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6 November 2013

The Birth of the Hurricane

Special discount from 15:00 GMT (8:00 PDT) November 6 to 15:00 GMT (8:00 PDT) November 7: Hurricane Mk I and Hurricane Mk II repair costs are reduced by 40%

Born out of the famous Sopwith Aviation Company, the Hawker Aircraft company already had a fine reputation all across the world by the 1930s. Whilst working on the Fury biplane fighter the Hawker Design Staff, under the leadership of Sydney Camm, began working on designs for a monoplane fighter. Initially known in the Hawker design office as the ‘Fury Monoplane’ this new aircraft was beginning to take shape by Spring 1933. A general arrangement drawing was completed in December 1933 and detailed a low wing monoplane armed with four machine guns and fitted with a fixed undercarriage with spats, designed around the same Rolls Royce Goshawk engine that powered the Fury biplane.

Whilst this monoplane fighter had a relatively long tail fin and a blister-type cockpit, the wing and horizontal stabilizers were now showing the unmistakable silhouette of the legendary fighter which was beginning to take shape on paper.

The new design was continued as a private venture as the Royal Air Force was still very much interested in only conventional biplane fighters. The ‘Fury Monoplane’ title was dropped in favour of the name ‘Hotspur’ – although this name was later used for a separate project entirely. In 1934 the project took another leap forwards when Rolls Royce developed their P12 engine – which would go on to become the legendary Merlin – with its 1025 horse power, the Hotspur now had the potential for a significant increase in performance.

By the summer of 1934, after being approached by Camm, the British Air Ministry was now looking far enough ahead to consider moving the RAF forwards to the next stage of fighter evolution; Air Ministry Specification F36/34 called for a high-speed monoplane fighter armed with eight machine gun.

The specification itself was geared around the Hawker design which, by the end of the year had now developed to include a retractable undercarriage and fully enclosed cockpit. Designed around Hawker’s tried and tested steel tube framework, the new fighter was designed for simplicity of build and maintenance. To meet the Air Ministry’s specification, the original design for four fuselage mounted machine guns firing though the propeller disc via an interrupter gear was replaced with plans for eight wing mounted machine guns.

Work on the prototype – airframe K5083 – began in October 1934. The prototype of the ‘Hawker Monoplane Fighter’ took only eleven months to complete and, after successful taxi trials, took to the skies at Brooklands for the first time on November 6th 1935, with Hawker test pilot Flight Lieutenant PWS Bulman at the controls.

Designed specifically with a low wing loading so as to make an easier transition for biplane pilots, Bullman reported that the new prototype possessed pleasing handling characteristics – so much so that after only a few hours of test flying he was confident enough in the new aircraft to fly in close formation with a Hawker Hart to provide opportunities for photographs. From this first flight on November 6th, a legend of British aviation was born: the Hawker Hurricane.

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