After six years of negotiations by Peter Vacher to ship R4118 home from India, the airframe was safely delivered to Hawker Restorations in Suffolk in June 2001.
Considering that it had stood outside in India for 54 years, suffering the annual monsoons, it was still in remarkable condition. The centre section steel spars had to be replaced, along with the wing spars. Most aluminium parts were reused, as well as the internal wing structures. The hydraulic and fuel systems were preserved intact. Original electrical components and instruments were sourced.
Meticulous attention was paid to make sure R4118 was restored to a condition exactly as it had been flown in the Battle of Britain. Even the original VHF radio and Identification Friend or Foe equipment were found. The original Browning .303 machine guns were reconditioned before being de-activated and refitted. The airframe was covered in original Irish linen and painted by Vintage Fabrics.
The early Merlin III engine was rebuilt by Maurice Hammond. The Rotol propeller was constructed by Skycraft and included new original-type wooden blades. During the rebuild, every component was subjected to the rigorous demands of the Civil Aviation Authority, ensuring maximum safety and durability.
Discovery in India 1982, dilapidated but virtually complete
Peter Vacher discovers the abandoned Hurricane in India, 1982
R4118 begins its journey from India to UK, 2001
Fabric covering hides the complexity of the Hurrican's construction
New wood structure over Hawker tubular airframe
Tailplane before fabricing
Restored Merlin engine rocker gear
Restored gun compartment complete with original Browning machine guns
Cockpit restored as it appeared during Battle of Britain
The first test flight was made from Cambridge Airport on December 23 2004, with Pete Kynsey, Chief Pilot from The Fighter Collection at Duxford, at the controls. Air traffic gave clearance, the Merlin engine roared and for the first time in 60 years, R4118 was airborne. After 25 minute flight, the plane came in for a text book landing and Pete pronounced that all was well.
Three weeks later on January 13 2005, R4118 made its official launch flight, in front of an invited audience including families of WWII pilots Peter Thompson, Denis Winton, Walter Churchill and Alec Ingle. Also in attendance for this historical flight was Bob Foster, who had flown nine operational sorties in R4118.
Asked later about that day, Bob Foster commented: “When Peter first called me up and said he had discovered one of my old Hurricanes I thought it was a wind-up. It really is unbelievable that, almost 65 years after the events of 1940, I have had the privilege of sitting in old R4118 again.”
Man hours to restore R4118
Original based on number of parts restored
Years from discovery in India to being airworthy
Years between the Battle of Britain and the post-restoration test flight
Minute first test flight after restoration was completed
Almost a decade after completing the restoration of R4118 – and after many years of taking the plane to airshows, displays and of course the Battle of Britain 75th year memorial events, Peter Vacher decided to put R4118 up for sale, to focus on other projects.
On September 29th 2015 – two weeks after Battle of Britain Day – Hurricane Heritage took ownership of the aircraft and R4118 is now based at The Imperial War Museum, Duxford.
Hurricane Heritage runs flight operations from the beautiful and historic White Waltham Airfield.
The airfield has a long and illustrious history, dating back to 1935 when the de Havilland family acquired the land and formed the de Havilland School of Flying. Home to the Air Transport Auxiliary during the war, it's now a friendly and active aerodrome with great facilities.