So Long, Hawker

Hawker Hurricane Mk.IIb

If all goes according to plan, the famed Hawker name will all but cease to exist after bankrupt Hawker Beechcraft emerges from near financial death in the coming days under the Beechcraft name alone.

Just how long the storied Hawker brand remains dormant is anybody’s guess, but it’s hard to imagine it going away forever – if only because the Hawker name has been with us for so long.

How long exactly? Hawker came into existence in England after the bankruptcy of another well-known aviation entity, Sopwith, which went under shortly after World War I ended. Sopwith test pilot Harry Hawker and three others bought the assets of Sopwith and renamed the company H.G. Hawker Engineering in 1920. By 1933 the company was renamed Hawker and a year later, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, became Hawker Siddley. It produced dozens of aircraft models for the British Royal Air Force, including the Hawker Fury, the Hind and, of course, the famed Rolls-Royce Merlin-powered Hurricane.

After further consolidation following World War II, Hawker Siddley expanded into civil aircraft and even railway production. Eventually it became a part of British Aerospace. In the post-war years, the company is best known for producing the Harrier Jump Jet, Hawk trainer, Hunter fighter and the HS.125 Hawker business jet.

Raytheon purchased the Hawker bizjet line from British Aerospace in 1993. The business was sold in 2006 to private investors, including Goldman Sachs, just two years before the financial crisis put the brakes on the business jet buying frenzy. It didn't help that design flaws delayed the clean-sheet, composite Hawker 4000 for several years.

After Hawker Beechcraft sheds the Hawker name in February, it will all but be erased from the aviation lexicon, apart form the Hawker Pacific landing gear division of Lufthansa Technik.

Still, considering the long history of the company and its rich tradition in aviation, my hope is Hawker makes a comeback someday, somehow. It just seems wrong that yet another great name so inextricably linked with aviation should vanish overnight into the ether of history.


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