Swordfish back in the air



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Having been without an example of the type for the duration of the 2017 show season, the Royal Navy Historic Flight got Blackburn-built Fairey Swordfish I W5856 back into the air in time for what seemed set to be a spectacular return to the public realm on 6 December, as lead aircraft in the flypast over the commissioning ceremony for the aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth at Portsmouth. Unfortunately, bad weather intervened and the flypast had to be cancelled, but W5856 did get to lead a group of the Royal Navy’s latest Leonardo Wildcat helicopters during a rehearsal over Somerset on the previous day.

It was back in May, during a routine inspection of W5856’s Bristol Pegasus XXX engine, that a problem was discovered with the valves. It soon became apparent that new valves would have to be manufactured, and G&S Valves of Godalming, Surrey, the only British maker of bespoke engine valves, was engaged to build a new set.

Following their delivery to Yeovilton, the RNHF engineers reassembled the engine. W5856 flew again on 8 November with the flight’s CO, Lt Cdr Chris Götke, at the helm and Lt Cdr Glenn Allison in the back. A second sortie was flown by Allison, as he started his refresher training on type in preparation for taking on the role of lead RNHF Swordfish pilot.

Swordfish I W5856, with Lt Cdr Glenn Allison at the helm, leading a pair of Royal Navy Leonardo Wildcats over Somerset on 5 December.


Geoff Pritchard opens the taps on the five-cylinder, 160hp Kinner R-56 as Canada’s oldest currently airworthy aeroplane, Fleet Model 2 CF-BBF, gets airborne at Vernon Airport.

Following an intensive year-long, 1,166-hour restoration at Vernon, British Columbia, 1930-built Fleet Model 2 CF-BBF flew again recently with owner Geoff Pritchard at the controls. It is now the oldest aircraft flying in Canada.

Geoff acquired the Fleet in Wisconsin in 2012, but following an unfortunate landing accident in Alberta, which put the machine on its back, a complete rebuild was necessary. The wings and tail feathers have been newly made, and the little primary trainer — of which 203 examples were built at Fort Erie, Ontario — now has a zero-time 160hp Kinner R-56 engine up front.

SE5a and D.VII heading for Stow

Hispano-powered SE5a reproduction N125QB, here in the markings of Gwilym Hugh Lewis’ No 32 Squadron mount, will be based at Stow Maries during the 2018 season.

”The trust will be starting a blog on which SE5a pilot is the most deserving to have his markings replicated on the machine”

During 2018, the final World War One centenary year will see the fleet of reproduction combat aircraft operated by the World War One Aviation Heritage Trust increased to four, with the addition of a Fokker D.VII and Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a. The two fighters will join BE2e ‘A2943’/G-CJZO at the historic World War One airfield at Stow Maries, Essex. Also due back at Stow is Albatros D.Va ZK-TGY, which is being repaired at The Vintage Aviator Ltd’s works at Wellington, New Zealand, having suffered damage in a forced landing near Headcorn, Kent in September 2016.

The four aircraft are on loan to the trust from German aircraft collector Oliver Wulff. The D.VII is in the final stages of construction by Koloman Mayrhofer and his Craftlab team in their new workshops at Pitten in eastern Austria. Founder and chief trustee of the WW1AHT, Dick Forsythe, says, “Koloman Mayrhofer is delighted that TVAL has recently been able to locate some missing bearings for the original, 170hp Daimler D.IIIa engine and so completion is one step nearer.”

The choice of colour scheme for the D.VII has yet to be finalised, but the personal markings of three pilots are in the frame. On the shortlist are Jasta 13 pilot Franz Büchner, a 40-victory ace whose mount was painted light blue-green with a lioness werewolf and green chequers; Josef Mai, whose Jasta 5 fighter wore black and white stripes; and the machine flown by Paul Ernst Straehle, commander of Jasta 57. The engine in the reproduction Fokker was actually owned by Straehle post-WW1, when he ran an air mail service between Stuttgart and Lake Constance operating three Halberstadt CL.IVs. His D.VII was painted light blue with a red nose.

The 180hp Hispanopowered SE5a is also currently at TVAL in Wellington, and is due to arrive at Stow in the middle of 2018. Built between 1996 and 2002 by retired American Airlines mechanic Jack Kearby at Airmen’s Acres Airport near Collinsville, Oklahoma, the fighter incorporates several original parts, including the windscreen, wheel hubs, instrumentation and Vickers machine gun. Registered N125QB, it made its debut public appearance at the 2002 Oshkosh show, and went on to be used during the making of Martin Scorsese’s biopic of Howard Hughes, The Aviator.

It is finished in the markings of RFC ace Gwilym Hugh Lewis of No 32 Squadron, who was credited with 12 confirmed aerial victories. He went on to have a wide circle of influential friends, including Winston Churchill and Noël Coward, and died eight months short of his 100th birthday in December 1996. The aircraft is likely to be repainted, and the trust will be starting a blog on which SE5a pilot is the most deserving to have his markings replicated on the machine.

Dick Forsythe adds, “The programme this year is building inexorably, with a provisional plan involving Stow Maries, Shuttleworth, Duxford, Heveningham Hall, Henley Regatta, Chalke Valley History Festival, the Rocking Nacelle on Horse Guards at RAF100, and the Royal International Air Tattoo.”

A peek into the immaculately detailed cockpit of Oliver Wulff’s Fokker D.VII, pictured in the Craftlab workshop at Pitten, eastern Austria.


The fuselage of Bolingbroke IVT 9893, with the wings of 10038/G-MKIV, loosely assembled outside the workshop at Hawkinge on 6 December.

A near 40-year quest by the chairman of the Kent Battle of Britain Museum, Dave Brocklehurst MBE, to get a Bristol Blenheim back to the former RAF Hawkinge came to fruition on 6 December with the arrival from the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford of the substantial remains of four Bolingbroke IVTs — Canadian-built Blenheims — that will be rebuilt and displayed as a Blenheim IV.

The museum exhibits replicas of many aircraft types flown during the Battle of Britain including the Hurricane, Spitfire, Messerschmitt Bf 109E and Boulton Paul Defiant, and original examples of the North American Harvard, de Havilland Tiger Moth and Miles Magister. Dave Brocklehurst comments, “To illustrate the Blenheim’s importance to us, of the 2,938 airmen awarded the Battle of Britain clasp and therefore classed as one of ‘The Few’, nearly 800 flew in the type during the period of the battle.”

Parts currently missing from the project include the two Bristol Mercury engines, propellers and the nose section, although a complete nose has been sourced in Canada and will be transported to Hawkinge later this year.

Blenheim IFs were operated from Hawkinge by No 25 Squadron during May 1940. Dave Brocklehurst says, “We will of course be painting her in the colours of a Battle of Britain-period Blenheim IV, probably the aircraft flown by Fg Off Reginald John Peacock DFC of No 235 Squadron, who achieved fighter ace status on type.”

Flying from another Kent fighter station, RAF Detling, Peacock destroyed a Messerschmitt Bf 109 on 12 May 1940 over the Hook of Holland area, while on 27 June he got a second Bf 109 and damaged another over the Zuider Zee. He shared in the destruction of a Heinkel He 115 floatplane on 3 August, and on the 11th shared a Bf 109. Peacock’s final kill came on 18 August when he shot down a Junkers Ju 88 over Thorney Island in Blenheim IV L9446. On 5 February 1943, Peacock was a passenger in Lockheed Hudson VI EW877 when it lost power on take-off from El Adem, Libya and crashed, killing all 12 RAF personnel on board.

Army Lynx for FAST

Lynx AH7 ZD280 after arriving at FAST on 5 December. The historic building on the right was built in 1908 as the HQ for the Royal Engineers Balloon School.

Nearly 35 years after it entered service, Westland Lynx AH7 ZD280 was roaded from the Army Air Corps base at Middle Wallop, Hampshire to a new home with the Farnborough Air Sciences Trust (FAST) at Farnborough on 5 December. The machine last flew on 30 July 2015, after taking part in a six-Lynx formation flight to commemorate the retirement of the AH7 variant from British Army service.

