Interview with Mr Peter Kirkpatrick

Peter Kirkpatrick is consultant and honorary lecturer in Neurosurgery, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, University of Cambridge.

Peter shares his passion for flying and the restoration of Hurricane fighter planes

I’ve held my licence for 20 years. I operated on a farmer who ran an aviation centre on his land. I was well looked after and learnt to fly there.

Last year I completed training in America to obtain an aerobatic air display licence. It’s much cheaper to train there, in North Carolina, than in the UK.

My current project (and future job) is helping in the restoration of an original MKI Hawker Hurricane which was shot down over Kent but Me109s in 1940. I’ve always been interested in that era, even as a school boy. Most of the current 11 flying Hurricanes are MK II or above, but this particular plane is from the Battle of Britain. All Spitfires and Hurricanes serving in that crucial period were Mark Is, and for obvious reasons surviving Mark Is were few and far between - there is only one other MKI flying Battle of Britain serving hurricane in existence.

The restoration should be complete in about a year’s time. There are over a million pieces that make up the Hurricane, all hand-made and hand-fitted, consuming over 40,000 man hours to build.

I intend to leave the NHS in the next few years in order to become the official air display pilot of the restored Hurricane. Quite simply, in order to fund the restoration we need to generate income by participating in air displays and selling related hurricane merchandise. I am responsible for half the aircraft, the other half is up for grabs!

I currently fly an aerobatic biplane, a two-seater 1980 Pitts Special. The Hurricane, however, is a single seater fighter aircraft so there is no seat for an experienced instructor! – exactly the same situation the young pilots faced in the war but they had the added inconvenience of being shot at by the enemy! They also had far less flying time than I’ve had, yet despite my clear advantage I’m sure I’ll be wetting myself behind 1000hp of Rolls Royce Merlin engine for the first few flights.

The restoration has a website: – named after the 501 squadron which was based at Langley, Berkshire during the war. It was a key aircraft unit alongside Biggin Hill in Kent.

Many people wrongly believe that the Spitfire was the most important aircraft in the Battle of Britain, but in fact it was the Hurricane that saved the free world. Without the Hurricanes, the Battle of Britain would have been lost as it accounted for over 60 per cent of RAF victories in the Second World War. Without the Spitfire the Battle would still have been won with Hurricanes alone, just over a more prolonged period.

You have also taken part in horse races at Newmarket?
We enjoyed sailing and windsurfing before moving to East Anglia which is pretty flat. The dinner party conversation often involved horses and I took up riding for hunting and racing purposes.

I took part in the annual Newmarket Town Plate amateur race for five years running and won it in 2005 on a horse called Domenico. The race was created by King Charles II in 1666 and is the first recorded horse race. He stated that it should be ‘run forever’ so it is written in statute that it has to take place every year. It must drive the groundsmen mad at Newmarket having to keep four miles of turf pristine for amateur jockeys to carve up once a year.

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