The Hawker Hunter jet fighter aircraft is expected to be flying at the Tauranga City Airshow on Auckland Anniversary Weekend.
The aircraft appeared at the 2006 airshow and it flew a few times after that, but has remained in the Classic Flyers hangar for the last four years.
Classic Flyers CEO Andrew Gormlie stands proudly with the Hawker Hunter.
Classic Flyers CEO Andrew Gormlie says the decision made some months ago to prepare the aircraft for flight at the airshow was a risky one.
“It’s been rather expensive to get going, and it’s a very big uncertain curve.
“So at the beginning when you intend to do it you don’t know whether it’s going to occur until things get closer.”
They are now about two thirds of the way through the process of working the aircraft up; mechanically testing each of the aircraft’s mechanical and hydraulic systems, to ensure they are operating to specification.
The ejector seat was bolted back into the aircraft over the weekend, making the Hawker Hunter the possessor of the only serviceable ejector seat in the country.
“The next items are test runs and pre-flight,” says Andrew.
“With a bit of luck we are going to run the thing this coming Thursday, and from there on there will be a decision made to do a flight or two prior to the airshow.
The Hawker Hunter out of its hangar and approaching a test run. Photo: Garret Horwitz.
“We are now telling people the Hawker Hunter will be operational at the show.”
The Hawker Hunter is a subsonic British jet aircraft developed in the 1950s.
The single-seat Hunter entered service as a manoeuvrable fighter aircraft, and later operated in fighter bomber and reconnaissance roles.
Two-seat variants remained in use for training and secondary roles with the Royal Air Force and Royal Navy until the early 1990s.
The Hunter was also widely exported, serving with 21 other air forces; 50 years after its original introduction it is still in active service, operating with the Lebanese air force.
Classic Flyers also has a non-flying two-seater version.
Restoring the Hawker Hunter to flying condition has been the work of a team of volunteers and a few specialist ex-servicemen who worked on the aircraft when they were more widely operational.
“It’s a very specialised item that they deal with,” says Andrew.
“The guys that work on that also work on the one in Australia and further afield.
“That crew plus the owner and pilot have been coming backwards and forwards from Ardmore for the last couple of months fairly intensively.”
The owner is an Auckland based Cathay Pacific pilot.
“We have tried to keep it quiet, but want to let the news out.
“The aircraft’s a beauty and a very impressive aircraft to watch.
“These things are a nail-biter for us always, as all of these older fighter planes are always subject to serviceability.”
The Hawker Hunter’s longevity in service is ascribed in part to its low maintenance and operating costs.
“It is behaving itself, and the next step will be a practice run,” says Andrew.