The Fighter Collection at Duxford has over the years included several of the P40 family of aircraft in its collection and as long as I have been travelling to Duxford I have always been impressed with these “Hawks”.
Currently, it must be said that the Curtiss fleet at The Fighter Collection numbers just about the rarest and most significant of the Curtiss Hawk series of aircraft flying anywhere in the world.
On the flight line at this year’s Flying Legends air show was a Curtiss P-36, Curtiss P-40C and Curtiss P-40F Warhawk, all of which are ultra-rare aircraft.
The Hawk is a French delivered H75 designated aircraft, also known as the P36 in the USA and the Mohawk in the UK and RAAF. The aircraft is a true war veteran having served against the Germans in the Battle of France in 1939 with 1ére Escadrille, Groupe de Combat 11/5 Lafayette at Reims. The Hawk then moved to Toul and fought later in Algeria. Following the capitulation of France the Hawk flew with the Vichy French against the RAF, RAAF and USN in Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.
Post war the aircraft served in France as an advanced trainer until 1949. After retirement the aircraft survived and was placed into storage with various collectors in France until in 1995 it was acquired by The Fighter Collection and restored in the USA. Following the restoration the aircraft was shipped back to Duxford in 2005 and has been a regular Duxford performer ever since. It remains the sole surviving airworthy example of the P36 line, but several more are in long term restoration, including one in New Zealand.
Curtiss P40C Bu No 41-13357 was accepted by the USAAC on 6th April 1941. The aircraft was issued to Patterson Field, Ohio and then after around 100 hours total time the aircraft was transferred to Puerto Rico. The aircraft was flown over 500 hours more before it was reconditioned and sent to Russia as part of the Lend-Lease programmer with the Soviet Union in December 1941. Little is yet known of the aircrafts Soviet service. During the 1990’s this aircraft and another (41-13390) were recovered from Russia by The Fighter Collection and a few years later a restoration was commenced in the USA and flew for the first time registered as N80FR on 5th August 2011. The aircraft is displayed in the colors of a P-40 based at Chanute Field, Kansas 39-159, a personal ‘hack’ for base commanders. The aircraft arrived just in time for the 2014 Legends show and looked beautiful in its highly polished finish – a very rare P40 indeed.
Lastly Curtiss P-40F Warhawk Bu No. 41-19841 is an Australian restoration carried out at Precision Aerospace at Wangarrata, Victoria. The aircraft is one of only two Merlin engine P40’s flying anywhere in the world, the other being the P40F of Judy Pay at Tyabb Victoria Australia. Built at Buffalo, New York in the autumn of 1942 and delivered to the Thirteenth Air Force in the Southwest Pacific on Christmas Eve 1942, the aircrafts service career is very confused. The wreck was salvaged from the largest of Vanuatu’s islands, Espiritu Santo in the 1970’s and spent some time in Australia before being acquired by The Fighter Collection and restored at Wangarrata.
The mighty Merlin powered P40 flew again in 2011 in the scheme of “Lee’s Hope” from the 85th Fighter Squadron, 79th Fighter Group, which was flown by Lt Robert J Duffield from Capodichino airfield, southern Italy in early 1944. The aircraft was then shipped to the UK and has been resident at The Fighter Collection ever since.
All three Curtiss types put on excellent performances, although the P40C and the P40F were a little curtailed due to the full program, whilst the H75 was utilized this year as a single aircraft display and it was its usual fantastic aerobatic self.
The Fighter Collection has now assembled just about the ultimate collection of Curtiss Hawk Fighters. It seems impossible to beat the Curtiss threesome, but with The Fighter Collection you “Never say Never”!
© John Parker 2014