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Aces of Aviation

Hawker High Speed Fury of Paul Ward Spencer Bulman

Hawker High Speed Fury of Paul Ward Spencer Bulman

Hawker High Speed Fury, piloted by Flight Lieutenant Paul Ward Spencer Bulman, in the SBAC (Society of British Aircraft Constructors) Exhibition of 1933.

Wingspan: 9.10 meters.

Length: 8.90 meters.

Height: 3.10 meters.

Engine[s]: Rolls-Royce Kestrel VIS of 600 horsepower.

Maximum speed: 370 kilometers/hour.

Service ceiling: 9000 meters.

Range: 416 kilometers.

Armament: Two Vickers 0.303-inch machine guns.

Paul Ward Spencer Bulman (invariably known as "George" due to his habit of addressing himself like that) was, probably, the most known, respected and popular of all test pilots during the interwar period. He was indeed regarded as the dean of his profession during over twenty years. Born the 8th April 1896 in Luton, Bedfordshire, Bulman began to work at the age of 17 as employee of the Bank of England, and served in Artillery during the first months of the First World War, before moving to the Royal Flying Corps in 1915. Before the armistice he was already well known as Flight Lieutenant of the Royal Air Force and master of the Sopwith Camel.

Gifted with a permanent appointment, Bulman was aggregated to the Engine Flight in the headquarters of the Royal Aircraft the 19th October 1919, under command from Roderick Hill, a very talented Test Pilot, Flight Chief and, later, Air Chief Marshal with title of Sir. It was there where Hill, Bulman, T. A. Langford-Sainsbury, "Teddy" Gerrard and many other pilots unravelled, with great effort, the true scientific principles of test flight, which would place the British aviation industry in such a good position during the following thirty years.

After the flight tests in Barnborough - which included a considerable amount of contracts for flying for diverse commercial companies - George Bulman entered the H. G. Hawker Engineering Company in 1925. Thus it was him who, that same year, led the Hawker Cygnet light aircraft to the first position in the 100-mile stage race of the Lypne International, and also who won the light aircraft competition of the Daily Mail in 1926. When appointed as Test Pilot, Bulman performed his first flights in the Hawker Danecock, followed by several other Hawker aircraft: the Heron and Horsley in 1925, the Hornbill in 1926, the Hawfinch and Harrier in 1927, the Tomtit and F 20/27 in 1928, and the Hornet in 1929.

As the production orders of the Hart and Fury variants quickly grew, Bulman was joined by Jerry Sayer and later by Philip Lucas. From 1930 onward, these pilots performed a large amount of experimental and production tests. The successive annual apparitions of the Royal Air Force in Hendon showcased imposing acrobatic exhibitions featuring the Hawker Fury. Bulman gave the baptism of air to the High Speed Fury variant the 3rd May 1933, and onboard such beautiful aircraft, marked with the numeral K3586 and fitted with special wings of angled leading edges (as seen on the illustration), he executed one of the most brilliant acrobatic shows of all times.

It was Bulman as well who flew for the first time the prototype of the Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft in November 1935, the year when he was appointed as director of the Hawker Aircraft Limited. It was the first time, since the time of Harry Hawker, that a test pilot in active service saw his labor so highly recognized. Albeit he continued performing flight tests in considerable number, the bulk of experimental flights was from that point entrusted to his formidable team of pilots.

The last aircraft which Bulman piloted on test flights were the Typhoon and the Tempest, before retiring from the field of aviation in 1945 to manage his private affairs in Epsom Group. Captain "George" Bullman (Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Military Cross and Air Force Cross) died in 1963 leaving behind him an arduous profession which owed much to his example of brilliant self-confidence.

Hawker High Speed Fury K3586