A young pilot will become the first woman to fly a historic warplane built by a group of pensioners who started the job before she was born.

The Sopwith Strutter was a key part of the British and Allied Forces victory over Germany in World War I, and an exact working replica has been built by pensioners in East Lothian over the last 23 years.

Ellie Carter, 20, will be the first woman ever to fly a Strutter.

Ellie, who qualified to fly at 16 and was then the youngest female pilot in Britain, has a passion for vintage aircraft, especially “Warbirds”, and is excited at the chance to make history.

She said: “It’s amazing and I’ve met these fantastic men who have achieved something really special.

“I’m thrilled to become part of their story.”

The Sopwith Strutter was a key part of the British and Allied Forces victory over Germany in World War I.

The Strutter was the first plane ever to land on a moving aircraft carrier – in the Firth of Forth – and the 6,000 built by women in British and French factories for the conflict helped allied forces to win the war.

Pensioners aged between 65 and 100 built the historic biplane, which they call Sophie, from scratch in a big shed in East Lothian.

The only sadness is that nine of them did not live to see it finished, but their names are recorded on a plaque in the cockpit.

Each of the remaining volunteers will have the chance to fly in the two-seater with Ellie.

The group has included retired medics, teachers, civil engineers, film-makers and sign-writers – no one who knew how to build a plane.

Ellie qualified to fly at 16 and was then the youngest female pilot in Britain.

But they have now completed a glistening, perfect Strutter, with a working engine.

Adam Smith, former director of the National Museum of Flight, started to recruit volunteers in 2000, and is immensely proud: “This project has become a piece of history. I can’t think of any parallel.”

Edinburgh-based journalist Jean West has followed the story for almost a decade, and the project has seen posts go viral on TikTok, while one photo on Instagram reached 1.3m views.

As a result, Sophie’s first flight, which will follow meticulous inspections by the Light Aircraft Association, will generate huge interest.

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Alex McCall, who won a BAFTA for his famous documentary, The Boy David, and a Scottish BAFTA in 2020 for The Dark Shadow of Murder, is keen to make a film about the project.

A shortfall in funding has left him reliant on a Kickstarter campaign for funding and needs to reach £22,300 by 1 December.

McCall said: “This is important on many levels, but one is the connection made between these old guys and the young pilot.

Ellie, 20, will be the first woman ever to fly a Strutter.

“It is a piece of history in the making, that echoes a most remarkable piece of our history.”

Funding is also needed to keep the Strutter in Scotland.

It stands in an outsize converted fruit shed in Congalton, near Edinburgh, soon to be sold.

If the shed cannot be purchased, the plane is likely to move to England.

Mike Harper, chair of the Aviation Preservation Society of Scotland, said: “The Strutter is probably worth twice what the shed is worth, but we don’t want to see it leave Scotland, where it was designed and built.

“The guys are now looking for new, and hopefully younger, recruits, to start working on a Sopwith Pup, the plane that largely replaced the Strutter in battle.

“We hope we can attract funding to develop this project rather than see it fade away.”

You can make a donation toward the documentary - called 'Ellie and The Time Machine' - here.

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