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Free Press helps James’ job dreams take flight

James Thompson working on a Hurricane
James Thompson working on a Hurricane

Engineering graduate James Thompson has found the job of his dreams working on the restoration of historic World War Two Hurricane fighters – thanks to the Suffolk Free Press.

James, 25, from Lawshall, finished a four-year BSc course in mechanical and manufacturing engineering at the University of Brighton with an Honours degree last year and was looking for an interesting and challenging career, preferably one that would enable him to roll up his sleeves and use his practical talents.

James Thompson in the cockpit
James Thompson in the cockpit

Co-incidentally Milden-based Hawker Restorations was desperately trying to find an apprentice to join its team of highly-skilled engineers, who have put most of the iconic Hurricanes still flying back in the air.

And when a story about the company’s difficulties in finding suitable applicants appeared in the Suffolk Free Press, it was seen by one of James’ relatives who tipped him off about the opportunity.

Now James is several months into his first job and relishing every day he goes to work. He said: “I have always been passionate about aeronautical engineering and to find that there was an opportunity to work for one of the most respected aircraft restoration companies in the world was just brilliant.

“Here at Hawker I am putting to practical use the skills I learnt at college – using drills and lathes, and milling and welding.

The restored World War II Hurricane at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk after it's maiden flight. Picture Warren Page/ Anglia Press Agency
The restored World War II Hurricane at RAF Wattisham in Suffolk after it's maiden flight. Picture Warren Page/ Anglia Press Agency

“We design and make some of the components, so it is a very hands-on apprenticeship and the older chaps have been incredibly helpful.

“It is a privilege to be able to work on old aircraft that have played such a significant a part in history.

“Every day is different so I never get complacent about the challenges at work. I am really grateful to my auntie for spotting the story in the paper and telling me about the marvellous opportunity.”

James is now studying for his Aircraft Maintenance Engineers licence from the Civil Aviation Authority so that he will be able to sign off the work that he does on the aircraft.

Hawker’s managing director Andrew Wenman said: “James has taken to the work extremely well and shows a natural ability. We do highly-specialised work here and we need people who have good hand-skills.

“You can’t teach that in a classroom and as a result we were having real problems in finding someone to join our team.

“We even looked overseas but we couldn’t find the right sort of applicant until James came along.”

Hawker is currently working on two Second World War Hurricanes and said that interest in the famous aircraft surged last year with the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

But owners have to have deep pockets as well as a love of “warbirds” – the price of a full restoration is around £2million plus VAT and takes up to two-and-a-half years to complete.

Hawker Restorations is about to move from the hangars where they have been based for more than 20 years to new, larger premises with a longer airstrip at Elmsett in the next 12 months.

l After the success of the Hawker Restoration apprentice scheme, sister company Hawker Racing, which prepares and restores historic racing cars from Lotus and BRM single seaters to Jaguar C-types and Cooper Monacos, is also hoping to find an engineer looking to make career progress.

Applications should be sent to boss Tony Ditheridge, who said: “This is a very rare chance for a person with the right attitude and skill set to be part of a growing company that specialises in working on some of the world’s most iconic racing and sports cars.

“It will provide the opportunity to join other enthusiasts in an exciting, challenging – and competitive – environment.”

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