Made as a high-altitude fighter to tackle the threat of the enemy Zeppelin Airships, The Eastchurch Kitten is a rare British First World War fighter plane and one of three prototypes ever built.
Amazingly, the aircraft’s engine was turned for the first time yesterday in time for its centenary — after being carefully reconstructed by an army of 60 volunteers.
The team that helped bring it back to life at Yorkshire Air Museum painstakingly worked on the aircraft for four years from faded plans and two photographs, reported the Daily Mail. The replica will be a non-flying exhibit as part of the museum's Thunder Day shows on April 6.
"Over 9,500 pilots were killed in World War I, and it's only right that we should be remembering them as brave and courageous - so I'm glad we've been able to show the Kitten this year," Ian Reed the manager of the Yorkshire Air Museum told the Daily Mail.
"It was to be a disposable, one-operation aircraft, to simply go up, intercept and shoot down the airship, then ditch in the sea.
"When you work on it, you think this must have been quite a frightening prospect, somebody had to get into this tiny aircraft and get up to ten or 15,000 feet with such a small engine, shoot at the huge airship, then crash into the sea and get out as soon as they could.
"But there were people willing to do it, some very gutsy people," he added.
Costing around £10,000 to restore, it was built around a wooden frame and constructed with specifically made materials such as the engine cowlings, and reused materials including the twin-opposed engine, sourced from a Citroen 2CV unit with similar twin opposed cylinders, which was stripped down to make it light and take unnecessary parts such as the cooling fans and starter motor. Apparently, the propeller was acquired from one of the museum's local flying clubs and instruments inside the cockpit came from the national collection archives.
A Lewis gun, a key feature of the which fits on top of the aircraft, was also made to measure finishes off the aircraft perfectly.
Originally built by the Port Victoria Marine Experimental Aircraft Depot, the prototype made its first flight on September 1, 1917, but further alterations were needed - and by the time it was finally airworthy, the threat from airships had significantly reduced.
It was a small and light biplane with a conventional wheeled undercarriage intended to launch from platforms on small ships, cruisers and even torpedo boats. However, even though it had good handling, the original design only made allowance for a 45 horsepower engine, which was unreliable and underpowered which meant the aircraft never entered production.
“It's been four years of hard work by our volunteers, a long struggle in the workshop. Obviously we were working from old plans, and a lot of the parts have been tricky, we've had to have things specially made and other bits re-used from existing items," said Mr Reed.
"But it's been worth it, to see the plane running was wonderful. Worth all the hard work.
"I'm especially glad we got it up and running in time for the 100th anniversary of World War I particularly now that the public are starting to appreciate how brave the men were 100 years ago."