A century ago after its red fuselage and three wings struck fear into the young pilots of the Royal Flying Corps, the Red Baron’s triplane is set to fly again - over Norfolk.
A German GP hopes to this summer make his maiden flight in a nearly exact replica of the aircraft the German ace used to terrorise the skies over the Western Front.
Dr Peter Brueggemann will fulfil a childhood dream and emulate Manfred von Richthofen when the Fokker Dreidecker Dr1 fighter he has spent eight years building finally takes off.
Dr Brueggemann has spent an estimated £70,000 building the aircraft and has even acquired the title Baron from the micro-nation of Sealand off the English coast in homage to his idol. Patients at his GP’s practice in Holt have dubbed him the Red Baron of Norfolk.
The 52-year-old hopes aviation inspectors will soon declare his triplane airworthy allowing him to take off.
The aircraft has been built at Felthorpe airfield north of Norwich and is the result of a life-long fascination with one of history’s greatest fighter pilots, who is credited with 80 dogfight kills.
He said: “As children we all know the Red Baron and his triplane. When I was a child I built a model and whenever I saw a picture, I was fascinated.”
The original Dreideckers were all destroyed or lost, so Dr Brueggemann used technical drawings created in 1976 by an American aviation enthusiast called Ron Sands.
Dr Brueggemann, who studied at medical school in Germany before moving to Britain 20 years ago to look for work, has even used his surgeon’s skills to stitch the aircraft’s skin.
It is a devil to fly - many pilots were killed trying to fly it - so I've been practicing with older triplanes like the Tiger Moth
Dr Peter Brueggemann
He said: “Being a surgeon has certainly helped and I have used surgical equipment like needles and forceps when stitching materials to the ribs of the plane."
The model is an almost exact replica, using the same metal to construct the fuselage and wood imported from Finland to build the three wings, but for safety reasons has a modern engine.
The aircraft is equipped with two fake Spandau 7.92 mm machine guns.
He said: “This plane is almost identical to the one 100 years ago - the only difference is the engine.
"The machine guns really sound like machine guns. I've done it to make the plane more realistic so people can see the aircraft and hear the noises so they know what it was really like in the First World War.
"It is a devil to fly - many pilots were killed trying to fly it.
"You have to respect the aircraft and not be arrogant when you fly it. There are nerves but it is my dream to fly to Germany.
The Dreidecker measures 18ft 11in long, has a wingspan of 23ft 7in and is 9ft 8in tall. It has a maximum speed of 115mph.
Dr Brueggemann, who married an Englishwoman and has a son and daughter, said: “This type of aircraft is so unique - the way it looks and its red colour - and the history behind it is quite fascinating.
"It was Richthofen's idea for the plane to be painted red because he wanted to be seen fairly quickly by the enemy and for them to be afraid of him because they knew he was the only pilot with a red plane.
"Richthofen was not really a good pilot when he started by he really grew into the role.
"He actually came from the cavalry but he had a killer instinct and he always wanted to be more efficient.”
His wife, Sue, added: “It's taken so many years and he's dedicated all his holidays and weekends to it so we've seen so little of each other I've felt like the equivalent of a golf widow!”