News

Historic Sea Fury to resume displays this summer
24 January 2017

The Navy’s last piston-engined fighter is due to resume air displays this summer – three years after it was nearly wrecked in a crash at Culdrose.

The Sea Fury came down during Air Day in 2014 when its engine packed up mid-display, forcing pilot Lt Cdr Chris Götke to make an emergency landing.

Glory days... the Sea Fury before her 2014 accident. Picture: Lee Howard

THE glorious sound of the Navy’s last piston-engined fighter will return to the skies this summer – for the first time in three years.

Not since a near-catastrophic crash at Culdrose Air Day in the summer of 2014 has the Sea Fury of the RN Historic Flight – the Fleet Air Arm’s counterpart of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – flown, let alone performed for the crowds.

But the team responsible for keeping it – and the other icons of Naval aviation, such as the legendary Swordfish bomber – airworthy say the huge repair and restoration job on the 69-year-old aircraft is nearing completion.

The Sea Fury suffered engine failure in the middle of a display at Culdrose in July 2014.

Part of the stripped-down and restored Bristol Centaurus engine

The aircraft skidded to a halt on the grass after the undercarriage collapsed as pilot Lt Cdr Chris ‘Goaty’ Götke made an emergency landing.

He clambered out of the two-seat trainer unscathed, but the landing gear, airframe and especially the Bristol Centaurus engine needed fixing.

More than 2,500 of the powerplants were built in the 1940s and ’50s for civilian and military aircraft including the enormous Bristol Brabazon airliner and the late WW2 fighter, the Hawker Tempest.

But six decades later, few survive. One was located in the USA by specialist restorers Weald Aviation, who’ve carried out the Sea Fury’s repairs.

On the road back... the restored main body in the shed at Weald Aviation

They finished work on the airframe last summer and turned to the engine, stripping it, completely overhauling the components, before piecing it all back together.

Sue Eagles of Navy Wings said the Sea Fury was “on track to return to the skies for the 2017 display season”, but that the engineers at Weald faced an extremely challenging job in rebuilding the fighter’s engine.

“The Bristol Centaurus 18 is an incredibly complex 60-year-old engine – one of the most powerful sleeve valve radial engines ever built.

“It has taken a lot of meticulous planning and skilful workmanship to disassemble it down to the last nut and bolt, and rebuild it again – a task once only ever done by the original manufacturers.”