A FIRST World War fighter plane has been gracing the skyline in Sussex.

Mike Clark, 62, a commercial pilot from Horsham, has built a replica Fokker Eindecker E.III in his back garden.

If the weather is good and the wind is right Mr Clark can be seen at the helm of the Eindecker, cruising at speeds of around 50 mph.

He said: “I needed an aircraft that I could fly off my airfield and this fitted the bill. It’s a great looking aeroplane.”

Although flying is his day job, Mr Clark said there was no comparison between the Eindecker and piloting commercial aircraft.

He said: “It’s so relaxing. You can just take off and fly. It’s much less restricted and there’s no autopilot so you can actually fly the plane. It doesn’t go very fast and the tank isn’t very big so I fly around West Sussex a lot. I think quite a few people will have seen me.”

It took Mr Clark 18 months to build the aircraft and cost £12,000 to buy and assemble the parts.

Since finishing it Mr Clark has clocked 90 hours of flying time from the custom made runway in his back garden.

So far, Mr Clark has taken the Eindecker up to 3,000 feet but is cautious about doing so again.

He said: “I only went up to 3,000 feet just to say that I did it. That’s quite high enough. You can’t really go higher than that and there’s no advantage to going higher. I normally fly at 1,000 feet.”

Mr Clarke’s grandfather served as a fighter pilot for Britain in the First World War and was photographed in a fighter on the same day that the Eindecker his replica is based on left the factory in 1915.

The only surviving original German Focker Eindecker has been in the London Science Museum since 1918 after being brought down in The Somme in 1916.

Mr Clark bought the equipment to make the plane from Grass Strip Aviation in Stroud, who sell aircraft kits.