First World War Eastchurch Kitten fighter plane goes on display at the Yorkshire Air Museum
Brian Watmough sits in an Eastchurch Kitten replica as Grant Sparks starts the engine of the aircraft at The Yorkshire Air Museum
A UNIQUE First World War fighter plane – which could have become the world’s first Kamikaze aircraft – has been recreated at the Yorkshire Air Museum near York.
The Eastchurch Kitten was built in 1917 to tackle the threat posed by the Zeppelin airships, which had brought the war to Britain through bombing raids.
The experimental interceptor craft was a “disposable”, one- operation plane, intended simply to go up, intercept and shoot down the airship and then ditch in the sea, said museum spokesman Ian Richardson.
He said: “The pilot would have had little chance – it could have been the world’s first Kamikaze plane.”
He said the flimsy craft, made of little more than wood, string and fabric, was intended to be launched off battleships, cruisers or even torpedo boats, and made its first flight on September 1, 1917.
But by then, the threat from the Zeppelins had receded and it never went into full production.
Then about 22 months ago, a museum volunteer, Ray McElwain, said he would like to recreate the full aircraft and he went ahead with the project in a museum workshop, assisted by numerous volunteers.
Mr Richardson said there was no other example of this aircraft type in existence in the world.
He said: “It joins our ‘fleet’ of First World War aircraft, such as the SE5a, which is also in ‘live’ engine running condition, and the BE2c and Avro 504K, which were the backbone of the Royal Flying Corps.”
He said the kitten would have its first public showing on Sunday during the museum’s monthly aircraft engine running day, when its engines would be started up from late morning. It would also go on public display in the centre of Leeds on May 21.
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