Collision damages vintage planes in Galveston air show

Information about Pacific Theatre aircraft currently flying or under restoration.

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Collision damages vintage planes in Galveston air show

Post by West-Front » Tue Apr 29, 2008 4:09 am

GALVESTON — Two vintage aircraft, one of them recently restored after 15 years of effort and $2 million, were damaged seriously over the weekend in a ground collision at a Galveston air show, the president of the Lone Star Flight Museum said Monday.

A Supermarine Spitfire taxied into the rear of the recently restored Hawker Hurricane at about 2:30 p.m. Saturday, flattening the Hurricane's tail section, museum President Larry Gregory said.Those two types of fighters played crucial roles in the Royal Air Force's victory over the German Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in World War II.

"It's a shame it happened," Gregory said. "As an organization, we're very disappointed."

Erin Napier, curator of the Canadian Aviation Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario, said there are only 32 Hawker Hurricanes in the world today. Of that total, 18 are known to be airworthy.The damage to both planes will be repaired, Gregory said, although it may take months.

No one was injured in what Gregory said was the first accident in the 18-year history of museum air shows at Scholes International Airport.Gregory said the cause of the accident has not been determined. He said the brakes on the Spitfire were being examined and the Federal Aviation Administration was investigating.

The Hurricane, which had about 15 hours of flying time since its restoration, is painted like a Hurricane flown in World War II by Texas air ace Lance Wade of Reklaw, Rusk County, Gregory said. The plane is owned by the museum.Wade enlisted in the Royal Air Force in 1940, shooting down about 25 enemy aircraft before his death in 1944.

The 15-year restoration of the Hurricane cost about $2 million and was completed in May 2006, Gregory said. He said the fighter was painted in November to resemble Wade's Hurricane.The Spitfire, registered to a private owner in Colorado, appeared to have damage to the wings and landing gear, Gregory said.Both aircraft are in a hangar, where they will remain until the FAA completes its investigation, he said.

Michael O'Leary, editor of Air Classics magazine, said the Hurricane involved in Saturday's accident was built in Canada and assigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force.O'Leary said the Hurricane crash-landed in Newfoundland in July 1944 after the engine failed. The pilot was uninjured.

"The aircraft was written off and sort of left where it was," O'Leary said.

He said the Hurricane was recovered in the late 1960s or early 1970s. It was stored by a series of owners until it was acquired by the Lone Star Flight Museum, which shipped it to a restoration shop in Colorado."The Hurricane bridged the technology between the biplane and the monoplane. It still had a lot of biplane technology. The structure is quite complicated with a fair amount of wood in it," he said.

O'Leary said the value of vintage warplanes has grown in recent years to such an extent that damaged aircraft are being recovered from remote locations around the world and restored.He said several Hurricanes have been found on frozen tundras in Russia where they crashed after being shot down during World War II.

Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle

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