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  Brooklands Centenary - Brooklands Museum, Surrey 16th June 2007

Review -
With many thanks to the support of Mercedes-Benz World, the Brooklands Museum hosted the Brooklands Centenary Festival over the weekend of 16th-17th June celebrating 100 years of pioneering motoring and aviation at the Surrey site.

Brooklands was involved in the birth of aviation from the beginning and pioneers A.V.Roe, Tommy Sopwith, Louis Bleriot, Harry Hawker and Barnes Wallis were all active at the site. In World War Two Hurricane fighters and Wellington bombers rolled off the production lines while post war the Vickers Varsity, Valiant, Viscount, VC-10 and BAC One-Eleven were built and flown from there, underlining the sites historical significance.

Visitors could view progress on the restoration of Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIa Z2389 being undertaken by Museum Trust volunteers.  The Hurricane was built and delivered to the RAF in late 1940 and its RAF service included time with 71 ‘Eagle’ squadron. In 1942 the Hurricane was one of 2,952 sent to Russia to serve with the Red Air Force and it was shot down while in a dogfight over Siberia with Luftwaffe Me109Fs and Me110s. The pilot, injured in the right shoulder by a bullet that just missed the armour plating, managed to crash land Z2389 and survive. The airframe was recovered to St Petersburg in 1996 and acquired by the Museum in 1997, the first historic aircraft to be purchased for a UK museum with a Heritage Lottery Fund Grant.

The aim is to restore the Hurricane to its 1940 configuration in ‘live’ condition with the engine working and aircraft able to taxi under its own power. The airframe is now virtually complete and the current focus is on the engine services including fuel, hydraulic and electrical systems. The engine itself is being worked on by the Rolls Royce Heritage Trust, Derby as, although the engine and starter motor now turn without problems an interior clutch issue is preventing the starter motor engaging. Another ‘hurdle’ is the lack of usable propeller blades. The team has been generously given one working blade and have manufactured two more out of wood for static display once the engine is mounted, however, they are in desperate need of either a full propeller unit or at least three working, balanced blades to enable the Hurricane to taxi.

The amount of work that has gone into this restoration is staggering. A quick estimate put the figure at 67,200 man-hours so far, and the level of detail achieved, including areas that will not be viewable once it is on display is truly humbling.

During the day one hundred years worth of cars and motorcycles graced the circuit, including the racing car ‘Babs’ powered by a 27 litre V-12 American Liberty aero engine.  Parry Thomas was killed in the car in February 1927 when attempting the Land Speed Record on Pendine beach. The car remained buried in the sands until recovered and rebuilt in 1969 by Owen Wyn. The Liberty engine powered aircraft such as the De Havilland DH.9A medium bomber produced at the end of World War One.

A selection of related vintage aircraft took to the skies during an hour long display on the Saturday afternoon recreating the atmosphere of ‘those magnificent men in their flying machines.’  Despite abysmal weather across the south of the country several machines made it to display in blustery conditions including unique 1935 built Miles Hawk Speed Six G-ADGP, 1939 Rearwin Cloudster G-EVLE, Doug Gregory in SE5A reproduction ‘F141’ G-SEVA and Sopwith Triplane replica ‘N500’ G-BWRA. Sadly the Brooklands Museum Trust’s Vickers Vimy reproduction was unable to participate and higher than expected visitor numbers on the Sunday prevented the fixed wing aircraft from displaying due to safety considerations. However, the team at Brooklands should be congratulated in celebrating such a significant milestone in fine style.

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