The Hawker Hurricane entered RAF service in December 1937 and went on to become one of the most successful British fighter aircraft of the second world war, operating with distinction in all major theatres of the conflict.
Until recently, the experience of flying in this iconic fighter has been the preserve of highly-qualified pilots who have gone through extensive training. But 84 years later, almost to the day, there is now a two-seat Hawker Hurricane available for those who want to experience the thrill of flying one of the greatest fighter aircraft of all time.
Now operated exclusively by Hurricane Heritage (who are already the custodians of Mk1 Hurricane R4118, which is widely regarded as the most significant aircraft to survive the Second World War) , the two seat aircraft BE505 will be based primarily at White Waltham Airfield near Maidenhead. White Waltham was one of 22 dispersal units for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the second World War, delivering thousands of Hurricanes to squadrons around the country. The aircraft will be available for flights from April 2022, bringing the nostalgic and evocative sound of a Merlin engine back to the skies above the Berkshire countryside.
James Brown of Hurricane Heritage stated “Our aim is to continue preserving the legacy of the Hawker Hurricane and the brave pilots that flew her, for future generations to respect, admire and enjoy.”
Painted in the colour scheme of RAF serial number BE505 ‘XP-L’ issued to No. 174 squadron at RAF Manston in Kent, BE505 saw action during the Dieppe amphibious landings on the 19th August 1942. Flown by Flight Sergeant C. Bryce Watson, the aircraft was shot down with Watson subsequently becoming a prisoner of war.
With Hurricane Heritage, the aircraft will commemorate the service of BE505. Built by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company in 1942 (Construction number CCF/R20023), as a Mk1 variant with the RAF serial number AG287. However, the aircraft was diverted to the RCAF and served with the Canadian serial number 1374. In 1943 the Hurricane was upgraded to a MkXII which included the installation of the more powerful Packard build Merlin 29 engine.
The aircraft was struck off charge in September 1944, before being returned to the UK in the early 2000s and restoration began in 2005 at Hawker Restorations Ltd in Suffolk. The first post restoration flight was completed in 2009 and the two-seat configuration was later added in 2020 where the aircraft became the world’s only two-seat Hawker Hurricane.
Many Hurricanes were built at the Hawker Langley factory in Slough, just 12 miles from White Waltham. Designed as a monoplane derivative of the Hawker Fury by Sir Sydney Camm, born in Windsor only a stone’s throw away from White Waltham, the aircraft first flew on the 5th November 1935. It served with distinction throughout the conflict, claiming more than 60 percent of all air victories in The Battle of Britain. It was continuously developed throughout the war and served as a fighter, bomber-interceptor, fighter-bomber, ground support and with the Royal Navy as the Sea Hurricane.
Bookings are now open for flight experience flights in the Hawker Hurricane through Hurricane Heritage www.hurricaneheritage.com (from White Waltham Airfield).
Published on 14th December 2021 in News
Over the weekend of 26th / 27th August, R4118 suffered a cracked cylinder block which has brought our flying season to a premature end this year. Although disappointing for the whole team here at Hurricane Heritage, we’ve begun work on repairs and will take this opportunity to conduct other essential maintenance tasks before next season.
R4118 is a highly original aircraft and around 70% of the aeroplane you see today actually fought in the Battle of Britain, including her rare Merlin III. These engines were distinct from later models in that their cylinder blocks (which incorporate a cooling water jacket) were engineered from a single piece of aluminium alloy. This made them particularly susceptible to cracking and – excluding those engines damaged by enemy action – around 60% of all Merlin III blocks cracked during operational service, meaning that most engines didn’t meet their design life before requiring overhaul.
R4118 suffered exactly this problem after a short practice display on the 27th August, unfortunately grounding her just prior to her departure to Little Gransden Airshow.
The engineering team here at Hurricane Heritage is now very focussed on using the current period on the ground to address a number of maintenance jobs to ensure that, when R4118 takes to the skies again next year, she’s in the best-possible condition. With this in mind, we’re now working on a couple of key areas:
- Firstly, and most pressingly, we’re working on getting R4118’s Merlin III operational again. This will either mean returning the welded block to the engine if the can achieve a sufficiently-high quality of repair that both we and the CAA are satisfied with; or sourcing new blocks to fit to the engine.
- We’re going to take this opportunity to re-fabric all of R4118’s flying controls. This will include the ailerons, fin, rudder, tailplane and elevators. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be removing all of these components from the aircraft and sending them for recovering.
- We’ll also use this opportunity to conduct a full annual inspection on the aeroplane and rectify any other small issues we find along the way.
Once all of this work is done, we aim to rebuild R4118 around February 2018, ready for next year’s airshow season.
It goes without saying that, whilst disappointing to lose the engine mid-season, the most important thing for the team here at Hurricane Heritage is to ensure R4118’s safety and long-term viability as a unique airworthy survivor of the Battle of Britain.
