Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering Department Seminar

Join the Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering Department to welcome Eric Gillies of the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and to attend his lecture, “The Design and Performance of the World’s First Unstable Fighter Aircraft: Snoopy’s Mount, the Sopwith Camel.” The seminar will take place on Wednesday, September 18th, at 3:30 pm in the Rettaliata Engineering Center, Auditorium 104.



Snoopy, the iconic American cartoon character of the 1950’s, famously dreamt of being a First World War flying ace. He didn’t choose the Curtiss Jenny, or any design by Wright, Boeing or Martin; he chose the little, “highly strung” and famously unstable, British Sopwith Camel fighter. This iconic aircraft, regarded by many as the most successful pure fighter of 100 years ago, was one of the first to be engineered using science and mathematics. That design process led to one of the most agile fighters of the war, but also curious handling characteristics, more “beast” than machine. A machine that was almost as likely to kill an inexperienced pilot as it was to shoot down the enemy. This lecture is a mixture of a technical explanation of the Sopwith Camel, together with pilots’ notes from the time. A comparison will be made between the unstable, agile Camel, and the stable fighter designs of the US and the UK that dominated after, designed in part by lessons learned on the high-workload Camel. Design now has come full circle: modern fighters like the Raptor and Typhoon are again inherently unstable. Seen as a new technological development, these modern fighters in fact have some heritage from the original unstable Camel Fighter.


The lecture will be delivered by Dr. Eric Gillies, CEng MRAeS, who has over 25 years experience in aeronautics research and lecturing at the Department of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, U.K. He is currently Technical Director of an engineering consultancy based in Inverness, and retains an Honorary Research Fellowship with the School of Engineering at Glasgow.