Sea Fury Sawbones Sold to Australia

Reno air race veteran to join Paul Bennet Airshows stable of warbirds

Sea Fury VH-HPB, formerly the Reno racer Sawbones, is unpacked in Australia after purchase by Paul Bennet. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]
Sea Fury VH-HPB, formerly the Reno racer Sawbones, is unpacked in Australia after purchase by Paul Bennet. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]


By Zac Yates

Australia will soon have a flying Hawker Sea Fury for the first time in close to a decade as the crowd favorite Reno racer Sawbones has been purchased by warbird and aerobatic pilot Paul Bennet, and has arrived “Down Under” for a March airshow debut.

Sea Fury VH-HPB, formerly the Reno racer Sawbones, is unpacked in Australia after purchase by Paul Bennet. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]
Engineers carefully lift the aircraft in order to lower the undercarriage and sit the aircraft on Australian soil. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]

One of the batch of Hawker Fury airframes secured by Ed Jurist and David Tallichet from Iraq in 1970, FB.11 325 was restored to flight by George H Baker’s American Aero Services with a Wright R-3350 in place of the original Bristol Centaurus, folding wings and a second seat for a passenger. Registered N71GB and wearing Royal Australian Navy markings the aircraft first flew in 1990 and went on to compete at Reno 18 times, first under the name Sky Fury (as Race #711 and #47) and later as Southern Cross (Race #47 and #71). In 2008 she became Race #71 Sawbones with Royal Canadian Navy roundels over the kangaroos and quickly became a crowd favorite. However her racing career ended with a canopy failure at the 2019 National Championship Air Races, pilot and former Space Shuttle commander Curt Brown making a safe landing, and later the aircraft went up for sale.

Curt Brown was Sawbones’ regular pilot at Reno and flew to victory in an Unlimited Class Silver Heat at the 2013 air races. [Photo by Moose Peterson]

The Royal Australian Navy operated the Sea Fury from 1948 until 1962 and the country has periodically been home a handful of privately-owned examples since 1985, but not since the 2010s has the distinctive shape of Hawker’s finest been seen over Australia. That will change once this aircraft, which arrived in the country in mid-February and is now on the Australian civil register as VH-HPB, takes to the skies.

Sea Fury VH-HPB, formerly the Reno racer Sawbones, is unpacked in Australia after purchase by Paul Bennet. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]
The port wing is reattached to Sea Fury VH-HPB. Although built as a “Baghdad Fury” with fixed wings, when restored in the U.S. during the 1980s folding wings were fitted. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]
“I have wanted a Sea Fury for a long time,” Paul Bennet told Vintage Aviation News. “I went to discuss this one with Mark Clark from Courtesy Aircraft Sales and I made an offer which was accepted, so here we are.”

Bennet is no stranger to flying vintage heavy metal as he operates an enviable roster of warbirds under the Paul Bennet Airshows banner and has extensive time in other types. “I have had plenty of experience flying warbirds such as Avenger, Trojan, Wirraway, Harvard, Mustang, Kittyhawk, Spitfire, Hurricane etc so I am looking forward to displaying a Sea Fury,” he said.

Sea Fury VH-HPB, formerly the Reno racer Sawbones, is unpacked in Australia after purchase by Paul Bennet. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]
The starboard wing of the Sea Fury is gently eased into place. The Royal Canadian Navy’s maple leaf roundel remains on the wings but changes to the paint scheme are coming, as hinted at by the fuselage roundel. [Photo Paul Bennet Airshows via Facebook]

As well as showcasing his warbird fleet around the continent Bennet, based at Maitland in New South Wales, also displays his Wolf Pitts Pro and flies with the three ship SkyAces formation aerobatic team.

Bennet said he plans to debut the Sea Fury at Airshows Downunder Shellharbour on March 1-3 and then display it again at Warbirds Over Scone on March 23 and 24.

 

Array

2 Comments

  1. The captions incorrectly identify the wings being attached. I.E. “starboard wing is reattached” is actually the port wing. “Port wing is reattached ” is actually the starboard wing.

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