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In the early days aeroplanes were flown by courageous men and woman. Dressed in leather jackets and only protected by simple goggles and leather caps, pioneers like Anthony Fokker and Louis Bleriot conquered the skies.
Their aircraft were skilfully made flying machines composed of wood, linen and steel wire. Whilst flying, those ‘early birds’ wrote history and laid the foundation for modern aviation.
The Early Birds Foundation aims to preserve the heritage of these and other ‘early birds’ by carefully restoring and rebuilding aircraft and engines. The results of these activities can be seen during airshows and by visiting our working museum.
It all started about thirty-five years ago, in 1974, with the reconstruction of a number of rotary engines. These engines are very early powerplants in the history of aviation. During a visit to the world-famous collection of Jean Salis, near Paris, France, the idea emerged to restore one to working condition. Eventually a 130-hp Clerget engine was shipped to Holland. This very First Early Birds restoration project found a place in an English Sopwith ‘Camel’. More followed. An operational specimen can be seen in the hangar in Lelystad, mounted on an early twentieth-century test stand.
In return for the efforts on these engines the Foundation received a partly-restored ‘Tiger-Moth’, which was completed and is still part of the Early Birds-collection. In 1980 a Bücker ‘Jungmann’ was acquired. That was the start of a collection which prompted aviation enthusiasts to offer their services to maintain these aircraft and pilots to fly them. That in turn led to the influx of more restorable projects and even to the idea of building reconstructions of very early aeroplanes.
Enlarging the collection
n the engines side three rotary engines were restored of 45, 80 and 130 hp respectively. Also a Warner, a Siemens and a Jacobs radial and a Mercedes liquid-cooled in-line engine were restored. The Siemens is now mounted to a Fokker Dr.1 and the Mercedes to the D.VII. The Jacobs moved to Belgium being destined for the Morane-Saulnier Criquet (French version of the Fieseler Storch) that is restored there. The rotary engines and the Warner are on exhibition on a stand, next to the line of engines awaiting their turn.
A number of aircraft of the collection were obtained in airworthy condition. The Fleet and the Aeronca only needed their normal maintenance and occasional repairs. The Gipsy-Moth and the Luscombe were also airworthy, but were totally restored in the meantime. Three flying reconstructions (Sopwith Camel, Sopwitch Pup and Nieuport 28) came from the former Frank Ryders Replica Fighter Museum (USA). A Fokker Dr.I was labelled flyable when it came from the USA, but needed a very vast amount of restoration work.
Total restorations are the Fairchild Argus, the North American Mustang P-51D and the Nord Noralpha. The first named is airworthy and the other two almost. A fourth restoration is being done in a private workshop. This is a second Tiger-Moth.
A huge amount of work went into the in-house reconstruction of the Bleriot, a second Fokker Dr.I and the Fokker D.VII. All three started life as home-built projects of the NVAV (Dutch Association of Amateur Aircraft builders) and are entirely a product of the Foundations own knowledge and skills. The first two aircraft are in flying condition and the D.VII will not take long anymore. A reconstruction aircraft that will take much longer to get that far is the Koolhoven F.K.23. In a private workshop parts for building the wings are waiting for assembly. Probably this is going to be the only flying Koolhoven in the world.
The ‘Early Birds’ Foundation is alive and kicking. The collection consists of some twenty – sometimes rare and not commonly known- types of aircraft. A number of these are in airworthy condition and are flown regularly, others are awaiting restoration or are under (re) construction.
A few times per year some of the fleet participate in fly-ins, airshows and meetings of historic aircraft in the Netherlands and neighbouring countries. That is possible because a grass runway has been available for some years for landings on Lelystad airport. For many of our tail draggers this is a definite must. However, in view of the plans for expanding the airport, it is uncertain that this situation will remain.
On the following pages you will find more information on several aspects of the Early Birds and a number of photo’s and descriptions of the aircraft collection and of the hangar.
This website will be updated on a regular basis when important news is available. Progress on de restoration and reconstruction projects will be described with text and pictures on the respective plane pages. U We are open to your opinion, remarks and questions. Please feel free to comment in a e-mail to the Early Birds Foundation.
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