Magnificent men build flying machine in East Lothian
A GROUP of aviation enthusiasts who spent the past 18 years building a working replica of a First World War biplane have just embarked on their next project - to build another.
And the dedicated band of pensioners are looking for new volunteers to help with the venture.They are still putting the finishing touches to the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter which they have created from scratch, but it will be on display tomorrow (Saturday July 6) when they hold an open day at their hangar in North Berwick.Mike Harper, secretary of the group, said several Strutters had been based at nearby East Fortune airfield during the First World War. They were used as long-range reconnaissance planes, patrolling deep into German territory or flying over water to spot submarines.Building the two-seater replica has been a labour of love for Mr Harper and his fellow members of the Aviation Preservation Society Scotland. “The majority of the components on the aircraft have been hand-made,” he said. “The only part that has really been supplied is the engine itself.”And he is proud of the result. “Everybody that walks into this hangar and sees the plane, it takes their breath away,” he said. “And it’s not a large factory or organisation that did it - it’s a group of retired guys who turned up every Wednesday and Thursday over the last 18 years and built this aircraft. “And they weren’t just interested in building an aircraft that looks like an aircraft, they wanted to build an aircraft that could fly - and that makes it ten times more difficult because the aircraft has to meet very stringent regulations. Every single component that goes on it has to be checked, logged and has to come from the right supplier with the correct paperwork so it can be proved it’s the right component for the job.”Mr Harper said work had only just started on the next plane, a Sopwith Pup, a fighter biplane, smaller and more agile than the Strutter.But he insists it won’t take another 18 years to complete. “If you’ve ever put together a piece of furniture from Ikea, the first time you spend ages figuring out what to do and reading the instructions; but once you’ve done it once the second one takes half the time. We’ve got the knowledge and the skills, we just need more volunteers.“And we’re not just looking for technical people, we’re looking for people with all sorts of skills, whether it’s computer skills or administration.“The biggest issue we have is the age - I’m 60 and I’m the youngest working member. our oldest member is 93 and most are in their late 60s, 70s or 80s. “If there are people out there who are interested in helping us build the next one. come and see us.”The open day is at Congalton House, North Berwick EH39 5JL from 11am until 4pm.