‘Britain’s former youngest female pilot is set to break another record when she flies a WWI warplane – built by pensioners who started the job before she was born.
Ellie Carter, 20, will become the first woman to fly a Sopwith Strutter after the retired volunteers began rebuilding the iconic plane 23 years ago.
Ellie became the youngest solo glider pilot on her 14th birthday and flew a proper powered plane just three days after she turned 16.
And she will now fly the replica Sopwith Strutter that has been over 20 years in the making.
Some of the people who began the project have since died.
The Sopwith Strutter took to the skies for the first time in 1915, and were used by the British Army until 1917, when they were replaced by Sopwith Camels.
A replica of the warplane, built by the Aviation Preservation Society Scotland (APSS) in East Lothian, finished construction earlier this year.
Once Ellie, from Great Torrington, Devon, found out about the project she was eager to get involved.
Now a fundraising campaign has been launched to create a documentary chronicling the plane’s construction and Ellie’s journey to become the first woman to fly one.
Ellie said: “I’ve been into flying since I was nine – I got my pilot’s license at seventeen and became the youngest female pilot in the country at the time.
“Ever since then, I’ve been flying old aircraft!
“I would’ve loved to have been involved in the building of the aircraft, but that was all the APSS.
“I heard about the Strutter a little while ago, and I got in touch with them, because it’s my dream to fly warbirds – and the Strutter is a classic one.
“When I’d got in touch with them, they already had a filmmaker involved, and they suggested that we could all do something together.
“I went up to Scotland last year and spoke to the people involved and saw the aircraft – it was lovely.
“A lot of the people involved are retired and a lot of them have had an interest in aviation for a really long time, so building the aircraft was something they really wanted to do.”
Members of the APSS have been constructing the replica since 2000, with the group comprised of retired volunteers, aged 65-100, who have no previous experience with aircraft.
Nine members sadly passed before the construction of the Strutter was completed, and each of their names have been engraved onto a plaque in the plane’s cockpit.
The plane, which has been affectionately nicknamed ‘Sophie,’ will be flown by Ellie, who hopes to be able to take each of the volunteers for a ride in the two-seater aircraft.
The group, along with Ellie and filmmaker Alex McCall, are aiming to raise £22,300 through a Kickstarter campaign to put their documentary together, named Ellie and the Time Machine.
“This film records in real time the meticulous efforts over a quarter of a century of a group of seniors to recreate a unique piece of aviation history as the only flying Sopwith Strutter in the world,” said filmmaker Alex.
“Their project, described as a “Men’s Shed On Steroids,” also represents the power of community to nurture mental health and is an opportunity for a young woman to fulfill the dreams of the women from a century ago prohibited from piloting aircraft.”
As the volunteers and filmmaking team wait to see if their fundraising targets will be hit, pilot Ellie is eagerly awaiting her chance to fly the iconic ‘warbird.’
“You have to really fly these planes – there isn’t any modern technology, so you’ve really got to fly by the seat of your pants,” she said.
“With warbirds, you know that someone’s flown that plane before in a terrifying situation where they didn’t know if they’d be able to come home.
“There’s something incredibly humbling and inspiring about that.
“It’s such a beautiful aircraft and this is something I’ve always wanted to do.
“It’s going to be incredible. There aren’t many women flying warbirds at the best of times, so it’s amazing to be the first woman to fly the Strutter.
“It will be an absolutely brilliant experience and I can’t wait for it.
“It’s been a hard project to get the funding for, and we’re trying our best – hopefully we can get there soon!”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker