The 29th October 2016 saw the public launch of the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group’s exciting project to restore Hawker Typhoon Mk.1b RB396 to airworthy condition in time for the D-Day 80th anniversary in 2024. The event featured three guests of honour, wartime Typhoon pilots Flt Lt David Ince DFC, Flt Lt Derek Lovell and Flt Lt George Wood and was held before an audience of over 150 media representatives and supporters at the Boultbee Flight Academy Hangar, Goodwood Aerodrome.
The Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group aims to restore a Napier Sabre powered Hawker Typhoon Mk.1b aircraft to flight using the substantial remains of serial number RB396, and demonstrate the aircraft to the public as a living memorial to the Typhoon crews who flew in support of Allied air operations during the invasion of occupied Europe.
RB396 was one of 3,317 Typhoons manufactured during the early 1940s. The aircraft saw combat with No. 121 Wing of the Second Tactical Air Force’s No. 83 Group, and survived a forced landing on 1 April 1945. This airframe will form the basis for a major restoration project, which will be carried out by professional organisations and individuals across the country. Once complete, this will be the world’s only airworthy example of the Typhoon, and the first Typhoon to be operated in private hands.
The Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group also plans to establish a heritage centre and memorial to help educate the public in the importance of the Typhoon’s wartime role, telling the story of the aircraft and its crews for the benefit of British heritage, remembrance and historical knowledge. Plans are now afoot to find a suitable base for the aircraft and heritage centre to enable the public to see the project unfold at close quarters.
Project founder and trustee Dave Robinson has been working on returning a Typhoon to flight since 1999, and the launch of 29 October was the culmination of his steadfast dedication and perseverance to the cause. His fellow founding trustees Jonathan Edwards and Sam Worthington-Leese joined the project in more recent years and the team has taken the significant step of registering the Hawker Typhoon Preservation Group as a charity (no. 1167143) to support future restoration work. All three founding trustees are running the project on a voluntary basis.
The restoration of Typhoon RB396 is a particularly personal affair for aviator Sam Worthington-Leese, whose grandfather, Pilot Officer R.G. Worthington, flew Typhoons in combat during World War Two. P/O Worthington flew his last operational mission from RAF Westhampnett (now Goodwood Aerodrome) in West Sussex and was downed by enemy fire over Europe. He was later captured and imprisoned in Stalag Luft III PoW camp until the war’s end.
Surviving parts of P/O Worthington’s Typhoon will be included within the restoration, and it is Sam’s ambition to fly the restored Typhoon from Goodwood on the anniversary of his grandfather’s last flight, bringing a very personal story of cross-generational remembrance full circle in the most fitting and poignant manner imaginable.
It is estimated that the project will cost in the region of £4-6 million and will be funded by public support, donations and sponsorship. Project membership, donation options and a range of merchandise is available online and we will be attending many British airshows throughout the year. The Preservation Group hopes to have the Typhoon flying by 2024, to coincide with the D-Day 80th anniversary commemorations.
Dave Robinson, project founder and trustee, said: “There can be no doubt that the Typhoon was instrumental in accelerating the Allied victory in Europe. We can only speculate on how many thousands of allied lives were saved by the bravery and determination of the Typhoon pilots and the dedication of their ground crews. Yet, the Typhoon’s role in the vital latter stages of World War Two is largely overlooked by the history books and the aircraft has slipped from the public conscience over the last 70 years.
The aim of the project is to share the rich history of this aircraft and everyone involved in its design, manufacture and maintenance with a wider audience and it was inspiring to see so many people, both young and old, supporting the project at our launch event. Thank you to all of those who attended and those who worked so hard to organise this special day.”
Once airworthy, Hawker Typhoon Mk.1b RB396 will fly in remembrance of the 666 Typhoon pilots killed during the course of World War Two – a living memorial, finally, to a forgotten brotherhood.
L-R Standing: Those who helped on the day and the three founding trustees.
In flying suit Sam Worthington-Leese, to his right, Dave Robinson (founder), to his left Jonathan Edwards.
L-R Sitting: Flt Lt Derek Lovell, Flt Lt Rev. George Wood and Flt Lt David Ince DFC