces, gray and olive drab fuselage, buff under surfaces.

Country of Origin
United Kingdom

Date
1918

Location
National Air and Space Museum, Washington, DC
Exhibition
Legend, Memory and the Great War in the Air

Type
CRAFT-Aircraft

Materials
Airframe: Wood
Fabric Covering: Linen
Dimensions
Wingspan: 9.1 m (30 ft)
Length: 5.8 m (19 ft 2 in)
Height: 2.9 m (9 ft 6 in)
Weight: Empty, 592 kg (1,305 lb)
Gross, 914 kg (2,015 lb)

In the spring of 1917, Britain's most famous First World War fighter, the Sopwith Camel, made its debut. Shortly after deliveries to front-line squadrons of the Camel began, Sopwith designed a new single-seat fighter called the Snipe. The new airplane was simply intended to be a derivation of the Camel, with improved visibility for the pilot, and gentler handling qualities, more reminiscent of the earlier Sopwith Pup. It was not a radically different aircraft. Also in the spring of 1917, Britain's Air Board issued general specifications for future military aircraft designs. During the testing of six Snipe prototypes in the summer of 1917, modifications were made to bring the new Sopwith design in line with the Air Board's specifications. The most notable change was the expansion of the biplane wing cell to two bays instead of the typical single-bay configuration. By early 1918, the Air Board issued yet another set of aircraft specifications, referred to as Type I-Single-seat fighter (high altitude). The Snipe and three other new designs, the Austin Triplane, the Boulton & Paul Bobolink, and the Nieuport B.N.1, all intended to be powered by the new Bentley B.R.2 rotary engine, competed in Type I acceptance trials in February 1918. The four aircraft were judged to be generally similar in performance, and none was considered especially impressive. The Snipe was ultimately selected because it was thought the least undesirable overall, and because it incorporated many standard Sopwith components and its structural design was the least radical-features that increased its potential for rapid production and deployment. After nearly a year in development, the new fighter went into production in spring 1918, and the first examples arrived in squadron service on August 30 of that year.

The Snipe was well-liked by those who flew it, but many Camel pilots, having mastered the tricky habits of their previous mount, were reluctant to relinquish the Camel's superior combat maneuverability for the Snipe's more stable flight characteristics. Oliver Stewart, an experienced test pilot who flew all Sopwith's wartime aircraft, expressed the differences thus: "It [the Snipe] was, …, soberer and more dignified. It was more powerful and it had better all-round performance, but it had none of the qualities of lightning maneuver of the Camel. To turn from a Camel to a Snipe was like turning from an eight-horsepower sports car to an eight-ton lorry. The lorry is the more powerful, and it carries more and is bigger; the eight horsepower sports car is lighter and more responsive."

During the war, Snipes generally were used for escort work, but the airplane could be equipped with four 9 kg (20 lb) Cooper bombs beneath the fuselage. With the creation of the Royal Air Force in April 1918, it became the first fighter of the newly established unit of the British armed forces. But it arrived too late to have any significant operational impact. After the war, the Snipe became the standard R.A.F. night fighter. The cessation of hostilities caused a dramatic downturn in new aircraft development, thereby extending the operational life of the Snipe in postwar R.A.F. units; but by the mid-1920s no Snipes remained in active service.

The Sopwith Snipe in the NASM collection was built in August 1918. The original owner of record in the United States was Arthur Le Barron, possibly the importer of the airplane. It was sold to Leo Langevin from Binghamton, N.Y., who applied for registration in 1928. He refurbished the Snipe with new fabric covering, refinishing of the wood, and the mounting of a 130-horsepower Clerget engine. Langevin sold the airplane to Myron A. "Jimmy" Romberger of Endicott, N.Y., in September 1930. Romberger converted the Snipe into a two-place airplane and in August 1932 sold it to Roosevelt Field, Inc., Mineola, N.Y., which placed it in the aviation museum at Roosevelt Field. It was purchased by Cole Palen of Rhinebeck, N.Y., in 1951. The Snipe was among the original group of aircraft that formed the core of the Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome Museum collection. Palen flew the Snipe in his air shows until August 1966, when the airplane was severely damaged in a forced landing after engine trouble while piloted by Paul Richards. It was restored by Gordon Bainbridge and retired to Palen's non-flying collection. During this period, the Clerget engine was replaced with the Bentley B.R.2 that is now mounted on the airplane. Palen lent the airplane to NASM for display in the museum's new World War I aviation exhibition in 1987. The airplane was re-painted and given minor restoration treatment in preparation for installation in the exhibition, which opened to the public in 1991. The museum obtained ownership of the Snipe in 1994 as part of a bequest in Palen's will that stipulated that one aircraft from his collection should be donated to the NASM after his death.

ID: A19940151000