November 6, 1935: The Hawker Hurricane is first flown. The British Air Ministry introduced specification F36/34 calling for a new fighter plane. The new plane would be used by the RAF Fighter Command. There were 13 squadrons already flying Hawker Furies, Hawker Hart variants, or Bristol Bulldogs. These were all biplanes with fixed-pitch wooden propellers. The new plane was to be built around the Rolls-Royce engine called PV-12 (later named Merlin). Europe’s political landscape was unstable at best. The Royal Air Force needed a new design.
The new plane was designed by Sydney Camm. He was an aeronautical engineer working on aircraft since the 1920s. His first plans submitted to the Air Ministry were rejected. He went back to the drawing board and designed a plane as a private venture with Hawker. He used as many existing components as possible and created a monoplane version of the Hawker Fury. The prototype design used a different Rolls-Royce engine but switched to the Merlin. The plane also featured a retractable undercarriage. The plans were finished in May 1934. A 1/10 scale model was built and sent off for wind tunnel testing. It passed.
Next, a full sized wooden mockup was built. The plane remained viable. A prototype, K5083, was built using the Merlin engine. The plane was shipped in sections to Brooklands and reassembled there. Ground tests went well and so Flight Lieutenant P.W.S. Bulman took the plane for its maiden flight on this day. This, too, was successful. A priority for Camm’s design was providing fighter pilots with unobstructed views. Therefore, the cockpit was raised giving the plane its distinctive humpback look.
The Hurricane went into production in June 1936. As the likelihood of war increased, the ease of construction was an extra perk. The first production Hurricane was flown October 12, 1937. The first four planes were delivered to the RAF by December. By the time war was declared, almost 500 planes had been produced, equipping 18 squadrons. Overall ≈ 14,000 Hurricanes and Sea Hurricanes were built. The planes flew en masse and darkened the skies across Europe, defending the homeland and allies. Each Hurricane went out with a crew of one.
“Up there the world is divided into bastards and suckers. Make your choice.” – Derek Robinson
“I mean, I had fast motor cars and fast motor bikes, and when I wasn’t crashing airplanes, I was crashing motor bikes. It’s all part of the game.” – Sir Harry Broadhurst, RAF, 12 victories World War II
“Fight on and fly on to the last drop of blood and the last drop of fuel, to the last beat of the heart.” – Baron Manfred von Richthofen, aka the Red Baron
“Fighting in the air is not sport. It is scientific murder.” – Captain Edward V. ‘Eddie’ Rickenbacker, USAS
This article first appeared at examiner.com in 2009. Editor’s update: Sydney Camm was born in Windsor in 1893, the eldest of twelve children. He took an early interest in flying and aeronautics, building model planes. His greatest model was a man-carrying glider built in 1912, just nine years after the first powered flight. He worked as a carpenter’s apprentice at the Martinsyde aircraft company. He was able to join Hawker Aircraft Company as a senior draughtsman in 1923 and became Chief Designer in 1925. He worked on many of the company’s planes including the Typhoon, Tempest, Harrier, and Hunter. At his death, he was working on an aircraft designed to travel at Mach 4. He was knighted in 1953 as recognition for his achievements in advancing British Aviation. He died in 1966 on the Richmond Golf Course; he was 72 years old at the time.
Also on this day: The Most Reverend John Carroll – In 1789, the US gets her first Roman Catholic Bishop.
Mr. President – In 1861, Jefferson Davis was elected President of the CSA.
George? – In 1856, an anonymously published book was submitted.