A 21-year-old video documentary detailing the restoration and eventual return to airworthiness of Sir Tim Wallis’ Second World War Hawker Hurricane warbird, has been located and resurrected from near extinction by the Historical Aviation Film Unit (HAFU).
The aircraft, Hurricane P3351, was built in early 1940 and during the summer of that year saw action in both the Battle of France and the Battle of Britain. Following an accident in the UK the aircraft was re-built, and in May 1942 it was shipped to Russia via one of the many Arctic Convoys sending vital supplies to the beleaguered USSR. Serving with the Soviets on the Arctic Front until it was shot down in 1943, little is known of the aircraft’s Russian history until it was recovered and purchased as a derelict hulk by Sir Tim some 50 years later.
What followed was a total rebuild of the aircraft, initially in the UK, and then finally in New Zealand by volunteers from Air New Zealand’s Engineering Services division. The aircraft was subsequently displayed at numerous Wabirds Over Wanaka International airshows in the early 2000’s, as part of Sir Tim’s Alpine Fighter Collection.
Produced by Blue Bicycle Flicks in 2000, ‘The Return of The Hurricane’ documentary follows this restoration story, and was initially released on VHS tape with a more limited DVD release a couple of years later. It’s unclear just how many copies of each format were produced and sold, but the demise of both VHS and DVD as viable distribution methods for this type of material means it’s now virtually impossible to find and view a copy of the film.
Having recently obtained Blue Bicycle’s back catalog of aviation footage in order to preserve that material, the Historical Aviation Film Unit has sourced a carefully stored copy of the original VHS tape, and has remastered the film for re-release. This has resulted in a new digital copy of the documentary which plays back on modern TV’s in much higher quality than the original, and which will continue to be available to all those interested in this historic story.
Allan Udy, the principal video editor at HAFU, says:
“Since launching our own video streaming platform in mid-2021, it has become increasingly clear to us just how much material filmed and produced in the VHS-era is now very difficult to find and is at significant risk of being totally lost. We’re trying to stop that and preserve at least some of this historic material for the future.”
The documentary features internationally-renowned New Zealand warbird pilot Keith Skilling providing commentary about the first flight of the aircraft, the quality of its restoration, and the characteristics of the Hurricane as a military flying machine. After viewing the video again for the first time in two decades Skilling said:
“It’s fantastic to be able to look back at what Sir Tim was doing twenty years ago and to see how the Alpine Fighter Collection was developing at that time. While it’s a shame the Hurricane is no longer in New Zealand, the fact is if it wasn’t for Sir Tim and his passion, no-one would have had the opportunity to see it in action at all. And it’s great that Alex and Allan at HAFU are giving us the opportunity to watch this material again.”
For a limited time the 55 minute documentary will be available to view for free on HAFU’s streaming platform, Historical Machines TV, via the following link: