|by Paul Holden, PRO|
17 September 2002
AIRCREW ASSOCIATION LEARN ABOUT THE HISTORY OF HAWKER AIRCRAFT
Members of the local branch of the Aircrew Association heard about the development of Hawker Piston engined aircraft in a talk by Poy Pullan, who first flew gliders in 1946, and subsequently joined the RAFVR before becoming an airline pilot, logging 15,000 hours with BOAC and BA.
Originally there was a Sopwith factory at Kingston in 1918, making motorcycles, which subsequently became involved with aircraft manufacture, with Harry Hawker as Sopwith’s chief test pilot. In the 1920s Hawker Aircraft was born, with Sopwith as chief designer. Harry Hawker subsequently suffered a spine haemorrhage whilst flying, and died before the aircraft crashed.
The first aircraft built under the Hawker label was the Woodcock 1 prototype night fighter. Following Sopwith, Sydney (later Sir Sydney) Camm became Chief Designer, responsible for the Woodcock2, the Hawker Horsley Torpedo Bomber. One of these aircraft was modified, increasing the fuel capacity from 230 to 700 gallons, to fly long distance to India. Flt/Lts Carr and Gillron took it off from Cranwell, but unfortunately they ditched in the Persian Gulf after covering some 3,400 miles. Another Horsley aircraft became the test bed for the Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
Under Sydney Camm a system was designed and patented for building all Hawker aircraft, and the Hawker Dumbell Spar was developed. In December 1926 they tendered for the Hart bomber, which with an Rolls Royce engine which subsequently developed into the Kestrel, it was able to outrun all the fighters of its day, right up until 1939. It also was used as the test bed for Hurricane radiators. A development of the Hart was the 2-seat Demon fighter, which was introduced into service in March 1931, being subsequently further developed into the Hawker Hind.
The famous Hawker Fury was built as a Private Venture. It first flew in March 1931, and was first delivered in an incredibly short space of time by May 1931. In August 1933, thought was given to developing a monoplane version of the Fury. and in 1934 Prototype K5083 fist flew with retractable undercarriage, closed cockpit and a two-bladed propeller. It completed its flight trials in 1936, went into production in 1937 as the Hurricane, with a top speed of 325 mph. The first squadron (111) was formed in 1938 and the rest, as they say, is history! A total of 4000 Hurricanes were produced altogether, followed by the Tempest and Typhoon fighters in 1939 in 1940. 638 out of 1771 flying bombs destroyed were brought down by Tempest Vs with Napier Sabre engines. 800 aircraft were built, and continued in service until the end of the war, when they were superseded by the first jet fighters.
The last piston engined fighter built by Hawkers was the Sea Fury, of which 650 were built. The Hawker factory at Kingston has now become a housing estate!