SE5a repro airborne at Old Warden

December 2018 News

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‘Dodge’ Bailey getting airborne in Roy Palmer’s splendid SE5a reproduction, which wears the colours of a No 56 Squadron machine flown by Canadian ace Henry ‘Hank’ Burden. DARREN HARBAR

At Old Warden on 19 October, outgoing Shuttleworth Collection chief pilot ‘Dodge’ Bailey took Roy Palmer’s Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a reproduction, ‘C1096’/ G-ERFC, up for its first flight since it arrived in the UK five years ago. The fighter will be hangared at Old Warden during 2019 and be seen flying during Shuttleworth displays.

Outlining the history of the machine, Roy Palmer says, “The basic story is that John Tetley started building it more than 30 years ago in his workshop in Yorkshire. It is a totally authentic reconstruction of the SE5a flown by Canadian ace Henry ‘Hank’ Burden in 1917-18 with No 56 Squadron.

“Around 15 years ago the airframe, less engine, was moved to the French Memorial Flight at Le Bourget, and they agreed to complete the build and fit a Hispano engine that they had. The agreement was that they could fly it for 10 years, and then it would come back to John. They flew it in France for some 11 hours’ total, before it returned to the UK around five years ago.

“I was fortunate enough to purchase the aircraft from John in 2014.

A correct 1918 Wright-Martin Hispano-Suiza engine was located in the UK and entrusted to Guy Black’s engine team at Retrotec. This was a late Model I engine, uprated to the 180hp dry-sump Model E. Retrotec had rebuilt similar Hispano- Suiza engines and had access to much period information and original manuals.

Everything that needed to be inspected, crack-tested and renovated was done. Vintech rebuilt the carburettor, and Hercules Propellers reproduced a perfect copy of an original Hispano-Suiza 180hp prop, which was finished in Burden’s colours.

”The aircraft today is as authentic as possible, incorporating many original parts”

“Michael Souch’s team at Aero Antiques undertook a meticulous inspection, checking the renovation of the airframe.

The linen fabric was re-finished in a darker, more original, shade of PC 10.

Reference to the Shuttleworth Collection SE5a helped with maintaining period originality.

The aim was to keep the patina of the finish, but to ensure that everything needing to be inspected was examined and checked. The result is exactly how we and John Tetley wanted it.

“The aircraft today is as authentic as possible in every respect, incorporating many original parts and components.

The fuel tank is original, as are the Lewis gun and magazine, the control column ring, the Aldis sight, and all the instruments. The wheels and tyres were sourced from The Vintage Aviator in New Zealand, and the dry-sump oil tank copied rivet by rivet from an original, period SE5a tank.”

Toronto-born Capt Henry Burden flew the SE5a from February 1918 onwards with No 56 Squadron in France. On 10 August 1918 he claimed five Fokker D.VIIs, and two days later shot down three more. His final tally was 16.

Burden’s sister Margaret married fellow Canadian ace Billy Bishop. Burden became an architect after the war and died in March 1960 at the early age of 64.