If 2017 was “the year of the Hurricane” then 2018 certainly had a more continental feel. This year most certainly belongs to the revival of the Hispano Buchon.
A relatively common site in the 1990s, the “one faux nine” has long been an airshow staple and after a few years absence in the early 2000s, the UK airshow circuit has had at least one of these unsung types playing the enemy in set pieces up and down the country. Buchon G-BUWE (Now G-AWHK) was restored by the Real Aeroplane Company at Breighton, returning to the skies in 2006. Since then the airframe was sold to Spitfire Limited, Tom Blair’s collection that based out of Duxford in the late 00’s, before eventually being acquired by Historic Flying Limited. The Buchon’s real starring role was in the Battle of Britain film in 1968 and this example wears the colours it wore for the making of that production. As with many Buchon’s in the last 30 years, this example has had its fair share of film roles, most recently Dunkirk.
Though a long-term resident it has been a few years since this Buchon has displayed in its original colour scheme, having worn the Dunkirk scheme for the 2016 season and a weathered desert scheme for 2017.
For a number of years the UK airshow scene had enjoyed the regular sight of a pair of Buchons, with Richard Lake’s desert marked example providing a regular display mate for ‘HK. In early 2017 this example was sold to Germany and we returned to a single UK Buchon. In fact, for a short while this was the only airworthy Buchon that hadn’t received a Daimler Benz conversion!
All that changed with the landmark sale of Connie Edwards’ barn load of Buchon’s. These airframes have been the stuff of legend for decades now. A full squadron of Buchons, many kept in incredible condition having been stored for years. Slowly but surely, this fleet of Spanish fighters have passed through the hangar doors at Air Leasing’s Sywell base and the end results have been incredible.
The first Buchon to be revived from this deal is a very special example indeed. HA-112-M4L G-AWHC is a dual control training variant of the Buchon. This airframe is particularly important as it is said that it was flown by Galland and Stanford-Tuck as part of the film production, quite a unique story. Having arrived at Sywell in 2016, the airframe was noted outside the hangar at Sywell almost complete in September 2017 (above).
A notable change from the original design was the replacement of the canopy. While this was the subject of much discussion, the inclusion of a 109 style canopy is by all accounts safer and likely to offer a more “authentic” experience for any paying customers. The “twochon” flew late in 2017 and completed the testing process over the winter. It was fitting that this machine was first out of restoration as it really offers something different. The combination of four blade prop, high profile tail and the two seat canopy makes for an imposing warbird.
The two seat Buchon made its first appearance at Abingdon in May before further appearances at La Ferté-Alais, Flying Legends and the Duxford Battle of Britain show. Perhaps more interestingly, the Buchon has already carried out its first experience passenger flights, marking the first time a Buchon has been available for such an event. In fact you can now book one through Ultimate Warbird Flights.
Hot on the heels of the Two Seat machine’s debut, was the next Buchon, G-AWHM “Yellow 7”. This airframe provides the perfect matching partner for G-AWHK. The modern “classic” Buchon three bladed prop returned for this single seat airframe. ‘HM flew again in May 2018 and soon made a debut display in the hands of Richard Grace at Headcorn at the end of June.
Yellow 7, like Red 11 has had a busy year with further appearances at Flying Legends, a weekend away in Ireland, Cosby, Melun in France and the Battle of Britain show at Duxford.
Last, for now, but by no means least is G-AWHH “White 9”. Unlike the other resurrections, which have worn their accurate movie colours, White 9 is a throw back to those inventive 109 schemes from the 1990s.
The full yellow nose, black/white spinner and four bladed prop make this most recent restoration my personal highlight of the lot. A wonderful looking machine which made its debut appearance at Flying Legends in July, with subsequent displays at Cosby, Melun and Duxford in September.
I think if you’d told anyone, even last year that we would be in a position where a four ship Buchon display would ever be possible, let alone feature in two shows, they would not have believed you.
There was a time last year where it looked like the Merlin powered Buchon was set to become an endangered species. Watching the four fighters leap into the air together at Duxford harks back to those classic scenes from the iconic film and ranks fairly high in recent warbird history.
There are many who take issue with the Buchon for one reason or another. I’ll gladly put my hand up as a Buchon fan. A remarkable combination of airframe and engine that ensures we can enjoy the classic 109 profile in the UK skies so regularly and hopefully for years to come. I look forward to seeing future examples return to the skies as we continue to enjoy this remarkable resurgence of this Spanish fighter.