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Published 07 August 2012

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1936 Hawker Fury Mk. I

Historic Aircraft Collection’s 1936 Hawker Fury Mk. I flies for the first time at Goodwood

A very special aircraft has flown for the first time; the only surviving pre-war Hawker Fury biplane fighter. 

This Mk. I Fury, K-5674 manufacturer’s serial number 41H/67550 (reg. G-CBZP) has been faithfully restored to flying condition by Retrotec Ltd. and the first flight quietly occurred on the 30th of July by Flt Lt Charlie Brown. It is Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd’s policy, the owners, not to have any spectators at a first flight, to avoid added pressure on the pilot in an aircraft type with few flight guidelines surviving and even fewer surviving pilots who flew the Fury. 

The remains of this rare aircraft were discovered on a farm in South Africa and acquired by Historic Aircraft Collection Ltd. in 1992, following information received from staff at the RAF Museum. After an 18-year restoration, the Hawker Fury was first shown to the public at IWM Duxford in 2011, but then taken to Goodwood to be put on display at the Revival meeting in September 2011, being entered into The Freddie March Spirit of Aviation Concours, where it won 1st place.  Since then it has been at Goodwood Aerodrome awaiting the hard-won Permit to Test to be issued by the CAA.

Although the aircraft has been ready to fly for over a year, the increasingly stringent demands of the UK CAA have meant some extremely expensive technical investigations of considerable depth have had to be undertaken by an independent design engineer, even though the aircraft is as faithful a restoration as modern materials will allow. About 190 investigations in all, at an average cost of £2,000 each, meant an expensive and protracted exercise. Fortunately all Retrotec’s design interpretations were found to be sound. Retrotec has M5 A8-20 CAA approvals.

The aircraft is presented in the paint scheme it was flown in when it was operational at nearby RAF Tangmere, as part of the famous ‘Fighting Cocks’, 43 Squadron. It was then the personal aircraft of Flying Officer F. Rosier, Officer Commanding ‘B’ Flight, later to become Air Chief Marshall Sir Frederick Rosier GCB, CBE, DSO. Today, his Son, David Rosier is present with his father’s log books to see the ‘Queen of the North and South’ as his father named his Fury, take to the skies for another test flight - subject to serviceability and weather. Incidentally, HAC has found no evidence of this name being applied to the Fury – if anyone has a photograph showing this, HAC would be very pleased to see it.

Only two of the most elite squadrons were equipped with Furys, as they were tricky to fly and astonishingly fast - easily exceeding 200 mph in level flight but the aircraft were extremely expensive to build by the standards of the day – a fact that became obvious to Retrotec and the owners during the rebuild! The Fury very much mirrored the EuroFighter (Typhoon) of today.

Flying Officer Rosier first flew the Fury during December 1936 but had to relinquish the aircraft in February 1939, seeing the sad sight of the flamboyant paint scheme being replaced by drab wartime camouflage. It was eventually sent to South Africa in 1940, being taken on charge by 13 Squadron, based at Swartkop, but was damaged in a forced landing being subsequently struck off charge in March 1941.

The restoration of this beautiful pre-war fighter aircraft, undertaken by Retrotec Limited, of East Sussex, was the most challenging restoration the company has ever undertaken, due to the paucity of surviving information and parts, the complex nature of its construction and in re-engineering the exceedingly rare Rolls Royce Kestrel IIS engine.  By an incredible co-incidence, Airfix have just announced a 1:48th plastic scale model kit of this very aircraft.

The Fury will be based at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, in Hangar 3, alongside HAC’s other aircraft. It is not certain when the first flying display will be, as it will be necessary to obtain the CAA Permit to Fly once the test flying is completed, the very changeable weather of this unusual British summer determining the time table.

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