FENLAND: Replica Second World War fighter plane cockpit coming to aviation museum
PUBLISHED: 11:24 23 February 2009 | UPDATED: 08:54 02 June 2010
Archant © 2009
IT was a Norfolk-based fighter plane that played a key role in Britain s fight for freedom during the second world war, but has since become extinct. But now a brand new Westland Whirlwind – constructed from a second hand dining table and other recycled m
IT was a Norfolk-based fighter plane that played a key role in Britain's fight for freedom during the second world war, but has since become extinct.
But now a brand new Westland Whirlwind - constructed from a second hand dining table and other recycled materials - has rolled out of a garage for the first time in more than 60 years following an 18 month project by an aviation enthusiast.
Retired car parts salesman Raymond Wood unveiled the life-sized fighter jet cockpit on Saturday, which he hopes will provide a visitor boost to a Cambridgeshire museum.
The 63-year-old, who spent more than a thousand hours working on the replica Whirlwind at his bungalow in Weeting, near Thetford, is set to bid farewell to his beloved creation on Wednesday when it joins the other exhibits at the Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum, in Wisbech.
Mr Wood began the construction project shortly after he and his wife moved to Norfolk from Holbeach in September 2007, when he realised that his 3ft wide old dining table was the exact size to form his Whirlwind cockpit frame.
The grandfather continued using recycled household products such as coffee jar lids and bottle tops to form the knobs and dials of the control panel. He used the parts of his wife's faulty sewing machine to form his gun sights, the metal from a broken kitchen heater to make the leading edges of the Whirlwind's wings, and waste plastic pipes to create four guns.
Mr Wood, who has been an aeroplane enthusiast since the age of eight, said it would be sad to see the "Woody Whirlwind of Weeting" leave his garage, but his creation was going to a good home.
"I have always loved that plane," he said. "There were only 114 Westland Whirlwind fighters made and none of them is in existence today. This is the 115th!
"I had the idea just before we moved to Weeting and I just started to see if I could build it and it got bigger and bigger.
"About 25 per cent of the plane is recycled, which has meant I've only had to spend £350 on materials."
Mr Wood said he had no plans to replicate any other historic aircraft, but he may try to build another section of the Whirlwind in the future.
The single-seat Westland Whirlwind, which was nicknamed 'Crikey', was used as a fighter-bomber for three years of the Second World War and was regarded as being quicker than a Spitfire at low-level combat.
The plane was based with 137 Squadron at RAF Coltishall's satellite station in Matlaske from November 1941 where it carried out escort missions and low-level cross-channel "rhubarb" sweeps, attacking locomotives, bridges, shipping, and other targets.
However, the Whirlwind's Rolls Royce Peregrine engine made it unreliable at higher altitudes and prone to power failures. The plane was withdrawn from service in 1943, with many of them being stripped down and scrapped to make the more reliable Spitfire.
Mr Wood said he thought it would be good to try and keep the history of the Whirlwind alive by making the replica cockpit.
He said: "It is a lovely plane. All of the Second World War planes like the Spitfire, Hurricane, Typhoons, and Mosquito are still about today, apart from this one."
The aviation enthusiast added that he hoped the extra visitor numbers and publicity would help the Fenland and West Norfolk Aviation Museum to reach a £15,000 target to buy the site it currently leases in Wisbech.
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