Extract from Air Vanguard 6: Hawker Hurricane Mk I-V by Martyn Chorlton

On 3 November 1935, George Bulman taxied the fighter out onto the Brooklands grass, so beginning the steady task of acclimatising himself to the aircraft. His first impressions centred on the improved visibility; he said that ‘there was more daylight in the cockpit’ and described the view as ‘marvellous’. Bulman later told Camm that he was particularly impressed with the ease of disembarkation.

A potential set back reared its head on 4 November, when Rolls-Royce informed Hawker that the Merlin had failed to pass its 50-hour certification test. A quick inspection had failed to reveal why the engine lost power after just 40 hours. After consultation, Bulman suggested that the first flight should be made with a certified engine providing there was no sign of a drop on the magneto. Bulman also said that the oil filter should be checked for signs of metal fragments after the first and every subsequent flight until Rolls-Royce had discovered the reason for the problem. None of the Hawker or Rolls- Royce engineers disagreed with Bulman’s cautious but positive approach.

402 Squadron Mk IIB
Illustration by Simon Smith

On 6 November Bulman, with approximately 80 onlookers, taxied K5083 out for its first flight. No press were informed, let alone invited, and photography was not permitted, such was the level of secrecy surrounding Hawker’s latest product. Taxiing to the end of the runway, the silver monoplane turned into the wind and, with a roar from its Merlin, seemed to be into the air and over the banking of the old racing circuit in no time at all. Bulman was instantly impressed with the fighter, and was content to carry a general handling flight, although he did perform a slow roll and reached 300mph in a gentle dive with ease. He also carried out a stall test with undercarriage and flaps down; the aircraft stalled at 80mph, from which recovery was quickly achieved by slight forward pressure on the stick. After just over half an hour, Bulman floated back over the old banking and, with its big Watts propeller seemingly hardly turning, the aircraft performed a gentle three-point landing. Bulman was greeted by a jubilant Tommy Sopwith and Sydney Camm, who drove across the airfield in a Roll-Royce.

Incredibly, Bulman never filed an official flight test report for this historic event, instead choosing to jot down his impressions on a secretary’s note pad! He briefed Camm about the flight and included comments about engine temperatures, which built up rapidly while taxiing. The temperature also increased quickly following the lowering of the flaps, suggesting that the airflow was being retarded at the rear of the radiator. These were merely comments; his major complaint was about the aircraft’s canopy, which constantly creaked and flexed during flight. Once Bulman had completed his brief, he gave Camm a broad grin, playfully punched him on the shoulder and said, ‘Syd, you’ve most certainly got a winner here!’ Camm, however, did not feel the same way at this stage...

If you'd like to read more about the Hawker Hurricane take a look at Air Vanguard 6: Hawker Hurricane Mk I–V by Martyn Chorlton and Aircraft of the Aces 57: Hurricane Aces 1941–45 by Andrew Thomas.

Video of Hawker Hurricane, Supermarine Spitfire and Avro Lancaster in action
Courtesy of 8K Next