Having taken to the air on 10 August 1983 as an AH1, the helicopter served with a number of Army Air Corps units, seeing active use in Northern Ireland and a period of time in Germany. It was converted to AH7 configuration during 1991, including the installation of 1,120shp Gem 41-1 engines, replacing the 900shp Gem 2, and a larger, composite tail rotor. ZD280’s final operator was 671 Squadron at Middle Wallop.

The Lynx will soon disappear from Hampshire’s skies altogether, with the retirement of the AH9A wheeled variant from use with 657 Squadron, Army Air Corps at RAF Odiham during January.

DHAM submits stage 2 lottery fund application

Following a meeting with the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) during October, the de Havilland Aircraft Museum has made a round 2 application for a grant of £1.84 million to enable construction of the new aircraft display hangar at the museum site at London Colney. Members of the HLF committee who will be considering the application will visit the museum on 9 February, and a decision is expected during March.

The application hard copy amounted to more than 1,000 pages, and filled two ringbinders. Its preparation was managed by DHAM marketing director Mike Nevin and new hangar project director Bill Maris, with input from various external consultants.

The Paul G. Allen Family Foundation has made a donation of $10,000 to the museum’s new hangar fund. The foundation was set up by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, whose Flying Heritage and Combat Armor Museum collection at Paine Field, Seattle has Mosquito TIII TV959, which flew again following restoration on 26 September 2016 (and is featured on this month’s cover).

One of the historic machines that is scheduled to go into the new hangar is de Havilland DH125 G-ARYC, the third 125 built and the first production example, which made its maiden flight on 12 February 1963. Preparatory work is under way to enable long-overdue conservation to begin. A restoration team has been formed and has planned a programme of conservation both inside and outside the aircraft. Externally, the team will be treating corrosion on the underside of the 125, repairing minor areas of damage and ‘easing’ the latches and hinges of access panels so that the engines can be viewed. Theaircraft’s navigation lights will be restored with a view to getting them back in working order.

None of this work has been possible to date because the aircraft has had to be moved several times in recent years. The restoration team is digging a trench to install a cable to provide a power supply. In the new year there will be power available inside the aircraft, so the real work of cleaning and refurbishment can begin.

An unusual aerial view of the first production DH125, G-ARYC, at London Colney. Hangarage for this historic machine is now a priority.

“Preparatory work is under way to enable long-overdue conservation of the DH125, the third 125 built, to begin”

The Hatfield-designed 125 was the last aircraft to carry the DH initials, and was initially named Jet Dragon. By the time the first prototype, G-ARYA, made its maiden flight in August 1962 de Havilland had come under the control of Hawker Siddeley, but the DH name continued to be used during the development phase of this first-generation executive jet, and the prestigious brand name carried on being applied to aircraft destined for the USA long after the type had become the HS125 everywhere else. Following completion of flight-testing, in July 1963 ‘RYC was loaned to Bristol Siddeley at Filton for use in testing the Viper 520-series engine. It was transferred to Rolls-Royce at Hucknall in 1968, and went on to operate on communications duties between Filton and Toulouse in support of the Concorde programme. It made its last flight on 7 September 1973, and during March 1976 moved to London Colney after being donated to the museum by Rolls-Royce.

Recent arrivals at the DHAM include a small section of DH103 Hornet wing, which shows the wood-to-metal bonding that was pioneered on the type, a Hornet fuselage belly panel, and an engine nacelle. The museum also has the rear fuselage of a Sea Hornet NF21, VX250.


A statue of ACM Sir Keith Park, which was previously on display in the Battle of Britain Hall at the RAF Museum London at Hendon, has been acquired by the Battle of Britain Bunker at Uxbridge. It was moved to the historic west London site on 15 December.


Westland Sea King HAR3 XZ585 arrived at the RAF Museum London at Hendon on 6 December, and is destined to go on show in the ‘RAF First 100 Years’ exhibition in the old Battle of Britain Hall. Spitfire Vb BL614, DH9 F1010 and a full-scale F-35 Lightning II model will also be featured when the exhibition opens in the summer.

