WWI plane needs a new home

The Sopwith 11/2 Strutter biplane that a group of enthusiasts have built from scratch.
The Sopwith 11/2 Strutter biplane that a group of enthusiasts have built from scratch.

For the past 18 years a group of enthusiasts have been creating a replica of a Sopwith 1½ Strutter World War I biplane at the National Museum of Flight at East Fortune.

But just as Aviation Preservation Society Scotland’s (APSS) labour of love was reaching completion their dreams of getting the aircraft airborne have come back down to earth with a bump.

The dedicated APSS team who have almost completed buildint the Sopwith First World War biplane.

The dedicated APSS team who have almost completed buildint the Sopwith First World War biplane.

Following a a £3.6 million refurbishment at the Museum of Flight there is no longer space available for the World War I replica of the Sopwiths which were based at East Fortune during World War I.

Dave Jones and Nick Roberts, both from Coldingham, are among the enthusiasts who have been working on the plane. Dave explains: “We were the original men’s shed, you can imagine the range of skills required, and we are now registered with Men’s Shed.”

The team meticulously crafted and assembled 2,750 separate components – learning to sew in order to make the fabric-covered wings and body. Sharing their combined expertise in metalworking, carpentry and engineering, they mastered the skills needed to build the plane and constructed the skeleton from the original plans.

“The plane is temporarily housed now in a shed in Congalton, north of East Fortune, but it has no air field and we are trying to get grants to be able to get our own shed with a runway,” added Dave.

“We are just doing the last little bits on the engine then it has be taken to be tested to get certification to fly.”

As they seek new premises and funding to keep the project going, the APSS are in discussion with Leonardo, one of the UK’s leading aerospace companies, to create a STEM (science technology, engineering and maths) educational programme based on the aircraft. The aim is to teach P5 and P6 pupils about the theory of flight, engines, propulsion etc focusing on the Sopwith plane.

To keep the project going Reston Concert Band is playing a benefit concert at East Linton Village Hall on behalf of Aviation Preservation Society Scotland on Saturday, June 29, at 7pm.

The APSS is holding an open day on Saturday, July 6, 11am-4pm, at the Sopwith’s temporary home at Congalton Gardens, East Lothian, (EH39 5JP) for anyone interested in seeing the plane, meeting the volunteers and finding out about their next project - building a Sopwith Pup.