WWI Vimy replica biplane landed at Santa Paula Airport for a stopover last Tuesday. The plane was on its way home from Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The British plane was originally designed as a bomber. It is the largest airworthy biplane ever built. The old plane holds 710 gallons of fuel and can stay airborne for about 19 hours. This replica was built in 1994. Photo by Janice Dickenson

Historic WWI Vimy replica, world’s largest biplane, lands at SP Airport

August 17, 2001
Santa Paula News
By Peggy Kelly Santa Paula TimesYou never know just who, or for that matter what, will fly into the world famous Santa Paula Airport, and last Tuesday was one of those days that a piece of history touched down.On Aug. 7 at about 7:15 a.m. a replica World War I Vickers FB27 Vimy biplane piloted by Gary Kent landed at the airport for a stopover on his way back from Oshkosh, Wisconsin - home of a world famous aviation museum - to his home in the Bay area.The British Vimy was originally designed as a bomber for World War I; the biplane has an open cockpit and unusual cotton-covered wings and is the largest airworthy biplane ever manufactured and now the world’s largest “home built” airplane.Known as “The Galleon of the Skies,” the Vimy drew a crowd even at Santa Paula Airport, known as the Antique Airplane Capital of the World.It was easy to see why: the Vimy has an astonishing 68 foot wingspan, is 43 feet 6 inches long, has a 16 foot tailspan, and propellers that are almost 11 feet in diameter. Empty it weighs 7,419 pounds and the Vimy’s cruising speed is 75 mph. The plane holds 710 gallons of fuel which will keep it in the air for about 19 hours.Just after World War I, Vimys made three historic first flights, inspiring the development of long-distance aviation with feats unheard of: the very first transatlantic flight in 1919, the first England to Australia flight the same year, and the first flight from London to Cape Town the next year.“It’s a grand old airplane,” said Bruce Dickenson of Santa Paula, an aviator and fixture at the airport that his grandfather co-founded.
Dickenson and Vimy pilot Gary Kent are friends through a Howard owners’ organization and said that those who built the Vimy replica “did a nice job. . .I don’t believe there are any original Vimys left unless maybe one in a museum in England somewhere. This one is the only Vimy flying.”Dickenson first saw the massive Vimy at Brackett Airport in Pomona several weeks before Kent stopped at Santa Paula Airport, his father riding along as a passenger.Kent landed at Santa Paula Airport not only because “It’s a favorite place for many aviators but his dad was riding along in an open cockpit without goggles and a helmet. . .Gary wanted to check out his dad, make sure he was okay and get him a helmet and goggles before they took off again,” said Dickenson.The Vickers Vimy replica was originally built for a 1994 reenactment of the first flight from England to Australia and used again for the 1999 reenactment of the first flight from London to Cape Town. Planning for a Transatlantic flight tentatively scheduled for June 2002 is currently under way.In 1992, Peter McMillan and his team organized a worldwide effort to build an authentic Vimy replica to relive the pioneering adventures of 1919-1920. Construction was led by John LaNoue and the project required thousands of pages of new drawings and more than 25,000 man hours of labor. Completion took 17 months from start to FAA certification in August 1994, a remarkable testament to the team’s dedication and resourcefulness.For more information on the Vimy, the Web site address is www.vimy.com.

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