Folland Gnat T1 XR537/G-NATY has moved by road from external storage at Bournemouth to North Weald, the home of the Gnat Display Team. The former RAF trainer, which last flew in 2009, is currently registered to DS Aviation (UK) Ltd at Bournemouth.

At the beginning of December, the Southend Airport-based Vulcan Restoration Trust and the airport owners, the Stobart Group, announced that it might become necessary to relocate Vulcan B2 XL426 from its home in Hangar 6 due to redevelopment needs arising from a recent hangar fire at the airport. It is to be hoped that the well-maintained ‘V-bomber’ will not be left outside for too long.

Despite the news that Swiss chronograph company Breitling is ceasing sponsorship of AeroSuperBatics’ wingwalking Stearman team and the Baselbased Super Constellation, it was confirmed during December that it will continue to back the Breitling Jet Team of Aero L-39 jet trainers, operated by Dijon, France-based Apache Aviation.

Duncan Simpson 1927-2017

The late Duncan Simpson at Brooklands in November 2010.

Former Hawker Siddeley chief test pilot Duncan Simpson OBE CEng FRAes FIMechE died on 7 December at the age of 89, cutting one of the final links with the golden age of post-war test flying. Born in Sutherland in the northern Scottish Highlands on 23 December 1927 to a father who was the first general surgeon in the county, Duncan Simpson’s maternal uncle was Duncan Menzies, the Fairey chief test pilot at Ringway, who made the first flight of the Fulmar. The die was cast for Duncan when his grandmother took him to see Alan

Cobham’s Flying Circus at Tain near Inverness in 1934. When he became old enough to join the RAF in 1945 there was a surplus of service pilots, but the 18-year-old won a place at the de Havilland Aeronautical Technical School at Hatfield, at which the first job was to build his own toolbox. During his first year studying in the school workshops, Duncan spent some time constructing wing ribs for the Wright ‘Flyer’ replica that is now exhibited in the Science Museum. He then went into the experimental department, working on late marks of both the Mosquito and Hornet, the DH108 and the Ghost-powered Vampire.

Following the apprenticeship Simpson joined the RAF, flying Gloster Meteor F8s with No 222 Squadron at Leuchars on the east coast of Scotland. Two years later his outstanding flying abilities saw a posting to the Air Fighting Development Squadron at West Raynham, which was then engaged in the introduction of transonic fighters into RAF service and operated Supermarine Swifts, Canadair Sabres, DH Venoms and Hawker Hunters.

Following a wise decision to concentrate on the Hunter, during 1954 the Hawker chief test pilot Neville Duke urgently requested that Simpson should be taken on as a test pilot with the company. Several years on Hunters ensued, initially as a production test pilot and later on development work. On 25 August 1962 Simpson became the third pilot to fly the Hawker P1127, beginning a long association with the ground-breaking V/STOL fighter. He went on to train nine pilots on the Kestrel FGA1 with the Tripartite Evaluation Squadron at West Raynham, and had a leading role in development of the Harrier and its entry into service with the RAF and the US Marine Corps.

On 4 June 1969, the Harrier T2 that Simpson was ferrying from Dunsfold to Boscombe Down suffered engine failure and he was forced to eject at 100ft, suffering a broken neck after being struck by a large fragment of canopy glazing. The following year he became chief test pilot at Hawker Siddeley, and made the first flight of the prototype HS1182 Hawk on 21 August 1974, demonstrating it at the Farnborough show just 10 days later. He retired from test flying in 1978, becoming deputy director of the Society of British Aerospace Companies.

During his years at Hawker, Simpson had been instrumental in keeping the company’s historic aircraft fleet airworthy. He gave many displays in Hart J9941/ G-ABMR and Hurricane PZ865/G-AMAU The Last of the Many, and saw to it that the last Hurricane to be built was presented to the RAF’s Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, making the delivery flight from Dunsfold to the then BBMF base at Coltishall in March 1972 himself. During the late 1970s and early 1980s he also flew the Strathallan Collection Hurricane XII G-AWLW in displays at Auchterarder in Perthshire, central Scotland — but a short flight in Hawker’s finest from Inverness, where Duncan had become hooked on aviation at the age of seven.

