Newsletter 17
Summer 2007
Updated on 28Jul2007
Aces, Erks, Backroom Boys
Annual General Meeting
Dunsfold Wings and Wheels
EDO to Project Office
Eric Rubython
F-35 Lightning News
From Ribs to Retirement
Hawk News
Hawker Nimrod Query
Hawker People News
Hunters Still Active
Kingston Aviation Heritage
Racing Gliders
Unlocking Potential
Upper Heyford Recollection
V/STOL Wheel of Misfortune
Why Pay More

Published by the Hawker Association
for the Members.
Contents Hawker Association

    Harry Fraser-Mitchell recently came across a copy of 'Aces, Erks and Backroom Boys' by Edward Smithies (published by Cassell PLC in their Military Paperbacks series), now out of print, and noticed that it contained material of great interest to Association members. Harry has obtained permission for extracts to be quoted in the Newsletter....
    Frank Baker, a long serving RAF pilot flew the Hurricane and the Spitfire. "The Hurricane was an idiot's aeroplane, very forgiving. If you couldn't fly it you really shouldn't have been in the air. The undercarriage was strong, so well constructed, that you could drop them in very carelessly and get away with it. They would bounce and bounce. If you did that in a Spitfire the undercarriage would have poked up through the wing. The Hurricane was also much stronger. From the cockpit back it was wood covered with fabric. (Editor's note - a common and oft repeated misconception. The rear fuselage was, of course, a tubular metal structure with wooden formers and stringers covered in fabric).
Aces, Erks And Backroom Boys

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    You could shoot away great lumps without affecting its performance too badly. Do the same with a Spitfire - the monocoque metal construction wouldn't take the punishment. The Hurricane could turn very, very tightly and in dog-fights it all comes down to who can out-turn the other. The pilot who's got the smallest turning circle will get inside and shoot the other down. Because it had a lower wing loading I found I could turn a Hurricane more tightly than I could a Spitfire so that if a (Messerschmitt) 109 or a (Focke Wulf) 190 stopped to play with me, I could turn inside him. You've got to shoot ahead of him which means you've got to turn tighter.
    The first Spit I flew was a Mark 1. It didn't impress me. It seemed tinny; thinner wing; looked very much more delicate than the sturdy, solid, Hurricane. It looked like an aircraft that wouldn't take a lot of a beating. In fact it would take a lot of a beating! It certainly wasn't a case of love at first flight. The undercarriage was pumped up manually. When you were taking off, you went across the airfield pumping away, trying to hold it level with one hand and pumping the undercarriage up with the other! I preferred my Hurricane.
    I didn't fall in love with the Spitfire until I'd flown the Mark IX. The public's attention was caught by the Spitfire because it was capable of tremendous development. When you consider that it virtually spanned from fighter biplanes to jet fighters - there's no way that the Hurricane could have done that because the airframe couldn't absorb the additional power that was available. (Editor's note - hence the Typhoon and Tempest) The Spitfire was such a clever design that it could.
    The first time you flew a Hurricane or a Spitfire, it was the first time you flew it! We had no twin seat models. Quite a daunting experience because you've got a thousand horsepower; it's a lot to let loose! I can clearly recall my first take-off in a Hurricane - I was up at about two thousand feet still trying to find the lever to get the undercarriage up!