Sopwith
Grasshopper

Sopwith's one-off post-First World War trainer and tourer.
Sopwith Grasshopper port side G-EAIN The Grasshopper was registered G-EAIN. Note the unusual ten-cylinder radial engine.
 
With the First World War over, the Sopwith Aviation Company was forced to turn its attention to aeronautical endeavours other than providing military aircraft for the RAF.
 
One of the prolific manufacturer's least-known products was the Sopwith Grasshopper, a two-seat wooden biplane, constructed at the Kingston-upon-Thames factory during the late spring and early summer of 1919.
 
Essentially a competitor to the ubiquitous Avro 504 models, the Sopwith Grasshopper was designed to be a docile trainer or tourer. Its chief innovation was the adoption of a 100hp Anzani ten-cylinder radial engine, a far cleaner and more economical (if more complex) powerplant than the rotary engines then prevalent on similar aircraft.
 
Of conventional wooden construction, the two-bay biplane incorporated two cockpits. It was designed with simplicity as the foremost objective, both in terms of construction and overhaul. This was combined with safety and low running costs. The engine was left uncowled to make repair and overhaul as straightforward as possible.
 
Sopwith Grasshopper front stbd Brooklands The sole Sopwith Grasshopper at Brooklands in 1919.
 
The first, and only example, was built by Sopwith Aviation Company its Canbury Park Road, Kingston factory and it was delivered to Brooklands on 31st July 1919, where it made its first flight.
 
Flight trials revealed that it was very easy to fly, with a maximum speed of 90mph and a remarkably low landing speed of 30mph. The latter point was strongly emphasised by the company as a distinct advantage for the training role.
 
Test pilot Harry Hawker explained that the type's landing capabilities 'would inspire the utmost confidence in even the most nervous pupil'. Owing to its ability to operate from very small areas, the new trainer / tourer was given the name Sopwith Grasshopper, and acquired its Certificate of Airworthiness on 22nd March  1920, at which point it was given a civil registration (G-EAIN).
 
Sopwith retained the sole example and for some unknown reason they made little effort to market it, perhaps directing potential customers towards the company's more profitable Sopwith Dove two-seater.
 
Harry Hawker made the headlines in the aeronautical press when he flew the Sopwith Grasshopper around the motor racing circuit at Brooklands, including under the footbridge over the track, on 28th May 1920.
 
Sopwith Grasshopper Bridge Harry Hawker flying a Sopwith Grasshopper under the Byfleet Bridge
 
The Sopwith Grasshopper also put in an appearance at the RAF Tournament at Hendon on 3rd July 1920, when it was used to give pleasure flights to passengers to raise money for the RAF Fund. Little more is known about the aircraft until it passed around various owners, all based at Brooklands, during 1922–28.
 
In February 1928, it was sold to Miss C.R. Leathart, who operated it until its Certificate of Airworthiness expired at the end of May 1929. Its C of A was not renewed and the sole Sopwith Grasshopper passed into obscurity with nothing known as to its final fate.
 
Sopwith Grasshopper general arrangement An original Sopwith three-view drawing of the Grasshopper, issued in 1919.
 

Specification


Powerplant
One 100hp Anzani ten-cylinder radial engine
Span
33ft 1in
Maximum weight
1,670lb
Capacity
Pilot and passenger
Maximum speed
90mph

 

Numbers built


One aircraft only, civil registration G-EAIN.

Survivors


The sole example no longer exists.
 

Other information