NIEUPORT 17/23: Facsimile Fighter

The French Nieuport 23 offered outstanding performance with its disproportionate wing design. Here, Darren Harbar uncovers how a flying replica came to life, and gets air to air with this World War One classic

John Gilbert at the controls of his Nieuport in the wonderfully blue skies above Bedfordshire, for the ‘Flypast’ photographic sortie

Amazingly, just one original Nieuport 23 – serial 5024 – exists today and is preserved as a static exhibit in Brussels’ Musée Royal de l'Armée et d'Histoire Militaire (Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and Military History). Thankfully though, this World War One design can be appreciated in the air thanks to a small number of replicas. Manufactured in France from 1916, the single-seat Nieuport 17 was designed as a so-called sesquiplane, whereby the upper mainplane was larger than the lower. This format offered the Nieuport outstanding manoeuvrability for the era and, with the original Le Rhône rotary engine, it also had an impressive rate of climb.

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