At Warbirds Online we are real fans of 1930s biplane fighters, in particular the Hawker series of aircraft including the Audax, Hind, Fury, Demon, Hartbees, Osprey and Hart and others. This series of designs was very successful being built in Bomber and Fighter configurations as well as a carrier based fighter in the case of the Nimrod and variants were exported all over the world, including Australia. The last in service were probably the Hawker Hinds in Afghanistan which soldiered on into the late 1950s. In all slightly more than 3000 of various models of Hawker Biplanes were produced mostly powered by various models of the Rolls Royce Kestrel V12 engine.
It was believed that very few of the machines had survived, being confined to a few examples in the UK. However, over the last 20 or so years quite a number of Hawker Biplanes have surfaced in many countries and made their way into restoration shops in some numbers, including a large cache of Hawker Hinds in Afghanistan.
Quite a few aircraft are now flying in the UK, with more to come.
On my recent visit to the UK a must do activity was to see a few of these magnificent aircraft fly, as I had only ever seen a single Nimrod fly in the UK some years ago. This time I was very lucky as I saw the The Fighter Collection Nimrod and the Shuttleworth Hawker Hind fly in the space of two days.
The Nimrod Mk 1 S1581, G-BWWK is operated by The Fighter Collection. It is the fourth production Mk. I, dating from late 1931 and from the first batch built. It is one of only two survivors, the other also airworthy and also based at Duxford is Nimrod II K3661, G-BURZ , operated by the Historic Aircraft Collection.
I was very impressed by the aerobatic capability of the Nimrod and the energetic display it put on at Flying legends and it made a great contrast to the two Gloster Gladiators also flown on the day. There is something quite magical to see these 1930’s biplanes in the air and the sound of the Nimrod’s Kestrel was also wonderful. It was a real highlight of my trip and one not to be missed.
The next day I was off to the Shuttleworth Collection, a short distance away and despite some inclement conditions I was able to see the airworthy ex-Afghan Hind, painted as K5414. Like the Nimrod this aircraft put on a dramatic display and was started rather uniquely by the Ford Model T based Hucks Starter. I hadn’t seen this before and it was another treat.
Old Warden, the home of the Shuttleworth Collection has to be one of the best settings to view old aircraft flying anywhere in the world with its grass runway and beautiful rural setting. It’s almost mystical and well worth a visit each and every time you venture to the UK.
I was very happy to see, hear and even smell these beautiful Hawker Biplanes. One day it would be great to see one or two flying here in Australia as we had the Hawker Demon in service. Upon my return to Australia I was delighted to see that Jack McDonalds long dormant RAAF Demon project was being restored to static condition at Caboolture Qld – but that is another story for another time….
And lets not forget the Hawker Demon A1-8 at the RAAF Point Cook Museum.
© John Parker 2014