The Paper Hurricane: Part 3

Have you seen the Paper Hurricane that flies alongside Spitfire RW388 in the Spitfire Gallery? Artist Suhail Shaikh takes us through the epic journey of the sculpture’s creation. In this third installment, Suhail takes us through the detailed process of building the Hurricane’s Merlin engine and instrument panel.

Suhail Shaikh, 2021

Once the fuselage halves were ready I began work on the engine. Plans were hard to come by and I took loads of photographs of Merlins that were in cut-away form. There is so much going on in there! Trying to imagine it all in 3D was trying because the engine is so compact with channels, tubing and conduits filling up the spaces where pistons and gearing etc don’t travel… It was a great, most enjoyable headache.

What’s more, the piston’s actually travel in their cylinders, the crankshaft turns…And once done, I took great pleasure in cutting out and gluing the two words, Rolls Royce, in gold. Because this is not just an engine, this is a jewel.

The cockpit instruments were studied and replicated. The Hurricane cockpit is part display and control, part structure, part moving wires and cables, part cramped and I wanted to bring in that feeling. Try an imagine a young 19 year old flying and fighting in that space.

I am often asked what is the point in going into so much detail when it will not be visible when the aircraft is on display. Well, it’s for my own sense of completion. I know it’s there and for me the aircraft is as complete as I can make it today, whether the details are seen or not…they are there.

A striking detail of the Hurricane is the fine framework at the rear end, made originally in wood and canvas. This finely facetted rear-end is a signature detail and I spent hours glueing T-sections of paper in a straight line by eye, strip by strip.

Once the fuselage halves, empennage, Warren frame, engine and cockpit were built, came the assembly of the two halves around the inner bits…

Written by Joe Perry (Curator, Local History)

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