It all begins with an idea… an idea 35 years in the making!
Ever since my early childhood, I have always loved aircraft and in particular, fighter aircraft. I can recall watching the movie ‘The Battle of Britain in the mid-70’s and falling in love with the Spitfire. I drew pictures, built models and obsessed over the Spitfire. A few years later, the television series about Blacksheep Squadron (Baa Baa Blacksheep) and their F4U Corsairs became my new obsession.
Then along came a small film called Star Wars, which in 1977 turned the world upside down. The X-Wing was every boy’s dream machine. At least until a year later when Battlestar Galactica came on the scene and the Colonial Viper was, to my mind, the ultimate fighter aircraft. Better still, I was able to watch it on TV on a weekly basis!
I drew the Viper, built cardboard and balsa wood models of it (I couldn’t afford the Monogram plastic model kit) and with a buddy, built a cockpit mockup, made from a large cardboard carton. It had various controls including a joystick made from a wooden golf club head and toilet plunger, and a backlit target screen, made from tracing paper. All very primitive, but we were using our imagination and we had fun.
I had plans to build a wooden cockpit with a pespex canopy but it never eventuated. A full size Viper was an impossible fantasy, but always in the back of my mind.
Time stands still for no man and while I never lost my fondness for the Viper, I had a wide variety of life to experience, including high school, cars, university, girls, partying, marriage, building a house, raising children, playing guitar, writing music and of course, earning a living.
So roll on 35 years and I find myself revisting some of my childhood passions, including aircraft and the Colonial Viper. Now I can afford the plastic model kits of the Viper. Living on acreage with a large shed, I got to thinking that it was time to tackle my childhood dream of a full size Viper.
A search of the internet revealed similar projects had been attempted before, with varying degrees of success. Of the few examples that I found, none appeared to be accurate replicas of the full size production prop or the studio scale models used during filming of the original series. If I was to undertake a project of this scale (pardon the pun), I would insist on a reasonable degree of accuracy.
Never making things easy on myself, I also wanted to build the airframe completely from aluminium and steel, using airframe construction techniques similar to those used on the Spitfire and Corsair. I read about a guy in England who had hand built an all metal Spitfire for static display. This fired my imagination – if it could be done with a Spitfire, then surely the same techniques could be applied to a Colonial Viper. Without doubt this would be the most challenging part of the project, as my experience working with metal and aluminium in particular was limited. Add it to the long list of things to include on the already steep learning curve…
Realistically, can it be done? Yes, I believe it can – but it is not going to be easy and nor will be be quick. As an indication, homebuilt aircraft can take thousands of man hours to complete, although at least I don’t have to be concerned with engines, avionics or airworthiness.
Over the coming months I intend to post progress blogs through the design and construction stages of the project. Stay tuned…
The original Colonial Viper from the Battlestar Galactica television series: