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WWI Centennial Highlighted in Oshkosh

Birth of Royal Air Force also marked in high style

By James Wynbrandt

July 22, 2018 - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018 is commemorating twin centenaries that mark pivotal moments in the history of aviation: the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and the founding of the Royal Air Force (RAF). Both are being celebrated in grand Oshkosh style, replete with an unprecedented gathering of historic aircraft, engine run-ups, flight demonstrations, forums, and more throughout the week.

“In the four-year stretch of World War I, aviation technology and piloting made strides that have been rarely matched in the history of flight,” said Rick Larsen, EAA’s vice president of communities and member programs, who coordinates AirVenture features and attractions. “A century later, aviation enthusiasts still marvel at the determination, ingenuity, and skill of those who designed, built, and flew these aircraft. They were making history in a field of engineering that mostly did not exist just 15 years earlier.”

Indeed, the armistice marking the end of the Great War on November 11, 1918, also signaled the end of aviation’s first era of great advances, dovetailing with its next phase of development exemplified by the RAF’s birth.

The featured aircraft, on display at the Vintage area, include four biplane fighters from Kermit Weeks’ Fantasy of Flight collection. Representing Germany’s air might are a Fokker D.VII and an Albatros D.III; and from the Allied Forces a Sopwith Pup, as well as a Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe that Weeks will fly in the celebration’s aerial demonstrations.

The Albatros D.III was flown by many German aces, including Baron Manfred von Richthofen and Kurt Wolff. The Fokker D.VIIs, under the terms of the armistice, all had to be surrendered to the Allies, and many of them served in the service of other nations in following years.

Also on hand are replicas of a British S.E.5.a — sometimes called “the Spitfire of World War I” — and a Sopwith Camel re-created by Ohio’s Genius Garage, and a vintage U.S.-built DH.4, the two-place British biplane bomber. It’s noteworthy that as Oshkosh also celebrates the Year of the Tanker at this year’s fly-in, the DH.4 was used for aerial refueling, providing two reasons for honoring the aircraft. The DH.4 was also the first aircraft used by the U.S. Postal Service for airmail delivery, a service that is coincidentally also marking its 100th anniversary this year.

Meanwhile, a Sopwith Camel piloted by Canadian Arthur Brown was initially credited with shooting down Richthofen, though it was subsequently determined his life was almost certainly claimed by a bullet fired from the ground.

Also from the Fantasy of Flight collection is a rare 1915 Bleriot replica in Royal Flying Corps colors.

On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday the aircraft will perform in aerial demonstrations at the ultralight field (rows P4 and P5) from 8 to 8:20 p.m.

Additionally, daily static engine runs will give visitors a real appreciation of the powerplants of the era, including the vintage Daimler engine that powers the Albatros. In addition, WWI-era aircraft, aircraft owners, and historians will participate in forums and Vintage in Review sessions throughout the week. A number of the aircraft will also be displayed on Boeing Plaza during the week.

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