Aviation Historian 2
D.Simpson - Hunters over the Andes
Hunter F.52 640 of the Fuerza Aerea del Peru was originally a Kingston-built F.4 which made its first flight on April 25, 1955, as WT796. It was delivered to No 247 Sqn RAF at Odiham on May 4 the same year, only to be withdrawn for conversion to Mk 52 standard five months later, on October 17. It was given the FAP serial 640, which was changed to 140 as part of a reorganisation during 1960-61.
The author taxies out at Limatambo for the first flight of the first completed Peruvian Hunter, 635, on May 18, 1956. The flight lasted 50min and the aircraft was taken up again later the same day for a 45min flight.
A line-up of four of the Mk 52s at Limatambo, with the Andes rising in the background. In a 1980 letter to the author, Peruvian Hunter pilot Julio Leon Melgar wrote: “We enjoyed flying our Hunters and for me it is still the best ’plane I ever flew - including the Mirage”.
All 16 of the batch of Hunter single-seaters ordered as Mk 52s by Peru in September 1955, photographed at Limatambo in May 1956. The aircraft were all ex-RAF Hunter F.4s and the Peruvian sale - the first order for Hunters from a country outside Europe - was something of a coup for Hawker, the USA having saturated the South American market with surplus North American F-86 Sabres and Lockheed F-80s and T-33s.
President Odria inspects his air arm’s new interceptors on May 30, 1956, before presenting the new squadron with its War Standard in the presence of various American and British diplomats and chiefs of the FAP.
Hawker and FAP personnel at Dunsfold in 1955 during the latter’s familiarisation flight programme. Left to right: Hawker production test pilot Don Lucey; unknown; E.H. Jefferson Sr (Production Manager at Kingston); Col Fernando Paraud; Hawker’s Sales Manager for South America Tim Wills and Lima agent Luis Navarro.
Fighter aircraft ancient and modern - a Hunter is prepared for flight alongside an F-47D of fighter-bomber unit Escuadron de Caza (EC) 13, the FAP’s F-86F Sabres operating with EC 12.
A busy scene at Limatambo as the Hunters are prepared on the ramp in front of the hangar. Hunter 634 was originally serialled WT803 but never saw service with the RAF. At least two of the FAP Hunters have been preserved as gate guardians or exhibits at Peruvian air bases.
A poor-quality but extremely rare photograph of the author performing aerobatics and low-level runs at Limatambo in May 1956.
TOP LEFT Box fresh - each Hunter was dismantled and packed into four boxes for shipping to Peru. Seen here outside the hangar at Limatambo are two tall boxes containing wings and a smaller fuselage box. TOP RIGHT The wings in their supporting structure after the tie-beams of the box had been severed. The wings would then be laid over on to beams on the ground, to be picked up with slings for mounting. BOTTOM The centre fuselage and nose section with the case opened. The boxes were packed with great expertise in the UK by Messrs R. & J. Parks.
Members of the Peruvian Arsenal work on the tailplane of 631. The author recalls: “By any standards they were excellent workmen and soon obtained a complete grasp of operations”.
In bow tie and white linen suit and with pipe firmly gripped in his teeth, Rolls-Royce representative Jock Gaskyn supervises the installation of an Avon Mk 115 in one of the Hunters at Limatambo. In the background is one of 20 Republic F-47D Thunderbolts supplied by the USA to Peru as fighter-bombers in 1947 as part of the Rio Pact.
Four Peruvian pilots in the flying gear that caused the author such headaches. Although it is not certain who these individual pilots are, a four-man formation team - the Four Aces - was formed in September 1956, comprising Julio Leon Melgar, Hernan Boluarte, Alberto Thorndike and Chilicuto Hernandez; this may be them.
An EC 14 Hunter with the unit’s distinctive Peruvian Gamefowl motif on the nose is prepared for another flight.