The Canadian Museum of Flight in Langley has agreed to provide a replica of a century-old Sopwith Pup biplane for the 100th anniversary of the First World War battle of Vimy Ridge.
Now all they have to do is build one from scratch, then get it flight-tested and certified.
They have 18 months to pull it off.
If all goes well, the Langley museum’s Pup will join another Pup and four Nieuport 11 fighters from the same era in a flypast to mark the anniversary of the bloody battle for high ground on the western edge of the Douai Plains that pitted four Canadian divisions against three German divisions from April 9 to April 12, 1917.
It’s an ambitious schedule that will require “tons of volunteers,” said Dave Arnold, vice-president the of museum’s board of directors.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said.
“It’s got to get off the ground quickly,” said George Miller, the former Langley airport manager who was approached by the Vimy anniversary organizers who were looking to pay someone to build a Pup.
Miller and former Langley mayor Kurt Alberts took the idea to the museum board.
“They had to think about it for three seconds,” said Alberts.
The single-seater aircraft is technically known as the Scout, but the nickname stuck because pilots considered it to be the “pup” of a larger two-seater Sopwith.
Most Sopwith fighters that followed became part of what was known as the “flying zoo” with animal names like the Camel, Dolphin and Snipe.
The replica Pup will be slightly smaller than the original, and will use aluminum ribs instead of wood.
The engine will either be a repurposed Volkswagen engine — a popular choice for replica planes — or a radial engine that museum general manager Mike Sattler says sounds “very like the original.”
Volunteers are already queuing up to work on the project, Sattler said.
“There’s a few people rather excited.”
The museum has particular expertise in building and restoring fabric-covered aircraft, but never to this tight a deadline.
Making the anniversary date will take thousands of man-hours and a “huge community effort” Sattler explained, but it represents a “huge chance” to raise the profile of the Langley museum.
One of the selling points that clinched the deal with the anniversary organizers was the commitment to the project by the Air Cadets at the airport where the museum is located, Miller said.
The Langley Pup will form part of a six-plane squadron that will fly across Canada during the summer of 2016, touching down at different communities to give Canadians a close-up look.
In 2017, the six planes will be shipped to France where they will take part in an April 9 flyover of the Vimy memorial to mark the 100th anniversary of the battle and the 150th birthday of Canada.
Above: Kurt Alberts, George Miller, Dave Arnold and Mike Sattler are spearheading the Langley Museum of Flight’s effort to build and fly a replica of a Sopwith Pup