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Sun, Apr 22, 2007

Rare WWI-Era DeHavilland DH9 Bomber Restored

Found Rotting In Elephant Stable Of Maharajah's Palace

What's worse than Miss Scarlet in the Library with the Knife? Perhaps it's a rare DeHavilland DH9 in the elephant stable of the palace.

Discovered rotting in the aforementioned palace of the Maharajah of Bikaner's elephant stable in India, the de Havilland has been restored by Guy Black and now sits in all its former glory at London's Imperial War Museum.

The biplane is the only one in Britain and one of the six in the world, a museum official said.

According to Black, an airplane restorer, "It was a phenomenal find, like discovering gold."

The improbable discovery was made by a British backpacker, who photographed a cannibalized DH9 in a new museum at the palace of Bikaner in Rajasthan 12 years ago, according to Zee News.

On his return to Britain, the photographer circulated his photograph, and Black, who runs Aero Vintage, a specialist restoration company, heard about it.

Three years later he visited the palace, and on making inquiries about the 1918 aircraft, the first British bomber to house bombs in its fuselage, he was told that it did not exist.

Further inquiries led him to the palace's former elephant stables, where, among piles of elephant saddles, was the airframe of the engineless DH9. Along one wall, Black also discovered six DH9 wings and several tailfins.

"I could not believe my eyes. The DH9 was the most manufactured bomber of the First World War -- they made more than 2,000 of them -- but they are as rare as hen's teeth now, and there wasn't a single one in a collection in Britain," said Black.

According to reports by Daily India, the DH9s had been given by Britain to a royal family in India's Rajasthan state in the early 1920s to help establish an air force under the post-war Imperial Gift Scheme.

Black bought two of the rotting hulks, restored one of them, reported the paper, and sold it to the Imperial War Museum for about two million US dollars. The restored plane was unveiled at Duxford, Cambridgeshire, yesterday.

Said Black, "We haven't tried to fly it. I think we probably could but the museum won't allow it."

"I felt immensely proud seeing it being wheeled out at Duxford. You couldn't wipe the smile from my face."

Black hopes to restore the other hulk to make fit for flying in the next two years.

FMI: www.iwm.org.uk, www.cbrnp.com/profiles/quarter1/de-havilland.htm, www.historicaircraftcollection.ltd.uk/home


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