If you’d like to support us in our efforts to continue the legacy of this wonderful aeroplane, please become a “Friend of R4118“. A £25 annual contribution goes a long way to help us keen this unique Battle of Britain veteran airworthy.
Heartfelt thanks in advance from everyone here at Hurricane Heritage for your generosity!
Published on 30th September 2017 in News
While we await our “Permit to Fly” to be issued, our 1942 Harvard – FE511 – has been moved to White Waltham. She’ll be based at this historic grass airfield through the early part of the Summer whilst we check-out some of our pilots on her, so drop in and say hello if you’re passing.
Special thanks to Stuart Scott who took this photo of FE511 whilst we were conducting engine runs last week.
Published on 24th May 2017 in News
On 14th March, our Harvard MkIIB made her first post-restoration flight from Gloucester back to her home airfield of Old Warden.
Delivered new to the Royal Canadian Air Force on 13th October 1942, FE511 served at No.6 Service Flying Training School at Dunnville, Ontario, for the duration of the war. In 1947, she was sold to the Swedish air force and she remained in that country until 2015, when she was acquired by Hurricane Heritage. The aircraft previously wore fictitious USAF markings, but has now been restored in the colours of a Harvard provided to the RAF under the wartime lend-lease agreement with the United States.
Having spent the last 5 months at RGV’s paint shop at Gloucester Staverton airport, FE511 was piloted back to Old Warden in the capable hands of John Dodd. On landing, John said that she handled beautifully with only a few minor adjustments required. Over the next few weeks FE511 will complete her flight-test programme before joining the Hurricane Heritage fleet to help prepare our pilots for the coming air show season.
Published on 15th March 2017 in News
After months of painstaking work by the teams at RGV and Ardent Paint Care in Gloucester, the restoration of our AT-16 Harvard MkIIB – FE511 – is approaching completion.
Delivered new to the RCAF on 13th October 1942, FE511 served at No.6 Service Flying Training School at Dunnville, Ontario, for the duration of the war. In 1947, she was sold to the Swedish airforce, and she remained in that country until 2015 when she was acquired by Hurricane Heritage and flown to the UK for restoration.
We expect her to return to her permanent home at The Shuttleworth Collection, Old Warden, within the next few weeks.
Here, for the first time in over 70 years, she’ll once again be used as an advanced trainer to prepare pilots to fly Hawker Hurricanes.
Published on 17th February 2017 in News
Over the last few weeks, our Harvard has undergone a complete strip-down and is now in the process of being repainted to represent an aircraft provided to the RAF in the early years of the war under the lend-lease scheme.
Once finished, she’ll display her original RAF registration – FE511 – and we hope to offer flights to members of the public later in the year.
The work is being undertaken by RGV at Gloucester and we expect her to be fully rebuilt and back in the air sometime in February.
In the meantime, James Brown (the boss of Hurricane Heritage) has been working hard to complete his check-out on the aeroplane. Having spent a week at Stallion 51 in Florida, James was signed off on their T-6G and is ready to get flying in our Harvard as soon as her repaint is finished.
Published on 25th January 2017 in News
Fears that the sole surviving Hawker Hurricane from the Battle of Britain would be sold to an international buyer were allayed today, with the announcement that the aircraft has been purchased by a British aviation enthusiast.
A UK software entrepreneur is the new owner of Hawker Hurricane Mk 1 R4118, ensuring that this unique Battle of Britain veteran remains in the UK.
Delivered new to 605 Squadron in August 1940, R4118 flew 49 operational sorties during the Battle of Britain, shooting down five enemy aircraft before being shot down itself. After a meticulous restoration by previous owner Peter Vacher, the aircraft is now regarded as the most historic British aircraft to survive in flying condition from the Second World War.
On his purchase, the new owner said: “R4118 is a remarkable survivor from the Battle of Britain. When I heard the aircraft was on the market, I knew it was critical that this unique piece of Britain’s history remained in the UK, so I’m very pleased to have been able to achieve that.
“My goal is to ensure that the Hurricane remains in the pristine condition that Peter Vacher has returned it to and that it continues to be a regular feature at British air shows for many years to come. Thanks to Peter’s efforts to return R4118 to flying condition, the aircraft commands huge affection from the British public and I’m proud to be able to play a part in her future.”
Commenting on the sale, Peter Vacher said “R4118 has been a huge part of my life for many years, but I have other projects that I’m keen to focus on and it’s time for a new owner to take on the mantle. I’m delighted that the purchase means not only that R4118 will remain in the UK, but that it will be cherished by a true enthusiast.”
R4118 will be moving to its new home at Old Warden Aerodrome, Bedfordshire in October where it will be placed on public display within the hangars of the Shuttleworth Collection. As well as continuing its participation in major airshows nationwide throughout 2016, it is hoped that the aircraft will also become a regular participant at Shuttleworth Collection events alongside its Old Warden stablemate, Sea Hurricane Mk 1B Z7015.
Published on 30th September 2015 in News