Triplane Builder

Poems by Triplane Builder - William (Bill) Woodall

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What is it that would make a man, do what he can't explain?
Like build an antique aircraft and not for private gain.
For in my case, (I know not why), the project that I chose,
(Long extinct before my birth) should catch me in its throes,
And drive me on to understand "high tech" of long ago,
Where few remain who can explain those skills so apropos.
Or so impress the need to heed the blueprints as they're shown,
That years passed by, before I'd fly; myself an "antique" grown.
I chose the Sopwith Triplane, from my hero worship youth;
A plane whose fame is now confined to us most "long in tooth".
For if you mention "Sopwith", the "Camel" comes to mind;
And if you blurt out "Triplane"; must be the "Fokker" kind.
Well anyway I have one, and for better or for worse,
It even has a rotary to help deplete my purse.
For castor oil's now precious, even measured by the drop.
And oil, LeRhones all spit and burn, (rotating with the prop).
Seated in the cockpit, (t'was a feat to make the trip)--
Pulling-climbing- over-under -standing on a narrow strip.
The view, out through the windscreen's, a "commanding" one all right;
For it's the gun butt of the Vickers that takes away your sight.
There is a tidy dashboard, but it's placed in such a way,
That you duck below the crash pad to read what gauges say.
When you have answered "contact" and the prop is heaved around,
If the prime has started firing you'll be treated to the "sound".
You'll also sniff some oil smoke that the prop-wash blows away,
As your left hand plays with levers; finds the mixture for the day.
Keeping down upon your tailskid is what you try to do,
Though the lip atop the seat back cuts its way right into you.
When the engine is in order; shows twelve hundred on the tach;
Its time to think of wheel chocks as you throttle right on back.
When crew's responded to your signal, and you know you're free to go,
Then you open up the levers to the numbers that you know.
The thrust is something special; you'll have little time to wait--
Get the nose down on the level! give her rudder! Keep her straight!
And long before you're ready, you will begin to fly,
The triplane soars above the grass and races for the sky.
The precession of a gyro is always on your mind,
For a change on any axis makes a change of different kind.
All the info that you're feeling through the cables to the stick,
Like a living creature wakened; and you caused it -what a kick!
A roll to left's revealing , the ailerons are weak,
With all three down, and three more up; it is rudder that you seek.
Peering past the wingly clutter; get adjusted to the scene,
See behind and over-under, where you're going -where you've been.
When its time to turn to final and your heart rate's up a touch,
Trim the levers for slow running; use the blip switch for your crutch.
Now you're lined up with the windsock and the grass is near at hand,
Squeeze hard on that blip switch; haul on back and let her land.
Do your two-step on the rudder as you whistle to the grass,
We are talking little distance for the skid to halt the mass.
Back again inside your hangar; what a mess the oil has made;
Dripping, oozing , staining , smelling ; now you work for when you played.
There's no way to explain this to the ordinary man,
Why you fight to recreate, what to most lived out its span.
Maybe an R.N.A.S. incarnation as some would choose believe,
Or an old man with expensive toys, as others do perceive.
Whatever be the answer; I really don't know why---
When you factor in the hangar rent, a costly way to fly!

Bill Woodall

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