An SE5a fighter plane from WWI had been kept at the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon for some time prior to the decision to build another exactly like it. The decision, which came about in the wake of this year’s centenary of the war, was not an easy one—many man hours would be required to fulfill the task, and so much time would not simply be spent in the construction of the fighter plane, but also in extensive research regarding the design and mechanics of WWI aircraft.
The decision came about as the result of a dare by, Dudley Hooley, the director of the museum. The fighter plane he chose to be a part of the dare was no random selection, but rather one of the first of its type employed during WWI. Hooley was impressed by the results, as three engineers under his employ managed to replicate the craft precisely.
While studying the SE5a at the Royal Air Force Museum, the team only had thirty minutes to gain as much information as possible from the decommissioned WWI aircraft. Once finished studying the fighter plane in person, much research had to be done on the internet to fill in the gaps as well as come to a fuller understanding of the engineering mechanics of the time.
The fighter plane in question was flown by a Military Cross recipient named Charles Dixon, and it helped to bring down multiple enemies during WWI. The benefit to having a duplicate is that now visitors to the museum will be able to sit at the helm of what feels like a genuine article from early in the twentieth century. While they are of course not fully operational, even the guns are wired so that visitors may man their controls and discover an approximation of what it would have felt like to fly the fighter plane in a real WWI battle, the Chichester Observer reports.
The replica will be housed at the Tangmere Museum, and will be adorned by a commemoration to a previous co-worker of the team which replicated the WWI fighter plane. While technically the duplicate is ready for the public to experience and enjoy, the three volunteer engineers who brought it into being have expressed a desire to make further alterations to achieve the greatest sense of accuracy possible. Many may have wondered what it was like to fly a WWI fighter plane, or even simply what it was like to sit in one. Now, thanks to the hard work of just three people, they will get a chance to find out.