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Page last updated at 13:10 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 14:10 UK
Time runs out for Sopwith Pup at RNAS Yeovilton
sopwith pup
The Sopwith Pup was originally built for night flights

A group of engineers restoring a World War I plane at RNAS Yeovilton have to find it a new home.

The Sopwith Pup has been housed at the naval base for three years on the invitation of the base commodore.

Because of changes to the membership system of the flying club based there, and potential changes within the MOD, the Sopwith Pup will have to move.

Two offers have been made but are both outside the county which will make restoration work difficult for members.

Kelvyn Baker, owner of the biplane, said: "There's lots of places to look at, but I would ideally like to keep it in the Somerset area if I could.

"We've got a wonderful offer from the Shuttleworth Trust to take it up there [Bedfordshire] and there's lots of possibilities to take it up to Filton but I feel it's too far for members to travel.

"It's a cross country run for me; we need to pop down at an evening or weekend, and by time you get there with a box load of tools and you've realised you've forgotten something... it's a long run."

'Excellent relationship'

The Sopwith Pup is the only remaining biplane of its kind, which was used during World War 1 and then decommissioned for civilian use.

Although some flight records exist for this plane, it disappeared from public records after 1923 where official reports indicated it had been destroyed during the government's acquisition of Hendon airfield as an RAF base.

However, after a gap of 50 years it was re-discovered at a farm in south Somerset in 1973 and was bought by Kelvyn who began restoring it at his home in Winscombe.

In 2007, he reached an agreement with the naval base to use space in one of the hangars.

"We appreciate we were there on a short term anyway, he's [the commodore at RNAS Yeovilton] been very kind and very helpful towards us but you've got to bear in mind he cannot make any ultimate decisions on his own, but I feel we can carry on with that excellent relationship," said Kelvyn.

A spokesperson from RNAS Yeovilton said: "Membership to Yeovilton Flying Club is subject to the conditions laid out in Joint Service Publication (JSP) 360.

"Members are subject to one month's notice to vacate the hangar at all times. Annual renewal of membership is not automatic and is at the discretion of the club."

Another factor is changes at the base itself, which will mean there won't be enough room for the Sopwith Pup, as more Lynx wildcats and equipment are set to based at RNAS Yeovilton in 2016.

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