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With its bullet-shaped cowling and seven-metre wingspan, the FK 23 Bantam is a striking aircraft. This historic flying machine, designed by the Dutch aviation pioneer Frederick Koolhoven, was to be the British answer to the dreaded German Fokkers during the First World War. It was a promising fighter plane, not least because of the brilliant simplicity of Koolhoven’s design, but it had an Achilles heel – the static radial engine. The test period dragged on for such a long time that the Bantam never saw action at the front.
After the war the amazingly fast biplane embarked on a brief second life as a demonstration plane, creating a sensation with its dizzying aerobatics at the great Amsterdam air show of 1919.
In this edition of the Rijksmuseum Series, author Harm Stevens tells the story about the FK 23 Bantam, the oldest, authentically preserved aircraft in the Netherlands. After a twelve-year restoration project, it can now be seen in its full glory in the Rijksmuseum, where it symbolizes the aviation revolution.