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“Sky Fighters, July 1937″ by Eugene M. Frandzen

Link - Posted by David on April 12, 2021 @ 6:00 am in

Eugene M. Frandzen painted the covers of Sky Fighters from its first issue in 1932 until he moved on from the pulps in 1939. At this point in the run, the covers were about the planes featured on the cover more than the story depicted. On the July 1937 cover, It’s the Sopwith Dolphin!

The Ships on the Cover

th_SF_3707WITH four guns up front capable of shooting at two angles, the Sopwith Dolphin was an opponent to keep from in front of! Its stubby businesslike nose and short fuselage gave it the appearance of a heavily-weighted projectile racing through the air. Built in a distinctly unorthodox design, at first glance, it seemed to be something made to crawl on the ground which had suddenly sprouted wings, but once in the air it could twist and squirm in and out of maneuvers with such rapidity that it made one “OH” and “AH” with high-pressure exultation.

Of course Mr. T.O.M. Sopwith, the versatile designer of a dozen of more airplanes, most of which had quite similar wing construction as to dihedral, was probably sick of the same old thing over and over. So he deliberately pulled a fast one at the designing table. After the bugs were chased out of the experimental model it was found that this radically different job of stick and wire had clicked beyond the designer and manufacturer’s wildest hopes. It went into production and started rolling off the line.

Hitherto Sopwith had stuck to rotary motors, mostly Clergets, but in the Dolphin a 200 h.p. Hispano-Suiza was installed in the nose. The nose was now streamlined, which gave it a radically different appearance from former Sopwiths with their round cowling ring to fit around the whirling rotaries. Of course the heavier, more powerful motor was necessary because the Dolphin was a heavier and larger ship than the famous Camel. The speed of these two was about the same, the Dolphin having only about six or seven miles advantage of the Camel.

The Gun Arrangement

The two Lewis guns sticking up at a 45-degree angle were primarily for blasting the underside of an enemy plane, as the front guns were reserved to deliver a barrage of fire through the prop at any instant. This arrangement of guns made a hit with most pilots and some of them in 1918 made a practice of harassing German troops in their trenches and on roads by diving on them and having two separate angles of fire with which to mow down their opponents.

Later in the war the Sopwith Salamander, a single-seater with a rotary motor and armored belly and sides, came out just for such infantry strafing. Perhaps it was the occasional strafing of trenches with the Dolphin, and the many holes which appeared in its underside, and the wounds and casualties of the daring Dolphin pilots, that inspired this later Salamander.

Picking Up an Espionage Man

On the cover the Dolphin has taken on another trick job, that of picking up one of the Allied espionage men from behind the enemy lines. Usually a rendezvous was decided upon and the Allied plane sat down at this spot. If all went well the agent climbed aboard and was whisked out of danger quickly, but plenty of times valuable information was lost along with pilot and plane.

To most men the sense of balance and timing are fickle tilings of which they know little, and in which they lack experience and confidence. Not so with the agent catching the dangling rope from the swaying low-flying Dolphin. That man’s life had been spent dangling from ropes and scaffolds at dizzy heights. He had been foreman of a gang of bridge painters who year after year dangle from ropes and flimsy scaffolds high over the East River in New York Harbor. A rope overhead, a body of water underneath, a sure death if he slipped, was what he considered just another job of work-one that had been done before and one he was sure he could do at any time again when the emergency arose.

The Ships on The Cover
Sky Fighters, July 1937 by Eugene M. Frandzen
(The Ships on The Cover Page)

“The Sopwith Salamander” by Robert H. Rankin

Link - Posted by David on December 14, 2015 @ 6:00 am in

Frederick Blakeslee painted all the covers for the entire run of Dare-Devil Aces. And each of those covers had a story behind it. Although this looks like it should be in his new series of scrambled time covers, instead we get Robert H. Rankin, formerly a draughtsman for Fokker Aircraft Corp, telling the story of the last of the Sopwith war-time machines—The Sopwith Salamander—from the cover of the November 1935 number of Dare-Devil Aces!

th_DDA_3511THE SALAMANDER, the last of the Sopwith war-time machines, was one of the most interesting and efficient types used in the World War. Although the design of the Salamander followed that of the earlier developed Sopwith Snipe, the plane was not intended for use as a scout or fighter—as were the Camel, Pup, Dolphin, and Snipe. It was designed primarily as a trench fighter, and in official circles it was known as the T.F.2.

The rudder of the Salamander was larger than those on the majority of the Sopwith designs. The pilot’s head, owing to the extremely deep fuselage and comparatively small wing gap, was on a level with the top plane, the center of which was partly slotted and partly cut away, to insure a better vision.

