Another week looking back at regular ‘Legends slots then. This week its time to take a look at the wonderful selection of Curtiss Hawks that have graced the Duxford flightline over the years.
It is unsurprising that ‘Legends has seen so many Curtiss machines over the years, as Stephen Grey’s love of these “underdog” fighters of WW2 is well documented. In fact I would put Stephen’s excellent programme articles on the types up there with many of my Legends highlights over the years.
Curtiss Hawks and Duxford started back in late 80s/early 90s with the Old Flying Machine Company and Fighter Collection both operating desert scheme RAF P-40s for a number of years.
That Fighter Collection machine, registered G-KITT, would be the first Duxford regular Hawk to perform at Legends. The airframe did spend some time with Christophe Jaquard in the mid 90s, wearing an AVG scheme but still flew at Duxford regularly.
In the late 1990s the airframe returned to Duxford and was repainted in, to me, an iconic warbird scheme of the Aleutian Tigers. G-KITT would fly in this scheme with the collection until 2006 and then retain this scheme through the fist few years of Peter Teichman’s ownership as well.
2005 would see The Fighter Collection expand their Curtiss collection further with the arrival of the incredibly rare Hawk 75, the radial engined predecessor to the P-40 and a French icon for its service during the Battle of France. The arrival and ‘Legends debut of this machine was a big event and certainly left an impression with me, the Hawk flew the Joker slot during its debut year as well.
With the long-term collection P-40 leaving in 2006, it was replaced in 2007 with the arrival of the immaculate Pearl Harbour P-40B. This has to be one of the best looking warbirds to grace the Duxford flightline and together with the Hawk 75 offered a wonderful insight to the development of the more common latter P-40 model.
2008 saw the arrival of P-40N “Little Jeanne” in France. This meant that after a few years absence of a “classic” P-40, the later models were again represented at Duxford and flew alongside the Hawk and P-40B.
A year later hangar two would see another Curtiss fighter arrive, this time another rare example. Shipped from Australia, where the restoration was completed, was a Merlin powered P-40F. The Fighter Collection once again added a unique airframe to their collection which has since become a ‘Legends regular. This meant that a Curtiss four ship was able to take place for the first time.
Such is the fluid nature of these collections, the P-40B was sold and returned across the Atlantic in early 2014 but would soon be replaced by the impressive, polished P-40C that had been based at Chino with Planes of Fame for a number of years. Flying late on the Friday following bad weather this example instantly made its mark. There is no doubt that it is one of the most visually stunning examples of the P-40 and the clean paintscheme really presents the lines of the early model nicely.
Another year passed and perhaps the rarest of the Curtiss fighters arrived at Duxford, the P-36. This was the American model of the Hawk 75. Prior to the Collection’s Hawk 75 flying in 2005, there were only a couple of known examples of this type in existence, to watch two examples fly together at ‘Legends in 2015 was incredible .
A number of great sequences have followed over the years with 2018s trio of Hawk 75, P-40F and P-40C flying tail chase aerobatics coming to mind as one of the best as well as 2019 and the return of the full Duxford based quota of four Curtiss fighters in the air again.
With the arrival of the P-36 in 2015 marking the most recent Curtiss arrival to the Fighter Collection and Flying Legends. Hopefully we continue to enjoy the wonderful Curtiss lineage of fighters.