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Aircraft of the Month

SOPWITH TABLOID/SCHNEIDER

The Sopwith Tabloid was originally designed by Fred Sigrist as a side by side two-seat aircraft and made its maiden flight in 1913 with Harry Hawker at the controls.  Powered by an 80 hp Gnome Lambda rotary engine, it carried sufficient fuel for 21/2 hours flying time and was capable of 92 mph in level flight.  Such a high speed made it an obvious candidate for Britain’s entry to the Schneider Trophy in 1914 (the second year of this time trial) and, consequently, a float plane adaption known as the Schneider and equipped with the more powerful 100 hp Gnome Monosoupape engine came into being.  Flown in the 1914 Trophy race by Howard Pixton, the Schneider won easily with a speed of 86.83 mph.

Single seat variants of the Tabloid went into production in 1914 and were soon in service with the RFC and RNAS.  Deployed to France at the outbreak of the 1st World War they were first used as fast scouts and soon thereafter as bombers; it was on 22nd September that Tabloids mounted the first raid by British aircraft on German soil.  A fortnight later, two RNAS machines led by Lt (later Air Vice-Marshal) Reginald Marix, carried out an attack on the railway station at Cologne and the Zeppelin sheds at Dusseldorf during which Zeppelin ZIX was destroyed in its hangar.

Schneiders also went into production in 1914.  Initially used on coastal patrols, attempts were made in 1915 to launch them from seaplane carriers to intercept Zeppelins over the North Sea, albeit such operations were largely unsuccessful due to heavy sea states.

Tabloid/Schneiders were usually armed with a single .303 in Lewis gun which fired through the propeller arc with deflectors mounted on the propeller blades, whilst some RNAS aircraft used a mounting on the top wing.  A bomb load of 1 x 65 lb or up to 5 x 20 lb could be carried.

Some 42 Tabloids and 136 Schneiders were built.  The type was retired in 1915 and there are no known survivors.  However, a replica Tabloid built by ‘Airdrome Aeroplanes’ of Missouri took to the air for the first time on 23rd June 2012 and, it is understood, is now offered by the company in kit form.  Other replicas are on display in aviation museums.

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