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First World War fighter plane, the Eastchurch Kitten, is restored at Yorkshire Air Museum
Brian Watmough, left, and Grant Sparks with the reproduction 1917 Eastchurch Kitten that is being built at the Yorkshire Air Museum
THE restoration of a little-known First World War fighter plane has been carried out at the Yorkshire Air Museum.
The Eastchurch Kitten, of which only three prototypes were built, would almost have disappeared from history had an attempt not been made in the early 1980s to build a plane from scratch using a very faded and sketchy print of plans.
Ian Richardson, the museum’s communications manager, said this effort stalled and what existed in the shape of a incomplete framework came to the museum.
Mr Richardson said: “This restoration is quite significant, encapsulating a fascinating piece of aviation history.
“The project received a major boost during the summer of 2012, when two young French aviation design students undertaking a placement here at the museum were able to assist the project leader Ray McElwain and made many of the wing struts and other parts, such as cable brackets, putting their metal working skills to the test.
“Since then, the framework has been covered in linen, tautened and we have managed to source a suitable engine, a Citroen 2CV unit with similar twin opposed cylinders, which has now been mounted.”
Now nearing completion it is planned for the craft to be a non-flying exhibit in time for the First World War centenary.
The first planned running of the Kitten will be on Sunday, April 6, during the first of the museum’s Thunder Day engine running shows.
Mr Richardson said: “The concept behind the Eastchurch Kitten was from the Admiralty for a ‘high altitude’ fighter to tackle the threat posed by the Zeppelin Airships, with the aircraft planned to be launched from platforms on battleships, cruisers or even torpedo boats.
“It was to be a disposable, one-operation aircraft, to simply go up, intercept and shoot down the airship, then ditch in the sea.”
The plane made its first flight on September 1 1917, but was found to be unstable and by the time further design alterations were complete, the threat of the airships had receded and the project was deemed unviable.
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