A FIRST World War fighter aircraft soaring in the skies might seem an unbelievable sight.
But anyone looking up when Airbus worker Clint Morris takes his homemade plane out for a spin will see exactly that.
Fifty-year-old Clint, a process manager at the Airbus satellite site in Buckley, spent 15 years building a perfect working replica of the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a – in his garage.
Clint said: “Building my own plane has been a dream of mine since I was a small boy.
“I’ve always been interested in aeroplanes and would look up at them in the sky and think, ‘I’d love to be that pilot’.”
He spotted the model in a catalogue of designs issued by the Light Aviation Association (LAA) and sent off for the plans in 1989.
He set to work building the 20ft-long plane in his garage, which is only 8ft by 16ft.
“I was a bit stuck for space, so I had to build it in sections,” Clint, from Wrexham, said: “At one point I was storing parts of it on top of the wardrobe – my wife Karen is very understanding!”
Clint fitted in his plane-building hobby around his work and family life.
He said: “I had two small children so I couldn’t spend too much time on it, but I tried to do a couple of hours a week.”
Clint started work at the aircraft factory in Broughton in 1975, when it was owned by Hawker Siddeley Aviation.
“I was a sheet metal apprentice but I always enjoyed working with my hands so wanted to make the plane out of wood,” he said.
While he was constructing the plane he also started working towards his pilot’s licence.
Once the model was about 80% complete Clint needed a bigger workspace, so moved the construction to a nearby farm owned by former RAF pilot Al Mathie, who had also built a hangar there.
Clint said: “It was Al who first tested the plane to see if it could fly. It was so scary watching him fly something I’d built – my heart was in my mouth.”
Al returned from the test flight unharmed, but there were some problems with the plane’s engine which took about 12 months to put right.
In 2005 the plane was complete and Clint was able to take it out himself.
He said: “It was quite daunting, but it was marvellous taking off and while I was up there, looking down on the area I live. I was on cloud nine.
“It’s so peaceful and tranquil up there, although it can get cold at 3,000ft with an open cockpit and the wind in your face!”
The plane is checked yearly by the LAA to make sure it is airworthy, and Clint takes it out for a flight as often as he can.
It is powered by a refurbished engine and Clint sourced aircraft grade wood for the aircraft, but he says he prefers not to add up the cost of the project.
He said: “I don’t like to look at it like that – I think I’d turn pale.”