John DibbsHurricane XIIB


G-HURR is one of only six airworthy Hurricanes in the world.  Its construction number is 52024 and it was built in 1942 as a Mark XIIB by the Canadian Car and Foundry Company in Montreal.  It is one of the 1451 aircraft built by them under license.  The majority were shipped to the UK or Russia to see active Service but some 75, of which this is one, remained in Canada.  The aircraft entered Service with the Royal Canadian Air Force (as Serial Number 5589) and was allocated to a Coastal Defence Squadron charged with helping to prevent the rising losses of Allied Shipping in Canadian Coastal Waters.  It was subsequently assigned to a training squadron involved with the training of Allied pilots until its de-commissioning in 1945.

The aircraft was eventually found and salvaged in 1970 by J Arnold of Ontario who later sold the aircraft to H Wherreat of Saskatchewan, Canada. In February 1988 Autokraft purchased the aircraft, which was by now little more than the basic airframe.  The aircraft arrived at Autokraft's Brooklands factory where a major restoration took place.  Over a period of 7 years, and 40 000 man hours of work, the aircraft was painstakingly restored to Airworthy Standards.  Great efforts were made to restore the aircraft in the most authentic way whilst at the same time embodying various modifications to comply with current UK airworthiness regulations and material standards.  The aircraft is now owned by the Real Aeroplane Company based at Brieghton in the UK.

To preserve this authenticity the airframe has been covered in finest quality Irish Linen.  All original hydraulics were fitted including the brake proportioning valve and Vickers double acting emergency landing gear pump.  The restoration has followed the original Hurricane Specification and particular attention was paid to using the correct gauge and tensile tubing in the mainframe.  The entire centre section is the original Hawker manufactured dual lamination duo-deconal section.  Correct duo-deconal sections have also been used throughout the tailplane and rudder sections.

The engine installed in the airframe is a previously unused Packard Merlin 225 which has been completely rebuilt embodying all the latest UK Civil Aviation Authority modifications.  Mixture control on the engine is fully automatic and the original mixture lever was not incorporated during the rebuild.  Both magnetos were similarly rebuilt.  A Stromberg PD16B1 injector carburettor was fitted to permit inverted flight.  To prolong engine life in this 'peace-time' environment an electric oil primer pump has been added to permit pre-oiling of the engine (before start) when it has not been run for more than 24 hours.  The propeller fitted to the aircraft is a Hamilton Standard P603 3-blade metal propeller with a constant speed unit.

The electrical system has been extensively overhauled and conforms to modern specifications.  However, the circuit layouts and equipment/components are unchanged wherever practical.  The biggest change worth noting is that a 24 volt, 25 amp/hour battery charged by an alternator replaces the old 12 volt DC system.

All cockpit gauges and controls are original with the exception of the Nav/Com equipment which had to be changed to make the aircraft viable in the modern flying world.  In the space left by the redundant Gyro Gun Sight two totally independent Becker radios have been fitted on the right-hand side, each with 4 pre-set channels.  To their left is a Becker transponder, and above these is a Garmin GPS100.  The GPS100 also drives a King HSI which is situated on the port-side instrument panel.  What a luxury to have good heading information in one of these old warbirds!

The aircraft was restored as a Mark XIIB or IIB and was initially painted in the colour scheme (B Scheme Camouflage) and markings of 402 Squadron of the Royal Air Force and bears the marking A-EK (Aircraft Serial Number BE417).  This was an aircraft which is well documented and which saw Service on several combat missions both during and after the Normandy Landings in 1944.  However, for last years' display season the aircraft was painted in "Night-Fighter" black giving it an exciting and unusual colour scheme for a Hurricane.

On the 6 November 1995 the aircraft was rolled out of Autokraft's workshop at Brooklands and her engine started for the first time after the rebuild.  It was a fitting tribute to all Hurricane aircraft, the sometimes unsung heroes of WWII, the prototype of which had made its first flight from Brooklands exactly 60 years earlier.


