Rare WWII Hawker Hurricane plane restoration almost complete
Passion isn’t something often captured in words. Sometimes you can see it — sometimes you can’t. But you can always feel it. Feel it in yourself, or feel it in someone else.
Inside a hangar in Wetaskiwin, Alta., passion is everywhere.
I actually promised not to reveal exactly where this particular hangar is.
“We wouldn’t get any work done,” I was told. Passion is contagious, after all.
For more than five years, Greg Davis has been slowly and meticulously re-building a rare WWII aircraft called the Hawker Hurricane.
A process that began with what he calls “a pile of boxes on the floor.”
Pictures of the Hurricane are pinned on the wall. Diagrams and magazines litter tables. He has a Hurricane manual and a number of textbooks.
He re-assembled the plane using the pieces he was given. Most everything else he built himself. Figuring out what paint to use took a year and a half.
“Trying to find out exactly what shade of green is appropriate for this airplane is almost impossible,” says Richard De Boer. He’s the president of the Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society. He has a huge diagram of the plane rolled out in front of him. A fellow aircraft aficionado and model builder drew up the diagrams.
Few have actually seen what Davis has been working on, but de Boer has been here a lot.
“You know, every few months to check on the progress, to help out with parts, to source materials and plans and information has been my life for quite a number of years and I love that part of the process,” says de Boer.
You see, he’s the money side of this operation and he knows just about everything there is to know about the Hawker Hurricane.
“It was a few 100 guys in the Royal Air Force flying Hurricanes and Spitfires that beat the German invasion back and prevented them from taking over the UK and that’s where the Hurricane really made its name,” says de Boer.
The few allowed in the room agree that though the Spitfire gets most of the credit for famous WWII air battles — it’s the Hurricane that is the hero.
“The reality is, the Hawker Hurricane shot down more German airplanes than all other allied aircraft types combined,” says de Boer.
The Hawker Hurricane was also used in the Second World War to defend Canada’s Atlantic sea approaches.
According to de Boer, about 14,500 Hurricanes were built for WWII. Around 1,400 were made in Canada. The one being re-built inside this hangar guarded Canada’s west coast in the 1940s.
Following the war, it was sold to a farmer in Gravelbourg, Sask. In 1963, it was purchased by the Air Museum of Canada, which intended to build an aviation museum in Calgary. A few years later, the museum idea disappeared and the plane eventually ended up property of the city of Calgary.
“It literally sat disassembled in in boxes, in storage from 1963 onward,” says de Boer.
About 10 years ago a wealthy collector from the UK approached the city about buying another vintage plane owned by Calgary, called a de Havilland Mosquito. The collector was willing to pay $1 million for the Mosquito and the Hurricane, with the intention of restoring the Hurricane and sending it back to Calgary.
de Boer suspects the restoration would have been done with cheaper parts, so the Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society wanted to stop the sale of the planes.
“We went to the city as the owners and said, ‘look don’t do this deal, it’s a really bad idea,'” de Boer said.
It took years, but the Society convince the city to keep the planes. Eventually they worked out a deal. Calgary would pay $700,000 to have both planes restored and The Calgary Mosquito Aircraft Society would have to raise the another $700,000. It was done in less than two years.
“Anything it takes so that this airplane doesn’t leave Canada.”
There are 62 Hurricanes left in the world, and just 17 of them fly. This one won’t take off, but it will come close — able to start up and taxi the runway. By the spring, it will be at The Hangar Flight Museum in Calgary.
“We can start it up and put it on the runway and let everyone enjoy it,” says Brian Desjardins from the museum.
“The completion will be the cherry on top of the ice cream on the top of the sundae,” says de Boer.
As for Davis, he won’t mind when the Hurricane is out of his hangar. Restoring airplanes is his passion, but it’s also his job. Once the Hurricane is gone, another passion will be waiting.
WATCH: Londoners enjoyed a flypast of fighter aircraft on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, when four Supermarine Spitfires and two Hawker Hurricanes flew over the Westminster Abbey.
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