Produced in large numbers the P-40 or Tomahawk, Kittyhawk or Warhawk as she was also known, was a ruggedly effective and potent fighter of the Second World War. Now, some 70 years on, surviving Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk 43-5802, has been rolled out in a scheme not seen on a P40 in the UK before. Words by Jamie Ewan, with photography from Steve Barnes.
The Hangar 11 Collection, based at North Weald, is currently built up of four rather special and finely restored examples of legendary World War Two fighter aircraft comprising of Supermarine Spitfire Mk XI PL965, Hawker Hurricane Mk IIB BE505, North American P-51D Mustang 44-72035 and the one and only Curtiss P-40 Kittyhawk 43-5802. Each of these rather rare aircraft come with their own extensive wartime histories are regular participants on the UK and European Airshow. Operated by Hangar 11 , the aircraft are owned and flown by Peter Teichman and a select few of the finest and most experienced display pilots in the UK.
Manufactured in October 1943, Curtiss P-40M 43-5802, was assigned to a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) squadron flying with the serial no. 840. Accumulating just 732 hours in military service with various Squadrons of the RCAF, aircraft was retired in 1950 before being transeferred to Oregon State University to become an instructional aircraft. Soon after the aircraft was placed in storage at Troutdale Airport until she was she was acquired in the late 1970’s by the very well known P-40 expert, Tommy Camp from California. Fortunately, the airframe was found to have survived in remarkably good condition and was suitable for a restoration to flying condition. In the early 1980’s the aircraft was very meticulously and loving restored and once again back in the air in 1982.
Purchased by The Fighter Collection at Duxford in February 1985, 43-5802 was shipped across the Atlantic and took up residence for ten years until 1995 when she was traded to Christophe Jacquard, based at Dijon in France. While in France the aircraft was re-registered F-AZPJ and flew in France for three years, before making a return to re-join The Fighter Collection (TFC) in 1998. Back in the UK, 43-5802 was again re-registered as G-KITT, she continued to fly and operate with by TFC until 2005 when she was purchased by Peter Tecichman and the Hangar 11 Collection at North Weald.
Since becoming a Hangar 11 mount, she has appeared extensively at airshows and in film work across the UK and further airfield, including at a former Soviet military airfield near Prague. G-KITT took part in filming for the 2012 movie ‘Red Tails’, about the Tuskegee Airmen and their role in World War Two. Wearing a temporary water washable scheme for the filming, she was flown back to the UK and the decision was made to retain the temporary colours until the final release of the movie – although no one had quite anticipated that over two years would pass!
The aircraft is now finished in a rather fetching scheme not seen on a P40 in the UK before, representing the personel P-40N-5 (42-105128) of 2nd Lieutenant Philip Adair – ‘Lulu Belle’. 2nd Lt Philip Adair flew this aircraft while serving with the 89th Fighter Squadron (Burma Banshees) 80th Fighter Group/10th Air Force during the first half of 1944, while based at Nagaghuli, India. The aircraft is actually the 2nd ‘Lulu Belle’ to exist, with the first being a P-40N-1 – again flown by 2nd Lt Adair. Adair first made a name for himself on 13th December 1943 by flying single-handedly into a force of some 24 Mitsubishi Ki-21 ‘Sally’ bombers with an escort of Nakajima Ki-43 ‘Oscar’ fighters. Downing one of the Oscars and gaining two probables with the damage inflicted on two more, he was awarded the Silver Star for his actions. Although the Burma Banshees were largely employed in the fighter-bomber role at this time, it is believed that Adair was flying Lulu Belle when he shot down 2 Oscars on 17th May 1944. Soon after being credited with the two Kills, the squadron transitioned to the P-47 and saw 42-105128 transefered to the 90th Fighter Squadron, who were still flying P-40s.
We look forward to seeing G-KITT “Lulu Belle”, as well as the rest of the Hangar 11 Collection, around the UK Airshow circuit this year!