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Suffolk's punch

Air-to-air pictures courtesy of Kev Baxter

Deep in the heart of rural Suffolk is a small workshop that punches well above its weight, restoring Hawker Hurricanes to their former glory. The latest to take to the skies once more is former Sea Hurricane XIIA BW881, now wearing the colours of '5429/Z', representing a Canadian Home Defence machine from 135 'Bulldog' Squadron, Royal Canadian Air Force. BW881 was originally built in Canada, so the markings are appropriate in that respect, its service life being entirely with the RCAF.

Rebuilt over the last five years by Hawker Restorations at their Milden workshop near Sudbury, BW881 took to the air once more at Wattisham Airfield on 15 March, as the airstrip at Milden is too small to safely operate a rebuilt aircraft on its first flight. Now registered G-KAMM, BW881 has been rebuilt with a Packard 224 and Hamilton standard hydromatic propeller. It is fitted with eight browning machine guns, including ammunition, ammo boxes, and original valve radio equipment, making it one of the most authentic rebuilds yet completed by Hawker Restorations. The weaponry will not be fitted for the transfer to the USA due to customs implications, however.

At an estimated cost of £1.5 million, the aircraft will depart to the USA and its new owners, the Flying Heritage Collection based at Arlington airfield near Seattle. Established by Microsoft entrepreneur Paul Allen in 1998, the collection is rapidly establishing itself as one of the leading historic aircraft movements in America. Taking G-KAMM for its first post-restoration flight was reknowned pilot Stu Goldspink, a familiar name to many from his regular airshow appearances at Duxford flying The Fighter Collection's aircraft, in particular the P-47D Thunderbolt. Of G-KAMM, Stu said "This is back-to-basics flying. You don't really need any of the instruments in there - you can tell what it is doing by the feel of it."

Hawker Restorations is a sister company to AJD Engineering, formed by Tony Ditheridge, well known for his restorations and replicas of World War One and classic aircraft. HR was formed specifically to rebuild Hurricanes, and was created in co-operation with Sir Tim Wallis of the New Zealand-based Alpine Fighter Collection, who originally procured BW881. Hawker Restorations can now manufacture its own wings, which are fitted to G-KAMM.

Thanks to RQHI 4 Regiment, OC 654 Sqn, AAC and in particular to SSgt M Derbich and Stu Goldspink, the pilots for the sortie, without whom the shoot would not have been possible.


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