In 1992, Peter McMillan and Lang Kidby were camping on Moreton Island, off the east coast of Australia. The two friends had shared flying experiences in the past and were considering new adventures. As their conversation drifted to aviation history, they noted that the Vickers Vimy had largely been forgotten, as had the impact of her three record-setting flights shortly after World War I. What an amazing experience it would be, they mused, to retrace the trails of those early aviators. Thus the Vimy project was born.
But to reenact the Vimy’s achievements, it would be necessary to re-create the Vimy herself. As Peter and Lang reached out to other aviation enthusiasts, they met John LaNoue, who replicated a Vimy factory in a hangar in Northern California and, with the help of engineers, designers, and many volunteers, spent a year and a half building a modern Vimy. By 1994, the replica was ready for her first long-distance flight. The next year, Peter and Lang reenacted the 1919 epic journey of Ross and Keith Smith by flying the replica from England to Australia.
Two more flights remained. In 1999, John LaNoue and Mark Rebholz successfully flew the replica from England to South Africa. Their predecessors, Pierre van Ryneveld and C. J. Quintin Brand, had been unable to complete their flight, having crashed their Vimy near an airfield in Zimbabwe in 1920.
The Vimy team wondered if they had the energy and the resources for the final flight-the reenactment of John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown’s nonstop crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in 1919. Meeting renowned aviator Steve Fossett provided the resources and impetus to move forward. In July 2005, with Steve as pilot and Mark as navigator, the Vimy replica completed her final long-distance flight.
Over nearly two decades, the Vimy project was sustained by the support of thousands of volunteers and innumerable sponsors and touched the lives of people in many countries.