Due to the rather large diameter of the engine used, a B.R.2., the rectangularity of the fuselage was apparent toward the tail only, with the result that the fuselage was of a more circular cross-section than was the case in the other Sopwith ships.

Perhaps the mast interesting feature of the Salamander was the manner in which it was armored. Light steel plating formed the front of the fuselage from a point immediately in the rear of the engine, and extended to a point slightly to the rear of the cockpit. This armor, instead of being added to an existing fuselage frame, was a definite structual part of the frame work, and in itself formed the front portion of the fuselage. Thus, the armor plating served a structual, as well as a protective function.

Another variation from the usual Sopwith designs was incorporated in a tapering spine which served to taper off the pilot’s head and at the same time act as a head rest. This spine, being bulletproof, gave the pilot considerable protection against a rear attack.

The total weight of the armor in the Salamander totaled to some 650 pounds, and in addition to this weight, more than 2,000 rounds of ammunition was carried. In all, the ship weighed 2,945 pounds, as compared to the 1,959 pounds of the Dolphin, which was considered a rather heavy plane.

The following figures will give some idea of the performance and construction of the Salamander:


GENERAL SPECIFICATIONS
    Type Tractor Bi-plane
    Purpose Trench fighter
    Engine B.R.2, 230 h.p.
    Weights
        Loaded 2,945 lbs.
        Empty 1,844 lbs.
 
PERFORMANCE
    Speed (High—at 6,500 ft.) 123 m.p.h.
              (High—at 10,000 ft.) 117 m.p.h.
    Climb 10,000 ft. in 17 min.
    Landing speed 60 m.p.h.
    Ceiling 14,000 ft.
 
DIMENSIONS
    Length, over all 19 ft. 6 in.
    Stagger 1 ft. 5 in.
    Sweepback None
    Top Wing
        Span 31 ft 2⅝ in.
        Chord 5 ft.
        Area, not including ailerons 139 sq.ft.
        Incidence 1.8 deg.
        Dihedral 4.0 deg.
    Bottom Wing
        Span 30 ft. 2½ in.
        Chord 5 ft.
        Area, not including ailerons 123 sq.ft.
        Incidence 1.8 deg.
        Dihedral 4.0 deg.
 
AREAS
    Total wing area, not including ailerons
    Total wing, not inch ailerons 272 sq. ft.
    Tailplane 15 sq. ft.
    Elevators 11 sq. ft.
    Fin 2.75 sq. ft.
    Rudder 9 sq. ft.
    Total aileron area 51 sq. ft.

 

With the weights carried, the machine had a loading of 11 pounds per horse power, or 9.4 pounds per square foot.

As originally designed, the Salamander was armed with two fixed machine guns, but with its development into a general ground strafer, and later into a contact-patrol ship, the armament was increased, first to four guns, and later to six guns. In this later type there were two Lewis guns mounted on the top wing in such a manner that they could be easily drawn back and reloaded by the pilot from the cockpit.

Then, two Vickers were fixed on the top of the cowling, synchronized to fire through the propeller arc, while two Lewis guns, intended for trench strafing work were mounted on the bottom of the cockpit in such a way as to fire through the floor of the fuselage at an angle of about forty-five degrees.

The Salamander was passed by the experimental board of the Sopwith concern in April, 1918, but it was not until considerably later on in the year that the plane reached a production stage. Consequently few of them were in service over the lines.

In the short time that they were in action they showed such a performance record that it is quite probable, had the conflict lasted longer, the Salamander would have been one of the outstanding planes.

It is interesting to note, in connection with the Salamander, that the armored airplane has always been generally accepted as a logical step in the evolution of military planes by aeronautical engineers and designers. In actuality, however, there have been very few armored ships produced, and in fact, it was not until late in the war that any machines of the armored classification appeared.

For the most part, the greater number of the so-called armored planes produced were most inefficient, and in most instances the protective plating was added to the fuselage frame work of a regular pursuit or observation ship, with the result that the total weight of the machine was increased to a point where, powered with the engines then in use, they were sadly underpowered.

The Salamander, however, was designed from the first as an armored fighter, and inasmuch as the armor plating was made an integral part of the structural framework, the weight problem was done away with. This particular Sopwith offered a definite advance over the designs then in use, and it will be interesting to note in just what ways the modern armored pursuits will follow this pioneer model.

The Story Behind The Cover
“The Sopwith Salamander: The Story Behind The Cover” by Frederick Blakeslee
(November 1935, Dare-Devil Aces)