by Carrie Frye | Photography by Diana Matthews
A summer’s day turned into a scene from the 1930s as Roland Gilliam, owner of Gilliam McConnell Airfield in Carthage, and a group of fellow pilots and classic-car-owner friends lined up a World War I SE5A British fighter biplane replica aircraft among five 1930s classic autos in the grass next to the landing strip.
Gilliam’s 1917 SE5A aircraft is a full-scale replica he purchased eight years ago from its builder, who made it for the 2004 major motion picture, “The Aviator.” The SE5A was back home in Carthage at the airfield after an extended stay at the Military Aviation Museum in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
“The SE5A is arguably the best airplane of World War I between it and the German D8,” Gilliam says. “This is the only full-scale replica SE5A I have ever seen.”
This SE5A is air worthy, powered by its Ford V-6 engine.
“It’s harder to fly than your normal airplane, because it’s a tail dragger,” Gilliam says, pointing to the design of the back end of the aircraft.”