Simanaitis Says

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OUTDATED ENGINEERING WINS THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

THE HAWKER Hurricane had old fashioned design elements even when introduced in 1935. And, yes, it was technically outshone by the Supermarine Spitfire coming along several years later. But the Hurricane, even with its outdated engineering, accounted for 60 percent of the RAF victories in the Battle of Britain.

Outdated indeed.

The Hawker Hurricane’s outdated engineering did just fine, thank you, in the Battle of Britain. This image, from motors.all-free-photos.com.

Sydney Camm, its chief designer, preferred mechanically fabricated joints to welded structures, and the Hurricane’s fuselage exemplified this with a classic Warren girder design. High-tensile steel tubes joined at each bay; wooden stringers and formers defined the shape, which was then covered with Irish linen and finished in nitrocellulose dope. A plywood structure (known as “the dog kennel”) housed the pilot, instrumentation, windscreen and canopy mechanism.

All this tried and true engineering made for an extremely robust airframe, one capable of withstanding an enemy cannon hit. Field refurbishing could be carried out with hand tools; this, in marked contrast to repairing the complex monocoque Spitfire.

In fact, Hurricanes could be shipped in crated form and assembled near their theaters of wartime activity. Royal Navy Sea Hurricanes were stored efficiently aboard carriers in knocked-down form, to be reassembled when needed.

The Hurricane’s mechanically fabricated joints, in lieu of welds, made for a robust airframe that was straightforward to rebuild in field conditions. This neat illustration, from Bill Gunston’s book of cutaways.

This splendid illustration is the work of Bill Gunston, from his beautiful book, Classic World War II Aircraft Cutaways, Osprey Aerospace, 1995. Both Amazon and abebooks.com show it and a later reprint at varying prices. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2012

 

4 comments on “OUTDATED ENGINEERING WINS THE BATTLE OF BRITAIN

  1. Tom Tyson
    August 20, 2012

    There is an absolutely fascinating 96 minute video about the recovery and restoration of Hurricane R4118. It is available from the British producer, Intelligent Television and Video Ltd. ( http://www.itvv.com ) and is well worth having it sent from the UK.

    In particular, the disassembly of the Merlin was unusual as several pistons were seized and had to be BLOWN out of the cylinder block.

    Highly recommended. – TT

  2. Lindsay Brooke
    August 21, 2012

    Dennis, great site–destined to be yet another significant online distraction for me! The Hurricane’s airframe construction is quite interesting; I’m curious about the need for thin-gauge wire reinforcements to the triangulated-tube structure–do you know why this was needed? Also, was the steel tubing Reynolds 531 manganese-moly, as used on the XKE’s bonnet-support front substructure, works Norton Manx frames, and numerous classic lightweight bicycle frames? 531 was also used extensively in the Spitfire.

    – Lindsay Brooke

  3. Skip Cusack
    March 2, 2016

    I’ve got a small bookcase full of books on the Hurricane and some try to put right some misconceptions. In Hawker Hurricane Inside and Out, Melvyn Hiscock assiduously makes a persuasive case that the Hurricane was not all that less complex to manufacture than the Spitfire. He cites excellent examples, with photos, pointing out “Not all of the fuselage tubes are the same dimensions, making mass production even harder…” and, “…the complexity of even one of the more simple fuselage joints can be seen… the longerons are fully square with the uprights being rectangular…” Hiscock credits the Hurricane being more numerous than the Spitfire to Tommy Sopwith’s foresight for the need for such a machine, and that he and Hawker “bet the farm” that if they tooled up, the orders would come. Thank goodness they did.

    • Harru Hurst
      September 4, 2016

      I wonder though if the Hurricane would have been easier to repair and maintain in the field, as in racing tubular chassis cars are generally much easier to repair than monocoque designs. In a war environment, far removed from well equipped shops, I would think this could be a major advantage.

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This entry was posted on August 20, 2012 by in Vintage Aero and tagged , , , , .
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