FLYING A LEGEND  (back to top)

It is difficult to describe the thoughts that go through your head when the moment arrives and you walk out to such a rare piece of history with the intention of actually flying her.  The excitement begins as your eyes take in the beautiful lines of the Hurricane.  The walk round is completed in a blur stopping only to consider the wartime appearance of the aircraft now that the effects of flight have mixed with the paint scheme to lend authenticity.  Getting into the cockpit is more tricky, without a fold down door as in the Spitfire, you feel as if you have to climb a long way to get in.  However, once in the cockpit it has a good feel, not too much room, familiar instruments and a good view over the nose for this class of aircraft.  Rearwards vision is rather limited because of the characteristic rear 'hump' in the fuselage.

After completing a 'left-to-right' check to make sure all the switches and controls are in the right place, the engine is primed (7-9 pumps), the 'mags' are selected On and the Booster Coil is pressed for 2 seconds before also pressing the Starter button.  Priming continues at a vigorous rate and after 3-5 pumps the Merlin bursts into song.  There is very little to beat the sound of a Merlin engine.  The aircraft takes some time to warm up, which allows the pneumatic pressure to also build up sufficiently to taxi.  Because of the tendency to nose-over at high power setting, power checks are done with 2 men 'on the tail'.  During the taxiing a gentle weave is required to get a good view of the path ahead.

The most important pre-take-off check is setting the rudder trim to full right; this along with the offset fin helps to counteract the swing on take-off.  Once lined up for take-off it was time for a final check of the P & Ts and that all controls were set properly.  Opening the throttle unleashes the roar of the Merlin which at 2850 rpm and plus 5" or 6" boost is quite mesmerising.  The aircraft was surprisingly easy to control during the take-off run; the tremendous vortex produced by the propeller allows the tail to be lifted early at about 40 mph, with the aircraft getting airborne at approximately 80 mph after a very rapid acceleration.  Once airborne you need to be quick to get the gear up before the 120 mph limit.  The climb speed is 140 mph with 2400 rpm and plus 4" boost.  During the take-off, and until the speed is increased and the power reduced, the aircraft is only marginally stable in pitch.  This concentrates the mind on your first flight and needs to be handled with care.  The flying technique does, however, quickly become natural and the problem goes unnoticed during later take-offs.

Up-and-away the aircraft is a delight to fly with a tremendous sound and smell in the cockpit.  It is a difficult aircraft to fly without a smile on your face.  Aerobatics are very easy with the powerful engine:  a loop is entered at 220-240 mph and a vertical roll at 300 mph.  The aircraft's peace-time maximum speed is 320 mph.  There is a slight tendency for the aircraft to 'tuck' at 3.5g resulting in an extra 0.5g but this does not cause any major problems during hard manoeuvring or aerobatics and is reported to be usual for the type.  Best range speed is between 160-180 mph where the engine consumes approximately 30 gallons of fuel an hour.  The only real vice the aircraft has is a vicious stall (at about 60 mph) in the landing configuration without any noticeable stall warning - one moment you are straight and level, the next you have stalled and are almost on your back.  One aspect of the Hurricane which you must remember when landing at minimum speed going into a short strip!

Back in the circuit the Hurricane is again very easy to fly for this type of aircraft, the really difficult bit is to get the speed below the gear and flap limiting speeds of 120 mph.  Tipping into finals with gear and full flap down the speed is reduced to 105 mph round the corner and settled at 95 mph on finals.  The visibility during the descending turn is good with the runway in sight until very late on finals.  The speed is reduced to 80 mph just before the threshold and a gentle flare and power reduction produces a three-point or very tail-down 'wheeler' landing.  Control on the runway is good using small amounts of differential brake to make up for loss of rudder power as the speed reduces.  The wider undercarriage span makes the landing much less tricky than in say a Spitfire.

With the aircraft back on chocks you cannot help but feel that you have been flying for only a few minutes and that you want another go.  You will also still have that silly grin you had whilst airborne! - another great day in paradise.

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