Take these broken wings and learn to fly

Balsa model of Nieuport 17
Balsa model of Nieuport 17

This is a balsa and tissue paper model of the Nieuport 17 aeroplane flown by Billy Bishop during WWI. Well. Technically, this is the completed fuselage of said aeroplane. In the top left corner of this photograph are the parts for a Sopwith Camel, which Bishop also flew, although only a handful of times. The Sopwith is a smaller plastic model, which, in theory, ought to be a bit less finicky to assemble. The Nieuport is proving to be challenging, but not so challenging that one must needs walk away from it or perish in a flaming ball of rage. On the other hand, the Sopwith requires more string.

When my granddad told me that the planes his brother flew in in WWI were held together with burlap sacking and binder twine, he wasn’t joking. One of the most interesting parts of working on the Nieuport is really getting a feel for how it would have gone together, and also for just how flimsy the beast must have been. In fact, one of the drawbacks of the Nieuport 17 was that it had a disconcerting tendency to just disintegrate and come completely apart in high speed dives. Which, when you’re involved in trying outmanoeuvre enemy forces, would seem to be one of the classic moves. This is coming from someone who learned everything she knows about aerial dogfights from watching Star Trek. Anyway. The Nieuport 17 was made of sheet metal, I believe (if I’m mistaken, please correct me). Unlike the WWII de Havilland Mosquito, which was actually made out of balsa wood. Which, in my uninformed opinion, is bloody crazy.

Granted, the Mosquito was probably constructed out of sturdier balsa than 1/16″ spars. Which one can snap by thinking about them wrong. But still. Balsa wood. I mean, I know it’s really really light…(incidentally, the Nieuport 17 weighed less than 1000 pounds when it was empty. It also sported a TINY engine. I mean, 110 horsepower. Boats with 110HP motors are only useful for trolling for fish. I’m being facetious. Seriously, though, I am beginning to understand more about why so many pilots died in the first world war. Because their planes came in packets of chewing gum).

The Captain is doing a Heritage Fair project that focusses on Billy Bishop. He asked if I’d pick up some model aeroplanes. The Nieuport was only available in balsa and tissue paper (also, when complete, it will fly. In theory. Which is to say, it is a flying model. A model which is supposed to fly. Currently, I am a titch concerned that there is so much gluick on the plane that it will be more of a plummeting model), so I elected to try my hand at it. It has been years since I did model aeroplanes, but it was a hobby I enjoyed. This past week, it has been a welcome distraction. In addition to the other distractions (I have been reading a novel a day, finishing a pair of socks, taking many baths, and watching Dr. Who with The Captain and The Nipper, my two newfound Whovian buddies), I have managed to do some thinking while keeping my mind and my heart off of the most tender, newest scars. The fumes from the glue may have helped; they may have hindered.

Apparently, the news that I assemble model aeroplanes is a surprise to many, so I thought I’d post some photos as proof. Below is an image from this past weekend. Saturday, I believe. Or possibly Friday. It was a miserable day, anyway, and I had enjoyed just sitting at the table, pinning the frame of the fuselage to the plans. By the by, when the instructions *recommend* (but do not *insist*) that you cover them with wax paper before cementing pieces together, that’s a REALLY good suggestion. We survived. As did the blueprints.

Nieuport 17 beginnings
Nieuport 17 beginnings







One response to “Take these broken wings and learn to fly”

  1. anonymous Avatar

    I’ll bite….

i make squee noises when you tell me stuff.

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