Turns at Hurn
Tom McGhee looks at one of the South's main aviation attractions and the work it does restoring and operating historic aircraft
Situated at Bournemouth-Hurn International Airport, many of the aircraft that reside here will be very familiar, even to those readers who have yet to visit the museum. The reason for this is that a large proportion of the aircraft you will see dispersed around the airport actually lead a very active flying life, rather than just being static mementos of aviation history. With De Havilland Aviation Ltd. based at the airport and the 'Red Bull' Sea Vixen its main attraction, the museum hangar is not the only reason to visit.
Former Hurn-based aircraft are the airshow circuit regulars De Havilland Venom FB50 G-DHVM (formerly G-GONE), and Gloster Meteor NF11 WM167/G-LOSM. Both were based at Hurn until recently, having since been acquired by Air Atlantique and moved to Coventry.
The workshop hangar is home to numerous ongoing restoration projects as well as some of the flying examples. Ex-Argentinean Army Bell UH-1H Iroquois G-HUEY underwent restoration work here between November 2003 and January 2005. As AE-413 it was captured in the Falkland Islands in 1982 by the British Forces and was pressed into British service during the post conflict clean-up operations before being shipped back to the UK. This aircraft flew for some years in a fundraising capacity at many Airshows before coming to Bournemouth, and will do so again from her new home at Blackpool.
Museum exhibits kept outside have included ex-Royal Danish Air Force Hawker Hunter F51 E-402, which was relocated to Farnborough's new FAST museum. Despite its precarious location in view of the unpredictable British weather, this aircraft is still in fantastic condition, its clean line wing leading edge in marked contrast to the saw tooth leading edge prevalent on the later Hunter marks. Its place has been taken by F6 XG160, having been restored to 111 Squadron markings in the last couple of years.
Bournemouth used to be home to an ex-Hungarian Air Force MiG-21SMT 'Fishbed', marked as 503 in Soviet Air Force colours, but this too has moved north to the FAST museum at Farnborough. Rarely seen but pristine Hawker Hunter T68 G-HVIP (former Swiss Air Force J-4208 and Swedish Air Force 34080) was refurbished at Hurn before moving back to Switzerland in early 2005 - its owner is based in Germany, so Switzerland is a lot closer for flying his pride and joy, sadly for us! An aircraft in outstanding condition is Fury II G-BZAS, marked as K5673. The diminutive size of this pre-Second World War fighter makes you realise how rapidly fighter design had progressed over a relatively short period when compared to the likes of the post-war aircraft on display.
The flightline is home to a variety of aircraft, but due to their active nature, the precise makeup may differ from day to day. Yet another Hawker Hunter, this time ex-RAF F6A XG160, was stripped down to the metal at the time of our visit, whilst Percival Sea Prince T1 WP321 used to be another regular visitor to airshows. Recently Gnat T1 XR537/G-NATY has now been refurbished back to flying condition and will be operated as a flying exhibit on the airshow circuit.
Another interesting resident is up-for-sale Ekw C-3605 Schlepp C-552/G-DORN. Its immaculate and authentic camouflage scheme is in marked contrast to the gaudy European Aviation airline scheme applied to Blackburn Buccaneer S2B XX897, however at least the good paint finish helps to keep the airframe in reasonable condition. XX897 has a slightly unorthodox history, serving much of its time in a research role with the Royal Aircraft Establishment. The more astute observers will have noticed straight away the non-standard nose sported by this 'Brick'; it is actually a Tornado ADV radome that housed Foxhunter radar sets for Tornado F2 and F3 radar development trials during the early 1980s. XX897 is in full working order and performs taxi-runs at special occasions.
For further information check out www.aviation-museum.co.uk
For an up-to-date list of aircraft at Hurn check out www.demobbed.org.uk