Russian fighter plane recreated
A newly installed World War I Russian fighter plane sets the scene for the Knights of the Sky exhibition at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre in Blenheim.
The full-scale replica Morane Saulnier G provides an insight into the heroic efforts of Russian flying ace Aleksandr Kozakov, who took aerial combat to new levels during World War I.
The built-from-scratch 1913 monoplane, constructed of wood and wire bracing, covered in fabric, was installed in the reception foyer on Wednesday after a two-year project.
The idea of displaying the Kozakov plane had been in the back of Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre chief executive Jane Orphan's mind since Marlborough hosted the Russian rugby team during the Rugby World Cup last year.
Mrs Orphan explained how few aircraft were armed during World War I and pilots had to devise new ways of bringing down the enemy.
Some tried hurling bricks, others took pot shots with pistols or hunting rifles, she said.
On one occasion, Kozakov flung a grappling hook on a long length of wire with the intention of ripping apart the lightweight structure of his opponent's machine, she said.
"Unfortunately the two aircraft became entwined and Kozakov attempted ramming his enemy in order to pull free. They both plummeted, until barely 200 feet from the ground, they disentangled and neither was killed."
The German was taken prisoner and Kozakov went on to become Russia's highest scoring ace, using rather more conventional methods, Mrs Orphan said.
"The aircraft was built to airworthy standard, so one day the decision might even be made to remove it from static display and see if it will fly. Perhaps without the grappling hook."
Aeroplane enthusiast Dave Lockhead was contracted by the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre board to carry out the work, Mrs Orphan said.
- © Fairfax NZ News