A memorial service to celebrate Duncan Simpson’s life is being held at St Clement Danes, London WC2R 1DH on Tuesday 24 April at 11.00hrs. Any donations should be made to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

Simpson in the cockpit of Hurricane G-AWLW while Strathallan Collection groundcrew tend to the machine.


In a hangar near Windsor Airport, Ontario, the Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group/Canadian Historical Aircraft Association de Havilland Mosquito XX project recently went back up on its wheels. Mike Durand, the director of the group says, “We are still working on the hydraulics, so the undercarriage is locked in place with solid bars where the hydraulics should be.

“We have also started on the fabric. The horizontal stabiliser is done and work is progressing on the fuel tank access doors on the bottom of the wing. The fin is complete and work has started on the tail cone and fin fairings. Work has also started on the throttles. We found we have all the main parts, but are just missing the torque tubes which have been ordered. A team is working on the wheel wells/fairings.”

The Mosquito is based around the remains of B35 TA661/ CF-HMR, which crashed during an aerial survey flight on 10 July 1956. The parts were recovered 40 years later. The fuselage was built by Glyn Powell in Auckland, New Zealand during 2002. Although it is destined for static display, all construction is to airworthy standards. When complete the machine will be painted in the markings of Mosquito XX KB161, the first Canadian-built Mosquito to be delivered to the RAF.

The Windsor Mosquito Bomber Group Mosquito XX project in its hangar near Windsor Airport in early December 2017.

Flying boat exhibition opens

Part of Solent Sky’s ‘Romance of the Flying Boat’ central display, with a mannequin sitting in the Princess pilot’s seat, and the bar from Short S25 Hythe G-AGER Hadfield displayed to the right.

The Heritage Lottery Fund-supported ‘Romance of the Flying Boat’ exhibition was opened at the Solent Sky museum in Southampton on 29 November by Australian Geographic magazine’s ‘Adventurer of the Year’ Michael Smith, who in 2015 became the first person to make a solo

circumnavigation of the world in a flying boat. Among the hundreds of artefacts, models and memorabilia on show in the exhibition are a pilot’s seat, control column and some portholes from Saunders-Roe S45 Princess G-ALUN, and the cocktail bar from Aquila Airways’ Short S25 Hythe G-AGER Hadfield.

The project was made possible following the award of a £64,800 grant from the HLF during December 2016. The new, permanent exhibition complements the strong line-up of nautical aircraft types that are already to be found on show at Solent Sky, which include Short Sandringham VH-BRC Beachcomber, Schneider Trophy racer Supermarine S6A N248, and the Saunders-Roe SR/A1 jet fighter flying boat TG263.


Rolls-Royce’s head office has approved funding for repairs to the company’s Spitfire PRXIX, PS853/G-RRGN, which has been grounded at East Midlands Airport since suffering major problems with its Griffon engine in September 2015.

The future of the machine had been subject to a corporate review to decide whether it was to be retained as a valuable marketing tool or sold off, during which time no funds could be released for repairs. Happily, it was concluded that PS853 should be kept, and the Griffon is scheduled to go to Retro Track and Air at Dursley, Gloucestershire for rebuild. It is understood that management of the Spitfire is being moved to the care of the Rolls-Royce corporate head office.

The Rolls-Royce Spitfire XIX, PS853, en route from Duxford to Fairford in July 2015.

More parts for Typhoon project

The newly arrived spinner and Tempest II fuselage section in the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group workshop in East Sussex, with the fuselage of Typhoon Ib RB396 on the left.

Following its recent relocation into a workshop near Uckfield, East Sussex, the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group — which aims to have Typhoon Ib RB396 flying for the 80th anniversary of D-Day in 2024 — has taken delivery of a host of parts, including a very rare spinner, a Tempest II fuselage and tail section and a Tempest V rudder.

Project founder Dave Robinson explains, “The fuselage section we have from RB396 is complete up to frame A at the front, but the section covering the radio bay and the rear of the cockpit is missing, along with the small section from the rear transport joint to frame J. The Tempest fuselage gives us those missing sections and we will incorporate as much of RB396 as we can for return to flight. That is likely to be 90 per cent of the surviving frames.”

