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Flying a plane: It’s not exactly brain surgery

A Suffolk historic aircraft restoration company is helping one of the country’s leading brain surgeons start a new life – flying his own iconic Battle of Britain fighter as a display pilot.

Peter Kirkpatrick plans to swap the operating theatre at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for the cockpit of a 350mph Hawker Hurricane and instead of making complex life and death decisions about patients with serious head injuries he will start a new and very different career in the skies.

The painstaking task of rebuilding the 76-year-old warplane has been undertaken by Hawker Restorations of Milden near Sudbury, world leaders in putting Hurricanes back in the air who have worked on or rebuilt all of the 13 Hurricanes now flying.

The 56-year-old specialises in neuro-vascular surgery – the extraordinarily delicate and precise medical procedures required for people usually suffering severe head traumas after accidents – but he is currently undergoing final pilot training in America.

It will have taken two years and around £2 million to get the fighter – original RAF number V7497 – ready for take-off again. It was shot down over Kent during the Battle of Britain in 1940 which successfully halted German plans to invade Britain, and the remains were dug up around 40 years ago.

Mr Kirkpatrick, who has also trained other specialists, explained: “In some respects flying is like surgery – there is very little room for error. Both involve the hand and eye co-ordination and though the Hurricane is much less-sophisticated piece of machinery in the end it comes down to having to make very rapid life-or-death decisions.

“I believe passionately in the history of these aircraft and the role they played in the last world war. Thanks to the courage and bravery of the young men who flew them we enjoy much of what we enjoy today and to be able to fly a Hurricane is a huge privilege.

“There are only about a dozen in the world still in an airworthy condition and although the Spitfire may have garnered more attention it was the Hurricane that was the real workhorse of the war – and the Battle of Britain statistics prove it. “It will be fantastic to fly one, as a tribute to those who sacrificed their lives seventy five years ago – without them we would have lost the war.”

Read more at: http://www.suffolkfreepress.co.uk/news/flying-a-plane-it-s-not-exactly-brain-surgery-1-7662192

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