If you know anything about the the First World War air war, you probably know about the Red Baron and just after that part you learn about the Fokker Dr.I and its infamous foil, the Sopwith Camel.
In my mind the Camel invokes the same kind of legendary status inhabited by the Spitfire. This is a fighter that represented all others in the Royal Flying Corps and the early Royal Air Force. Renowned for its potential as an ace maker and the incredible number of kills that this type tallied up from May 1917 until the end of the war, the Camel also came with a darkside.
The darkside of the Camel
While it was renowned for its superb handling, this is also a fighter that can kill you quite easily. I’ve been learning to fly the Camel since the first Rise of Flight sale that I participated in and its a challenging type to get to know.
Able to turn rapidly and hold tight turns for long periods of time, the problem I have with the Camel is when your opponent rolls to the opposite direction and despite your best efforts… the Camel doesn’t want to do that.
The massive rotary engine that gives the Camel its power causes a lot of torque and it makes handling this fighter tricky. Combined with an interesting centre of balance and the Sopwith Camel can put you into a difficult to recover from spin.
I’ve tried a lot of different spin recovery techniques and it is a difficult one to get out of. You can do it… but it isn’t always willing. Historically this was a type that could kill you if you let it get away and the Rise of Flight version seems to live up to the reputation – be it as deadly as advertised or not.
The Camel may not have the most powerful engine but it gets the most out of it possible. A climb to 1000 meters is accomplished in just 3 minutes and 7 seconds compared to its close rival, the Fokker Dr. I, at 2 minutes and 57 seconds. With little to choose from in climb rate, the Camel flies out ahead with a sea level top speed of 190 km/h leaving the Dr. I trailing behind (with a top speed of 178 km/h). At 1000 meters the difference narrows to 9km/h and then to just 4km/h at 2000 meters.
The turn rate on the Camel is excellent and few fighters can hold it in a tight turn. Roll rate is a little lacking and I feel that the Albatross and Dr. I can get away from it using a couple of aileron rolls. It is too easy to get sucked in and spin this fighter, so I advise climbing up and over (doing the overhead yo-yo) to follow your opponent.
Just on reputation alone, flying the Sopwith Camel is a wonder. It has a great forward viewpoint, good over wing visibility, a relatively potent two gun armament and it has excellent handling when it isn’t trying to kill you.
I’ll definitely be flying more of the Sopwith Camel in the future!