THE HAWKER TYPHOON
The Hawker Typhoon was never a beginners or inexperienced pilot's aircraft, it had a nasty habit of being ruthless with those who were not prepared for its power and quirks. An aircraft probably best summed up by Free French fighter pilot Pierre Closterman when he said of it, "She sorted the men from the boys."
The aircraft could, and sometimes did, kill its pilots without any help from the enemy. Pressed into RAF service during 1941 to counter the superiority of the German Focke Wulf 190 it failed in its intended role as an interceptor but by 1944 it had been transformed into one of the best ground attack rocket firing fighter-bombers the Allies had.
Developed by Sir Sydney Camm of Hawker's in response for a fighter capable of 400mph the Hawker Typhoon entered RAF service with 56 Squadron at Duxford during September of 1941 and more or less straight away some of the problems that would bedevil the aircraft throughout much of its life became apparent.
While an earlier one of some Typhoons losing their tails in flight had been more or less corrected by 1944 some pilots still thought it necessary by the war's end to wear oxygen masks, even at take off, because of a problem identified in 1942, and supposedly cured, of carbon monoxide seeping dangerously into the cockpit. Additionally its Napier Sabre engine was prone to mechanical problems and such was the weight of the aircraft that one pilot was led to remark, "When the propeller stopped spinning it flew like a seven ton brick."
One further problem that was to haunt the Hawker Typhoon was the matter of recognition. On several occassions early in its career, and indeed later, were incidents of being shot down by friendly fire in mistake for the Focke Wulf 190. (The rationale at the time seemed to be if it doesn't look like a Spitfire then it must be German.) In an effort to offset this happening a series of black and white underwing recognition stripes were added, not dissimilar to, but narrower than the invasion recognition stripes added in June 1944. In view of these early problems, and disappointing performance above 20,000 feet, production of the Hawker Typhoon came close to being cancelled, however, thanks to the persistence of several individuals, who had faith in the type, by the time of the D Day landings of 6th June 1944, the aircraft had been transformed from a dubious fighter into one of the best ground attack fighter-bombers the Allies had. Originally armed with just four 20mm cannon, (very early examples had eight Browning .303 machine guns) this was later supplemented with eight 60lb high explosive rocket projectiles capable of penetrating the thickest tank armour. If any doubts remained about the aircraft's capabilities the decimation of the German 7th Army, as it tried to fight its way out through the Falaise Gap during August 1944, brought them to an end.
Once the war in Europe, and the Far East, was over there was no longer a need for the Hawker Typhoon, which by then was rapidly being overtaken by more recent designs, and subsequently it was decided to scrap them. Oddly however Gloster Aircraft still had an order for some to fulfil even though the aircraft were no longer required and soon the rather laughable situation had developed that as new ones came off the production line they were taken to the other side of the works airfield and dismantled.
By the end of the 1940's virtually all surviving Hawker Typhoons had been scrapped and some years later it was thought that no examples existed, then one was found crated in the USA. Eager to have this last, and almost complete, example the RAF Museum at Hendon exchanged a Hawker Hurricane for it. (Of the 3,317 Hawker Typhoons produced this is believed to be the only surviving original example.)
(NB. This is not intended to be a full history of the aircraft. For those interested in a detailed history, performance and engineering analysis of the Hawker Typhoon, and of the people involved, it is recommended to seek out those websites specifically dedicated to the subject.)