By Zac Yates
A British Hawker Hurricane which saw active service in France and Russia and was restored to fly for a New Zealander is soon to fly as a living memorial to Czech pilots over their homeland.
Letecké Muzeum Točná, Točná Airport, Prague, Czech Republic, is owned by internet entrepreneur Ivo Lukačovič and home to several heritage aircraft types, ranging from replicas of the first Czech-built Avias to the world’s sole currently flying Lockheed 10 Electra, a former South African Air Force North American Harvard, and examples of the indigenous Zlin trainer aircraft.
The latest addition to the Točná Airport collection is Hawker Hurricane P3351, originally built as a Mk.I and brought on charge with the Royal Air Force on June 1 1940. It saw service in the Battle of France with 73 Squadron RAF, including overflying the funeral of New Zealand ace and 73 Sqn pilot Edgar “Cobber” Cain DFC. Later modified to a MK.IIA and re-serialled DR393, it was shipped to serve with the Soviet Air Force and, although its service record there is largely unknown, the aircraft ended its war when crashed near Murmansk in 1943, after its radiator was damaged by possible German ground fire.
The Hurricane’s wreckage lay in the tundra until recovery in 1991 and two years later was purchased by New Zealand collector the late Sir Tim Wallis, who co-founded Hawker Restorations with UK engineer Tony Ditheridge to restore the aircraft. The project, which later became a joint venture between Hawker Restorations and Air New Zealand, was completed at the latter’s Christchurch, New Zealand workshop and the fighter emerged in its original Battle of France markings. The first post-restoration flight, at the hands of experienced Kiwi warbird pilot Keith Skilling, took place on January 12 2000. A book about the aircraft’s history and restoration was published and a documentary film was also produced (the latter recently rediscovered and restored as reported by Vintage Aviation News).
The Hurricane, registered ZK-TPK (TP being the codes of 73 Sqn and K the aircraft’s individual code letter) and configured as a Mk.IIA, debuted at the 2000 Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow and went on to become the flagship of Wallis’ Alpine Fighter Collection, also appearing at several other airshows around New Zealand over the next decade. However following a near-fatal take-off accident involving Sir Tim in his Spitfire Mk.XIV the Alpine Fighter Collection was gradually wound down, the Hurricane being one of the last aircraft to be advertised for sale.
In early 2013 the aircraft was purchased by French collector Jan Roozen and was a popular addition to the European airshow scene. On May 24 2015 P3351, now registered F-AZXR, suffered damage in a landing accident at Darois and underwent repair by Aéro Restauration Service at that airfield before returning to the display circuit. In 2019 the aircraft once again went on the market and was later purchased by a new owner who returned the Hurricane to Hawker Restorations, now at Elmsett Airfield in Suffolk, for a major rebuild including new fabric and an engine and prop overhaul, but the aircraft was to change hands again.
Enter Točná Airport, which purchased Hurricane P3351 at the end of 2022. Hawker Restorations continued the refurbishment work begun for the previous owner and, as part of Točná Airport’s plans to commemorate the connection between Czechoslovakia and Great Britain exemplified by the former nation’s airmen during World War Two, the aircraft’s previous Battle of France paint scheme was removed. Now resplendent in the markings of P3143/NN-D of 310 (Czechoslovak) Squadron RAF, the aircraft’s first engine runs are expected in January 2024 and it is hoped to have the Hurricane at Točná in the middle of the year.