Jul 032011
Robert Baslee  (http://www.airdromeairplanes.com/)  started construction of this full scale Sopwith Camel last December from plans that he originated.  There were the usual number of delays and changes along the way but the idea and plan came to fruition on a long smooth grass strip nearby in Missouri where flight testing is done.
The flying conditions were ideal, severe clear and dead calm.  The test pilot, Harvey Cleveland, isn’t a new comer to WWI aircraft by any means and while only in his early forties has logged over 23,000 hours of flight time. As a member of the Kansas City Dawn Patrol he knows these ‘old type birds’ very well.
My original idea, which started last year, was to do a photo story on the construction basics and show step by step how this Camel got started and took shape from the plans on the shop wall.  With molybdenum welded tubing, poly-fiber rag skinning, the 150 HP nine cylinder Rotec power plant, the dashboard panel instruments (some are originals) that have been reworked, and the skill and expertise that it takes to see a project like this through.  At some point I realized that there’s so much fascinating ‘stuff’ that goes into the construction of one of these beauties and so many steps – my email piece would have to be about as many chapters as “War And Peace”.
First, the FAA inspector who has been to Roberts shop many times over 22 years, gives the Camel a thorough looking over and asks many detailed and technical questions.

The sought after pink slip of approval…   it’s certified to test fly…

Here’s a few of the shots as Harvey takes the Sopwith around the patch a few times in the late day sun on its maiden flights.  We’d planned on doing
some air to air the next day from the Piper Cub that was standing by but heavy rains all day put that off for awhile – bummer.

At the end of six months of ‘building’ comes a very triumphant day…  she flew beautifully.

The Rotec engine produced 550 pounds during a “Thrust Test”, which is exceptional, and it powered the 943 pound Camel around easily.
Most of the instruments are ‘the real thing’ and have been recalibrated to their original specifications.