Dicta Ira

Nieuport Triplane

By: Ray Boorman

During the height of the Nieuport Sesquiplane Debacle during mid 1916, the French authorities decided they had to do something about the almost Fokker Fodder that the Nieuport family of aircraft had become. Many Escadrilles were refusing to operate Nieuports based on the very limited life expectancy. It was said that if one of these aircraft got off the ground the next problem for the pilot was actually landing and walking away in one piece. Flying over the lines was forbidden based on the fact that with the Nieuport 17’s operational ceiling of 3000 ft and extreme structural problems enemies were to be avoided, “if you weren’t shot down French pilots had to suffer the insult of watching there foes fall about the sky laughing” was one pilots comment. Of course some pilots such as the diminutive Nungeezer had their aircraft specially built. These were typically Sopwith products disguised as Nieuports

In fact five-colour camouflage was developed not to be low visibility, but more to hide the fact that all the so-called successful Nieuports were in fact Sopwith Pups. The idea being to break the shape of the aircraft up thereby making it harder to recognize. Of course these aircraft were typically hidden away in hangars and away from the aircraft and pilots of the Nieuport Escadrille’s.

The problems that plagued the Nieuport 11’s and then 17’s started to become public and with the switch from Pups to Sopwith Triplanes it was impossible to hide the fact that most successful Nieuport Escadrilles were in fact flying Sopwiths.

Enter Nieuports crack designer Monsieur Noir Additionneur who after looking at the Sopwith Triplane decide he could produce a knock off—I mean better Triplane design. After 6 months of development and a few prangs Niueport rolled out there version of a Triplane, powered by the 2 cylinder LeRhone Monopoop it was a strange device. Unfortunately Monsieur Additionneur had not had a great deal of design experience; in fact he was recruited from the fashion industry since he was the foremost expert with fabrics. Therefore when the aircraft was being wheeled out of the hangar one day and the upper wing hit the top of the doorway the Designer decided he preferred the fashionable slope back that this introduced on the upper wing. Of course the all-suffering test pilots pleas about upper wing stiffness and rigidity were ignored. Whereupon the pilot run off and joined the foreign legion. Saying it was far safer then being a Nieuport test pilot.

At this point the Nieuport Company started to suspect they had another embarrassing white elephant on their hands. At which point it was decide to either give the few prototypes to the British or ship them off along with some weird looking Spads to the Russians.

After a single unsuccessful demonstration to the British purchasing commission the triplane was shipped off to the Russians. This of course is another story, but it should be said that the Nieuports Triplanes arrived in Russia during late 1916 and were said to have started a mutiny. Pilot Officer Lenin was quoted as saying "Those Damn French, first they send Spad A2’s now they send Nieuports". Whereupon he ran off and joined the Bolsheviks.