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  • Writer's pictureroy blewett

Handley Page types

The first production Dart Herald, G-APWA operated commercially in the United Kingdom and Brazil, ending its flying career at Southend in 1982. It was relocated to Woodley in 1993 and is now on display at the Museum of Berkshire Aviation (John Tomlinson, 30 Apr 23)

Handley Page Hastings and Hermes


Handley Page was the United Kingdom’s first dedicated aeronautical engineering company, established 17 June 1909. Although best known for its bomber aircraft, it was closely linked with the development of long-range commercial aviation, most notably through the H.P.42 and H.P.45 airliners that pioneered Imperial Airways’ Empire routes. By 1943, Handley Page was discussing with the Air Staff a new aircraft that could replace converted Halifaxes then in use as troop carriers and military freighters, as well as fulfil a role as a civil airliner once the war ended. Ultimately, separate specifications emerged for these tasks, leading respectively to the Hastings and the Hermes. Both drew heavily on Handley Page’s earlier work and although development of the Hermes initially proceeded more quickly, the loss of the prototype on the first flight, the result of elevator overbalance, was a setback. Stability issues plagued flight trials of the Hastings too, until the operational necessity of the Berlin Airlift cut short acceptance trials, and the aircraft entered Royal Air Force (RAF) service equipped with a synthetic stall-warning system. A solution to the stability problems was found shortly afterwards and the Hastings went on the serve with distinction in Malaya and Suez campaigns, before being replaced in mainstream RAF use by the Lockheed Hercules.


A specialist training version soldiered on for a further 10 years, until the type was finally retired, on 30 June 1977. In the meantime, Handley Page experimented with different configurations of the Hermes, before settling on the definitive Hermes IV. The Ministry of Supply ordered 25 for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in March 1947, but weight problems led BOAC to reject several airframes. The Hermes eventually entered service on routes to Africa in August 1950, but its career was short-lived and by the end of 1954, all BOAC’s Hermes had been retired in favour of Canadair Argonauts. The type went on to serve with several independent operators, the only survivor having flown for the last time in 1962. It was then used on ground instructional tasks at Gatwick Airport before being transported to Duxford in August 1981.


First flight: Hermes - 2 Dec 45 (c/n H.P.68/1, G-AGSS); Hastings - 7 May 46 (TE580)

Production: 180, comprising 151 Hastings and 29 Hermes; all built at Cricklewood and Radlett (see below) and assembled at Radlett

First delivery: Hastings - Sep 48, to RAF (TG499); Hermes - 12 Sep 49, to BOAC (c/n H.P.81/5, G-ALDD)

Last delivery: Hastings - Oct 53, to Royal New Zealand AF (NZ5804); Hermes - 4 Mar 53, ex-storage to Airwork (c/n H.P.81/1, G-AKFP)

Variants:  H.P.67 Hastings C.1 - tactical military transport with tailwheel design, powered by 4 Bristol Hercules 102 radials and with accommodation for up to 50 passengers or 30 paratroops (102 built, comprising 2 prototypes at Radlett, the first of which was assembled at Wittering, and 100 production aircraft at Cricklewood);

   H.P.67 Hastings C.2 - longer-range, increased weight version of Hastings C1 for use as a strategic troop transport, powered by Hercules 106s (43 built at Cricklewood; first flight 23 Oct 48);

   H.P.68 Hermes I - prototype airliner with tailwheel configuration completed without interior, powered by 4 Bristol Hercules 100 (1 built at Radlett)

   H.P.74 Hermes II - stretched version of Hermes I powered by Bristol Hercules 130s and with seating for up to 64 passengers (1 built at Radlett; first flight 2 Sep 47);

   H.P.81 Hermes IV - production aircraft for BOAC with nosewheel arrangement, powered by Bristol Hercules 763 engines and with seating for up to 82 passengers (25 built at Cricklewood; first flight 5 Sep 48)

   H.P.82 Hermes V - developed, longer-range version of Hermes IV powered by Bristol Theseus turboprops (2 built at Radlett; first flight 23 Aug 49);

   H.P.94 Hastings C.4 - VIP transport version of Hastings C.2 with integral air-stairs and accommodation for up to 20 passengers (4 built at Cricklewood; first flight 22 Sep 51);

   H.P.95 Hastings C.3 - customised version of Hastings C.1 for New Zealand powered by Bristol Hercules 737 engines, with instrument and radio changes (4 built at Cricklewood; first flight 3 Nov 52).

Conversions included: Hastings Met.1 - weather reconnaissance aircraft, equipped with specialist equipment for long range overwater operations (19 conversions, from Hastings C.1); Hastings C.1A - long-range version of C.1, with underwing fuel tanks and Hercules 106 engines (50 converted); Hastings T.5 - V-bomber navigator/aimer training aircraft (8 converted from Hastings C.1 by Airwork at Radlett); Hermes IVA - Hermes IV re-engined with Hercules 737s (24 converted).


Handley Page (Reading) H.P.R.3 Herald and H.P.R.7 Dart Herald


Handley Page set up its Reading subsidiary in 1948 following the purchase of Miles Aircraft, which had passed into receivership the previous year. Attention was initially focused on the M.60 Marathon feeder-liner, a Miles design that the Ministry of Supply had ordered into production for operation on domestic UK services and by British Overseas Airways Corporation’s offshore subsidiaries. In 1952 the company began development of a short-haul airliner designed to fill a perceived gap in the market for a low-cost DC-3 replacement, drawing on earlier work undertaken by Miles on a scaled-up version of the Marathon powered by four piston engines. By the time of the first flight Handley Page had received conditional orders for 29 Heralds from Queensland Airlines and Lloyd Aereo Colombiano. Both these orders were subsequently cancelled with, significantly, the Australian customer having opted for the faster, turbine-powered Fokker Friendship. The company decided to convert both Herald prototypes to twin-Dart power and re-market the aircraft as the Dart Herald. Intense competition from both the F27 and the Avro 748 kept sales down and only 48 Dart Heralds were completed before production ended in 1968. The last active Dart Herald made its final flight on 9 April 1999 and was put on display at the Bournemouth Aviation Museum shortly after. Sadly, this concern failed and the aircraft was broken up on 30 June 2008 and its remains transported to Wycombe Air Park.


Survivor numbers continue to decline with the loss of two-fifths of the population since 2017.


First flight: 25 Aug 55 (c/n 147, G-AODE)

Production: 50, comprising 8 at Woodley and 42 at Radlett

First delivery: 27 Jul 61, to Jersey Airlines (c/n 150, G-APWB)

Last delivery: 16 Aug 68, to Arkia (c/n 197, 4X-AHN)

Variants: H.P.R.3 Herald - short-haul airliner powered by 4 Alvis Leonides Major pistons, with seating for up to 44 passengers, (2 built at Woodley, subsequently converted to H.P.R.7 Dart Herald);

   H.P.R.7 Dart Herald 100 - re-engineered version of H.P.R.3 powered by 2 Rolls-Royce Dart 527 turboprops, with seating for up to 47 passengers, (4 built at Woodley; first flight 30 Oct 59);

   H.P.R.7 Dart Herald 200 - stretched version with seating for up to 56 (2 built at Woodley and 34 at Radlett);

   H.P.R.7 Dart Herald 400 - export version for Royal Malaysian Air Force (8 built at Radlett).


Handley Page survivors
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