Actualités & Presse

On display at this year's Easter Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow will be a 3/4-scale of the WW2 German Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D-9 fighter, built with painstaking attention to detail to make it as close of the real thing as possible.
With a background as a civil engineer, Swiss-born owner/builder Gilles Kupfer (38) first flew his Lucky Bird on 20 December 2007 at the military / civilian airfield near Sion, Switzerland, after a labour of love that took him more than five years.
In 1999, in the Swiss town of Veytaux, he unpacked that parts of his replica Fw 190 D-9 and, in 2001, he moved to St-Triphon near Geneva where he built an 8 m by 4m hangar between two houses, and knuckled down to putting it together.
This focus quickly grew to an obsession which sometimes saw him working on the aeroplane for up to 18 hours a day, living in the hangar with his project for six years. Gilles says he was able to draw from his welding expertise to make 30 modifications along the way.
The 3/4 scale Fw 190 D-9 was designed by the French former WW2 fighter pilot and ardent aircraft designer, Marcel Jurca, who, Gilles says, quickly became a great friend and mentor. During the first two years of construction, Marcel was often at his side looking, checking and encouraging him along the way.
Sadly, Marcel Jurca died in October 2001, aged 81.
The original Focke-Wulf 190 D series was pressed into service by the German Luftwaffe in September 1944 to attack American bombers on high-altitude raids. However, that priority ended with contrasting roles in high-altitude dogfights against British and American fighters, and ground attack missions. From August 1944, 1805 D-9s were built.
Powered by a 367hp, nine-cylinder Russian-built M14-P radial engine (the same engine found in the Russian-built Yak-52 and Sukhoi Su-26 aerobatic aeroplanes), Gille's replica Fw 190 is fully aerobatic and certified to +6, -4G. The engine, Gilles says, is strong, easy to build and get parts for, easy to maintain and costs less than the ubiquitous 160hp Lycoming engine.
Pulling this plane into the air is a 2.5m diameter constant-speed propeller built by international manufacturer MT Propellers. This distinctive paddle-like prop gives Gill's aeroplane a top speed of 270kt and a cruise speed of 170kt. He says MT Propellers was so excited by his endeavours that the company offered him a 50 percent sponsorship of costs to make him the prototype unit for his engine and airframe combination.
Gilles says his father, also a pilot, has been responsible for organising a long-running airshow at Bex, in Switzerland. It was at Bex, in 1998, that Gilles met Wanaka warbird pilot John Lamont, who was flying one of the UK-based Old Flying Machine Company's (OFMC) Spitfires.
OFMC owners and display pilots Ray and his son Mark Hanna - considered by many to have been the most respected and best classic aircraft display pilots in the world - regularly flew at the Bex airshow.
Mark Hanna was killed in Spain in September 1999 when approaching to land a Spanish-built version of the German Bf 109. He was 40 years old. His father, Ray, continued flying at airshows but died at his home in Switzerland in December 2005, aged 77. Ray was born in Auckland, and both these men had made many trips to New Zealand, flying in the Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow.
On the engine cowl of Gilles Kupfer's Fw 190 D-9 is the emblem of an eagle clad in a leather helmet and goggles with the words "Lucky Bird" inscribed underneath it. Gilles says he feels this is appropriate because he considers himself very lucky to have this aeroplane.
This replica Focke-Wulf, and the spirit Gilles feels in it when flying, he says is his way of paying homage to all the pilots from every nationality who fought in WW2. On the fuselage below the cockpit is a spades emblem, the badge of WW2 German Fw 190 D-9 unit JG53.
Gilles says the civil aviation authorities in Switzerand were making in unbelievably hard for him to register his Focke-Wulf - he got to fly it only once in Switzerland - and, encouraged by John Lamont, he moved to New Zealand and set up in Wanaka. Gilles says New Zealand is a beautiful country and he has no regrets about making this move.
With assistance from Rex Kenny at the Civil Aviation Authority in Wellington, Gilles was able to get his aircraft certification on the Experimental register in just over one month, and he got it into the air for the first time here on 16 March 2009.
Gilles went back to Switzerland in August last year, returning to New Zealand last month. He quickly settled into living in the hanger again with his aeroplane, and on 15 February, after a thorough check, oil change and ground run, he was airborne again for a 45-minute flight. He often gets airborne to soar in his Lucky Bird.
At Easter, Gilles' 3/4 scale Focke-Wulf Fw 190 D-9 will be parked on static display, and next year he hopes to be building two-seat kitsets to sell.

Barry Cardno / AVIATION NEWS / March 2010

Legends of the pictures, from the left to the right:
Attention to detail: Gilles points out the retractable foot-step which, like the original, is actuated by a button in the cockpit and  is horizontal to the ground.
Cockpit / instrument panel.
The paddle blades were designed for this engine/airframe combination by MT Propellers.