The Tempest II fuselage is from PR536. Dave Robinson explains, “Tempest II PR536 was traded to the Royal Air Force Museum for the centre section of Tempest V EJ693 and a Napier Sabre engine. It was sent to The Fighter Collection at Duxford for refurbishment to display standards. At that time the RAFM had access to a rear fuselage from another Tempest II which they decided needed less work than the original, so they swapped the two units.

This example was put into RAFM store and subsequently found its way onto the private market through a series of trades. It was originally going to be incorporated into a Tempest V project and passed through a number of hands until we bought it. The fuselage is structurally complete and still has the original Hawker plates, which shows it to be an original Typhoon piece that was taken off the production line for use on Tempests.

“The tail section was paired with the fuselage and was swapped out in one complete unit. The top rib of the fin is damaged but essentially the tail unit and fin are the same as a Typhoon: we have some original drawings for fin ribs, which show that they are the same. There is an extra rib in the fin, which is slightly taller than that on a Typhoon, so replacement of the top three ribs with two of the correct dimensions will then allow for the contour to be changed for conversion to a Typhoon fin. This is obviously subject to the remaining ribs being tested for structural integrity and safety at the same time.

“RB396 is a four-bladepropeller Typhoon, which shares the same spinner as the four-blade Tempest. This example is, as far as we know, the only complete and original one to exist. The three-blade spinner on the RAFM Typhoon is from a Handley Page Hastings and is a different profile to the original. We have already had a number of requests for detailed photographs of this to solve some ‘arguments’ that have been going on for a number of years regarding the actual profile of the spinner.

“The early history of the rudder is slightly more sketchy. It resided at Cranwell college and was bought by collector Ted Sinclair, along with other Tempest items. Many of these had been sectioned for training purposes, however. The rudder was uncovered so there was no need for any form of sectioning. It is an original, unused rudder that was utilised for training purposes and when recovered by Ted was then used as a pattern for a newbuild example for Tempest V EJ693, owned by Kermit Weeks in Florida. At the same time our rudder was subject to a rebuild to airworthy condition. Many people assume that the rudder for a Tempest is completely different, but in the same manner as the fin it is exactly the same until you get to the ribs above the trim tab. Indeed, we have recently been donated the remains of Typhoon JP600, which had been recovered in France, and this collection contained examples of rudder ribs, including most of the tail section as well, which we have been able to confirm as an exact match for the rudder we have. Combined with the surviving drawings, conversion of the rudder to Typhoon will be straightforward for the company we select to build it.”


As part of the recently completed Aircraft Factory and Flight Shed project (see Aeroplane January 2018), the Brooklands Museum at Weybridge, Surrey is inaugurating a training scheme aimed at maintaining and preserving skills involved in historic aircraft conservation and restoration, skills that are otherwise destined to disappear due to the reduction of traditional aircraft manufacturing and maintenance expertise in the UK.

The courses are based on an initiative that originated with the British Aviation Preservation Council (BAPC, recently renamed Aviation Heritage UK) and was developed in partnership with IWM Duxford. They will initially be available to Brooklands Museum volunteers and staff with a view to offering them to external candidates in the future. The courses are modular and can be tailored to suit areas of interest or the needs of individuals. There is an initial, compulsory module that must be completed, which is classroom-based and focuses principally on safety and the processes that should be carried out when maintaining, conserving and restoring non-flying museum exhibits.

Other modules are optional and will be either classroom and/ or practical-based. They will be held on site in the new, dedicated workshop space located on the ground floor of the newly opened Flight Shed building. Each module is intended to be carried out in a single day.

The Brooklands Aviation Heritage Skills course modules being developed will cover safety and maintaining/ conserving/restoring procedures, basic engineering and workshop practices, corrosion control, dismantling and assembly, an overview of aircraft structure, construction methods and materials, and skin, wood and fabric repairs.

The training scheme forms a major part of the overall Re-Engineering Brooklands project, which has cost a total of £8.2 million, including a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £5.6 million. The long-term aim is for the training to be offered to others working in the aviation heritage sector who need the advantages of a skill centre with the necessary space and facilities. More details of the courses will be announced shortly through the museum’s main website, www.brooklandsmuseum.com


The dainty little Donnet-Lévêque Type C replica having its 80hp Le Rhône engine run up at La Ferté-Alais.

Donnet-Lévêque replica airborne

Edmond Salis took Donnet- Lévêque Type C replica F-AZXB up for a brief maiden flight at La Ferté-Alais south of Paris on 16 November, 22 years after construction of the replica 1912 machine had begun. Salis curtailed the flight after the Le Rhône rotary fitted to the amphibian was found to not be delivering its full 80hp. Flight testing will resume once induction problems have been rectified.

The machine has been built by the Retro Planes d’Argenteuil organisation, named after the town where the original Donnet-Lévêque company was based, on the banks of the River Seine eight miles north-west of Paris. In the mid-1990s the mayor of Argenteuil, Robert Montdargent, initiated the project as a tribute to Donnet- Lévêque by asking a group of Dassault Aviation retirees to study the feasibility of the construction of a replica Type C, for which a full set of plans had to be redrawn. Construction got under way in 1995.

The Donnet-Lévêque was designed by François Denhaut, who gained his pilot’s licence in 1911, became the chief pilot of Pierre Levasseur’s flying school, and pioneered the flying boat in Europe. Denhaut gained support from the engineer and financier Jérôme Donnet and the automobile engine manufacturer Henri Lévêque, who then established the company that bore their names. Denhaut became chief designer and presented his Type B design at the French Navy’s contest for hydroplanes during 1912. Donnet-Lévêque went on to develop a highly successful line of patrol flying boats, producing more than 1,000 machines during World War One. An original, 1912-built Donnet-Lévêque Type A survives with the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace at Le Bourget.

The replica of Lt Gordon McLean’s Sopwith Camel, B2494, during assembly at Francesco Baracca airfield near Treviso.

Camel to fly in Italy

An airworthy Sopwith Camel project is approaching completion with the Fondazione Jonathan at Francesco Baracca airfield just north of Treviso, northeast Italy. The target date for a first flight is 4 February 2018, the centenary of the death of Canadian Camel pilot Lt Gordon McLean near the Jonathan airstrip at Nervesa della Battaglia.

The project stems from the casual discovery of a small brass plate on the Montello, the hill on the right shore of the Piave river, which during the winter of 1917 was a cornerstone of the Italian defence line. Research soon traced the plate to Sopwith Camel B2494, a No 45 Squadron aircraft flown by McLean above the Montello at around 11.00hrs on 4 February 1918. German fighters of Jasta 39 that were in the area claimed a Sopwith, but British records attribute the loss to antiaircraft fire.

The Camel project was launched during November 2016 with sponsorship from Ermenegildo Giusti, whose business interests in Canada sparked the desire to commemorate McLean. While previous Jonathan reproductions use modern flat-four engines, the Camel will be powered by a Verner Scarlett 7Si, a Czech-built, seven-cylinder radial. The fuselage has a rigid wooden truss, eliminating the cumbersome wires. The tanks, cowlings and other metal parts were built by Daniele Beltrame.

Eighteen-year-old Donald Gordon McLean from London, Ontario had been with No 45 Squadron for just 13 days on 4 February 1917, when he was part of a group of Camels patrolling at 12,000ft near Sernaglia. Eight Albatros D.Vs from Jasta 39 were spotted about 2,000ft higher, positioning to attack two RE8s, but the Jasta 39 leader, Oberleutnant Josef Loeser, then switched to a diving attack on the Camels. The Jasta 39 pilots overshot, leaving the Camels above and behind them. The RFC flight leader Capt Matthew Frew downed the Albatros leader before coming to the rescue of McLean, shooting down another Albatros that had got onto the Canadian’s tail. McLean got the better of another Albatros pilot, who was seen to crash, but while flying back to base McLean’s Camel suffered a fatal hit from an anti-aircraft artillery shell.

Six RFC/RAF squadrons operated on the Piave during 1917-18. The Jonathan collection’s British contingent includes several Tiger Moths and a 7/8-scale SE5a, housed in a former RAF Bessoneau hangar re-erected at Nervesa in 2011.