The Two Seat Hurricane
Operator: Aircraft Restoration Company
Year of Manufacture: 1942
Powered by: Rolls Royce Merlin II
Colour Scheme: Royal Air Force, 174 (Mauritius) Squadron.
Hawker Hurricane IIB BE505 (G-HHII), known as ‘Pegs’, is the world’s only airworthy two seat example of this classic wartime fighter. The Hurricane originated from the drawing board of the legendary Sir Sydney Camm, who went on to design other iconic fighters like the Tempest, Hunter, Harrier, and many others. The Hurricane first flew in November 1935 and entered squadron service just over two years later. It contained a lot of known technology; Hawkers having supplied the Royal Air Force with frontline fighters previously such as the Fury and Demon. The type is often considered something of an ‘unsung hero’ throughout wartime – it was often overlooked in favour of the more glamorous Spitfire yet performed a wider range of roles arguably more effectively. Its largely fabric fuselage was easy to repair in the event of battle damage and whilst the thick wing of the Hurricane might have prevented it reaching the same speeds as a Spitfire, it provided the aircraft with impressive turning performance and gave the pilots who flew it great confidence. Despite over 14,000 Hurricanes being constructed, only around 16 remain in an airworthy condition today. Part of the reason for this is the sheer number of man hours required to reconstruct a Hurricane; approximately double what would be required to get a Spitfire back in the air.
BE505 herself was built by Canadian Car & Foundry under license in 1942, initially as a Mark I for the RAF. However, the aircraft was reassigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force as ‘1374’ before it left the factory and entered service with them on 11th February 1942. The following year, the Hurricane returned to the factory for upgrade to Mk XII standard which included the fitting of a larger engine. Upon completion, ‘1374’ was allocated to No 1 (F) Operational Training Unit of Bagotville, Quebec with which it served until being decommissioned in September 1944. As so many Hurricanes were operated in Canada, many aircraft were sold off and numerous farmers acquired Hurricanes for use as spares sources for their farm machinery in the following years. This airframe remained largely untouched and was acquired by collector Jack Arnold in the 1970s. Many years later ‘1374’ passed to Hawker Restorations, who kept the airframe in store until 2005 when a restoration to flight began.
In 2007 the Hurricane was purchased by Peter Teichman of the Hangar 11 Collection based at North Weald Airfield in Essex and registered G-HHII. He had the aeroplane finished as BE505, a Hurricane IIB that had been based at Manston, Kent in 1942 with 174 (Mauritius) Squadron. The Hurricane IIB could carry a pair of either 250lb or 500lb bombs and hence became known as ‘Hurribombers’. Progress accelerated on the project and the aircraft made its first flight after rebuild on January 27th 2009 from North Weald in the hands of Stu Goldspink, who has flown almost all of today’s airworthy Hurricanes. The aircraft was operated by Hangar 11 for several seasons and could be seen at airshows across Europe wearing her distinctive markings. G-HHII was eventually put up for sale and in 2017 it was reacquired by Hawker Restorations with ambitious plans. Their intention was to convert ‘Pegs’ to fit a second seat and associated rear cockpit area with a stick and very basic instrumentation – something that had never been done before - to permit the carriage of passengers in much the same way as is permitted with Spitfires and other historic aeroplanes. After a lot of design work, the conversion began in 2018 and took 2 years to complete. The finished aircraft completely retained the traditional Hurricane lines and can certainly be described as a sympathetic conversion as from the outside the change is barely noticeable.
At the 2022 Goodwood Revival ‘Pegs’ was awarded first place in the coveted ‘Freddie March Spirit of Aviation’ concours, testament to the quality of the rebuild. G-HHII is now operated for passenger flights by Hurricane Heritage at White Waltham Airfield in Berkshire and maintained by the Aircraft Restoration Company at Duxford.
Images: George Lewis Romain