BBMF Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865

BBMF Hurricane PZ865 reaches 75

Header image: BBMF Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865 displaying at the recent Armed Forces Day event at Cleethorpes on 29th June, flown by Gp Capt Mark Flewin, the RAF Coningsby Station Commander. (Photo: Tim Clarke)

BBMF Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865 first flew on 27th July 1944, 75 years ago this month. PZ865 was the last Hawker Hurricane ever built, from a total of 14,533. Fitted with four 20mm cannons and a Rolls-Royce Merlin XX engine, it came off the production line at the huge Hawker aircraft factory at Langley with the inscription ‘The Last of the Many’ painted beneath the cockpit on both sides.

Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, ‘The Last of the Many'
Hurricane Mk IIC PZ865, ‘The Last of the Many’, on an early test flight in 1944, being flown by Hawker’s Chief Test Pilot, the hatless George Bulman, who had flown the maiden flight of the prototype Hurricane, K5083, on 6th November 1935. Bulman, therefore, flew the first test flights on the very first and very last Hurricanes.

Wanting to preserve the final Hurricane ever built, the company purchased PZ865 back from the Air Ministry. For the next 28 years PZ865 was used by Hawkers in various capacities, including as a company ‘hack’, as an air racer, as a display aircraft, and for aerial sequences in films including the famous movie ‘Battle of Britain’. 

In 1972 a combination of limited resources and restricted hangar space at Dunsfold led to Hawker Siddeley deciding that it could no longer maintain its collection of historic aircraft. The intervention of Duncan Simpson, who was then the Hawker Siddeley Chief Test Pilot, and his astute manoeuvring behind the scenes, gained just sufficient permission for the Hurricane to be donated to the BBMF, which was then based at RAF Coltishall. In March 1972, before anyone could change their minds, Simpson flew PZ865 to Coltishall and handed the Hurricane over to the Flight. His arrival with this precious piece of British aviation history was not expected. He was met by a BBMF Flight Sergeant who said, “Afternoon Sir, what have we here?” Duncan replied, “It’s a Hurricane, Flight Sergeant, a very special Hurricane, and I’m handing it over to you. Look after it and make sure it’s flying right into the future so that future generations can see it”.

Hurricane PZ865 with the BBMF in 1984
Hurricane PZ865 back in its ‘The Last of the Many’ livery with the BBMF in 1984.

The BBMF has done just that and Duncan Simpson’s wish to have this special Hurricane maintained in flying condition continues to be fulfilled 75 years after its first flight. PZ865 was slightly later than planned in taking to the skies this year, but is now flying again. The famous Hurricane is scheduled to go to Biggin Hill at the end of the season to undergo a ‘Major’ servicing with The Spitfire Company, which currently holds the MOD contract for ‘Majors’ on the BBMF fighter aircraft types. PZ865 will emerge from the ‘Major’ next year in a new colour scheme as an all-black night fighter.

BBMF Hurricane PZ865 landing back at the Flight’s base at RAF Coningsby
BBMF Hurricane PZ865 landing back at the Flight’s base at RAF Coningsby on 29th June. The replica 20mm cannons were fitted to PZ865 in 1996 to restore its appearance to that of a Mk IIC Hurricane. (Photo: Graham Crawford)

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