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The Ultimate Homebuilt Restoration - a Hawker Hurricane Mark I

Ultimate Homebuilt Restoration
Group photo from left to right are Peter Vacher, Paul, Mary, Jonathon, Polly Vacher and Janet Nash.

Ultimate Homebuilt Restoration
I related that it took five long years of bureaucratic wrangling with the Indian authorities before he was able to obtain permission to repatriate the aircraft to the U.K. Then in 2001 he began the meticulous restoration to flying condition.

Ultimate Homebuilt Restoration

Dear Editors, Roget's Thesaurus:

In your next edition, I respectfully submit that the noun "passion" needs another synonym: "Aviation enthusiast." You see, the rest of the English-speaking world needs to know that "passion" is the only word that comes close to describing the irrational emotion that drives normally logical and sane people to become so devoted, focused, and ardent in immersing themselves into planes, pilots, and their histories. As evidence I submit for your consideration Peter and Polly Vacher, with whom I became acquainted during my trip to the U.K. this summer. They are a couple that exemplifies this passion.

Both Peter and Polly have extraordinary aviation stories that prove my point and it was hard to choose which one to share with you first. Yet, dear editors, the first story I choose has a personal connection which brought me back to my childhood passion of spending days meticulously building model aircraft from World War II (my favourite was a Hawker Hurricane). You see, Peter Vacher has restored a full size Hawker Hurricane Mark I: a plane that saw action in the Battle of Britain.

At our EAA Chapter 1410 meeting in August, I shared my photographs and described Peter's restoration past; how the Hurricane languished in the Indian monsoons for almost six decades until Peter rescued the rotting mass. I related that it took five long years of bureaucratic wrangling with the Indian authorities before he was able to obtain permission to repatriate the aircraft to the U.K. Then in 2001 he began the meticulous restoration to flying condition. Finally after another four years, Hurricane R4118 took flight. I told the members that the aircraft now spends the summers flying to air shows across Britain. Yes, dear editors, everyone at the chapter meeting understood and appreciated the passion it took to achieve the restoration.

My presentation and slide show focused on Peter's amazing achievements in retrieving the aircraft, orchestrating the restoration of the aircraft, but more importantly, recounting the human stories behind the aircraft (including the veteran pilots who flew her). But what I did not convey in my talk was the real passion I felt meeting and talking with Peter. He reminded me of many of the homebuilders, restorers, and aviation fanatics whose lives are enriched with all things to do with flight. These people have a real fire in their spirit as they welcome fellow aviators openly and honestly, since we all share that same passion.

After my talk, I e-mailed Peter and asked him to share with the chapter membership some of his advice. Here is what he sent back:

    As for advice to would-be restorers, I hardly feel qualified. However there are one or two points relating to warbirds:
  1. You need to be pretty passionate about what it is you are going to restore as it will require real perseverance. You will need to be sure that you will complete the project - trying to sell a part-finished aeroplane will certainly mean you will not get back financially what you have put into it.
  2. Do not expect to do the project too quickly. Finding all the necessary bits and building up contacts who can help takes time.
  3. On the other hand, do not let the project drag on too long. Set some goals time wise even if you don't quite meet them; at least it keeps the interest up and your life partner will quickly get to know that your time in the shed takes priority!
  4. Establish who is going to be the certifying authority and consult with them right at the start of the project. Find out what the requirements are for each part of the airframe and engine so that nothing has to be pulled apart for inspection.
  5. Restoration without drawings is very difficult. Availability of drawings may indeed decide a project's viability.
  6. Decide on originality versus practicality. For example you may want all the original armament and radio equipment. Or you may prefer to keep the aircraft light for display purposes.
  7. Preserve the aircraft's original history if possible. Otherwise decide that it will represent some other aircraft of the period. Then research in detail the provenance you have chosen so the aircraft carries real history.
  8. In many cases, a full restoration will cost more than the aircraft is finally worth. Just be aware of what you are letting yourself in for, and that it will probably cost more that you originally thought.
  9. If you are going to fly the restored aircraft yourself, be sure before you start out on the project that it will be really enjoyable to fly it after all those hours of work - and that you will fit into the cockpit bearing in mind that we are mostly rather taller than those for whom it was originally designed.
  10. If you are thinking of getting married, take out a pre-nuptial agreement!

Dear editors, did you notice his first point? "You need to be pretty passionate." I rest my case! But if you still need convincing, just wait until you hear about Polly Vacher and her exploits!

Paul Gregory, Treasurer, EAA Chapter 1410, High River, Alberta

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