Kiwi and Cosford experts unite to bring "critical" planes to Royal Air Force Museum

By Culture24 Reporter | 04 September 2012
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A photo of a technician smiling in front of the propellor of a World War I plane on grass
(Left to right) Gene DeMarco, the manager and Chief Test Pilor at the Vintage Aviator Company, takes a look at a trio of renovated planes alongside apprentice Nathan Pugh and Peter Dye, of the RAF Museum Cosford© RAF Museum
An 11,000-mile link-up between wing wizards in Cosford and New Zealand, allowing a Shropshire craftsman to cross the world in pursuit of honing his restoration expertise, has resulted in three “legendary aircraft” joining the wartime displays at the Royal Air Force Museum.

The Vintage Aviator Company, based in Wellington, have worked with the museum’s award-winning apprentice, Nathan Pugh, on a two-month mission to help him master his knowledge of the World War I Sopwith Snipe, which is the only plane of its kind in the country.

The Albatros D.Va and the Royal Aircraft Factory RE.8, both from New Zealand, will also take prominence among the pre and post-World War I displays.

“The trip was an amazing opportunity to work with flying heritage aircraft and to learn different manufacturing skills,” reflects Pugh, who says his daily work in the museum’s Conservation Centre is “very different” to the work of the commercial company, which builds and reconstructs aircraft, specifically World War I fliers.

“It was also brilliant to be able to travel to New Zealand and see some of the country. The most special experience, for me, was being able to fly in some of The Vintage Aviators aircraft, including the Fe2b BE2 and the Tiger Moth.”
Brackets, copper, aluminium, access panels and sealants were the tools of his sojourn, but heritage enthusiasts are likely to benefit as much as Pugh has.
“Both the RE.8 and the Sopwith Snipe have feature on the Museum’s Wants Lists since the 1970s,” admits Peter Dye, the Director General of the Museum.

Dye originally visited his New Zealand counterparts two years ago to discuss building the collection in the West Midlands. He says the additions will “fill critical gaps” in the collection.

“The RE.8 was critical to the RAF’s operational contribution on the Western Front, and the Sopwith Snipe provided the RAF’s standard fighter of the early inter-war period.

“The Albatros D.Va was the most important German single-seat fighter of World War I, after the Fokker DVII.

“Its acquisition will allow the presentation of a more balanced story of the First Air War.”

The planes are expected to take part in Air Shows including Shuttleworth and Duxford later this year, before going on permanent display at the Royal Air Force Museum in London.

Organisers say the relationship between builders and curators has gone from “strength to strength”, with a second placement mooted to take place next year.

More pictures:

A photo of three propeller-driven World War I planes perched on a finely-cut lawn
© RAF Museum
A photo of a man in a Royal Air Force Museum shirt standing in front of a plane smiling
© RAF Museum
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