I already completed two posts in 2017 taking a look at the history of the Kestrel powered Hawker biplanes as well as detailed history of the airworthy examples in the UK. Alongside the wonderful original quintet of airworthy machines there are also a pair of original Harts in the RAF Museum collection alongside a Hind (currently in storage). As the forerunner to the entire Hawker Biplane lineage it is fitting that the Royal Air Force Museum has an example at each site now, having previously had both on display at Hendon.
Hart Trainer – K4972
This example of the Hart was constructed in 1935 by Armstrong-Whitworth and in November of that year was posted to 2 Flying School at Digby. The remainder of the 1930s saw the aircraft earn its keep providing valuable instruction for new recruits with general handling and training flights alongside aerobatic outings. As the war years unfolded the airframe became part of the maintenance training units and was eventually gifted to a local ATC squadron in Cumberland.
In 1962 the wreck of the Hart was uncovered in Wigton in the loft of an outbuilding. The team responsible for recovering the aircraft gifted the airframe to the RAF Museum later that year and the airframe moved to Henlow. In 1968 restoration work started at St Athan, this work was completed the following year.
The early 1990s saw the removed from display at Hendon before being restored again and displayed at Cosford until the early 2000s. Following a short period in storage the Hart returned to Hendon and was put on display in the main hangars. As part of the recent redevelopment process ready for the RAF 100 exhibition the Hart trainer has been relocated to Cosford.
Hart II – G-ABMR
This earlier example of the Hart was built in 1931 and placed on the civil register along with three other airframes destined to be company demonstrators. In 1932, G-ABMR performed in the Hendon air display, fitting considering the airframe now sits on display at the same site. In the late 30s this Hart took on a new role, becoming a photographic platform for Hawkers. Flying was limited during the war years though the airframe did fly for the roll out for the final Hurricane of the production line.
In 1949 the Hart once again returned to the skies for a display at White Waltham and was entered alongside Hurricane “Last of the Many” in the 1951 Kings Cup air race. This was a race the Hart would enter again later in the 50s. Postwar flying continued until 1959 when the registration was cancelled. By the end of 1960 the Hart was in the air yet again with another new lease of life and continued to perform regularly at displays until 1971 when it was withdrawn from flying and handed over the RAF Museum.
For a number of years this airframe was displayed suspended in the Milestones hall at Hendon, since 2017 the Hart is now back on the ground and on display in the Historic Hangars, a fitting location for a rare survivor.