Tag Archives: Handley Page Limited

20 January 1932

Imperial Airways' Handley Page H.P. 42E, G-AAXF, Helena, in flight. (San Diego Air and Space Museum)
Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42, G-AAXF, Helena, in flight. (San Diego Air & Space Museum Archive)
Imperial Airways "Speedbird" logo,from a baggage lable, ca. 1933
Imperial Airways’ “Speedbird” logo by Theyre Lee-Elliott, from a baggage label, 1933.

20 January 1932: Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42, G-AAXF, named Helena, departed Croydon Aerodrome, South London, England, on the first leg of the airline’s new intercontinental mail service to South Africa. The flights would leave Croydon at 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and arrive at Cape Town on Friday, ten days later.

The route was London, Cairo, Khartoum, Juba, Nairobi, Mbeya, Salisbury, Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The initial flights carried mail only, but scheduled passenger service was soon added. The cost of the flight from London to Cape Town was £130.

‘ON Wednesday, Jan. 20, the first load of mails left Croydon for Cape town and intermediate stations by Imperial Airways service. Our two maps show the route which will be followed, the stages for each day and the types of aircraft used on each section.” —FLIGHT The Aircraft Engineer and Airships, No. 1204, Vol. XXIV. No. 4, 22 January 1932 at Page 74

The HP.42 was a large four-engine biplane built by Handley Page Limited, Hertfordshire, for Imperial Airlines’ long-distance routes. There were two models, the HP.42, for the eastern routes to India and Africa, and the HP.45 for the western flight. (Imperial Airways designated them as “H.P. 42E” and “H.P. 45W.”) The HP.42 could carry 20 passengers and a large amount of baggage. The HP. 45 could carry up to 38 passengers, but less baggage. The variants used different engines. Two of the HP.45 variant, of which Helena was one, were converted to the HP.42 configuration.

Imperial Airways' Handley Page H.P. 42 G-AAXF, Helena, at Gaza. (Library of Congress)
Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42 G-AAXF, Helena, at Gaza. (Library of Congress)

The HP.42 was operated by a flight crew of four and could carry six passengers in a forward compartment and twelve aft. The airliner was of all-metal construction, covered in duralumin sheet. It was 89 feet, 9 inches (27.356 meters) long. The upper wing had a span of 130 feet, 0 inches (39.624 meters), and the lower, 94 feet, 0 inches (28.651 meters). The overall height of the airplane was 27 feet (8.230 meters). The lower wing had an unusual configuration with the section inboard of the engine angled upward so that its spars crossed over the passenger cabin, rather than through. The empty weight was 17,740 pounds (8,047 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 28,000 pounds (12,701 kilograms.)

Cutaway Illustration of a Handley Page HP.42, by George Horace Davis, 1930.

The HP.42 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged 1,752.788-cubic-inch-displacement (28.723 liter) Bristol Jupiter XI F 9-cylinder radial engines with a compression ratio of 5:1, which had a normal power rating of 460 horsepower at 2,000 r.p.m., and produced a maximum of 510 horsepower at 2,250 r.p.m., each. Two engines were mounted in nacelles between the upper and lower wings, and two were mounted on the lower wing. All four engines were left-hand tractors, driving four-bladed propellers through a 2:1 gear reduction. The Jupiter XI weighed 880 pounds (399 kilograms). The throttles were arranged so that the upper engines could go to full throttle only after the lower engines, rather than simultaneously.

The HP.42 had a cruise speed of 96 miles per hour (155 kilometers per hour) and its maximum speed was 120 miles per hour (193 kilometers per hour). The airliner’s range was 500 miles (805 kilometers).

Imperial Airways' Handley Page H.P. 45, G-AAXF, Helena, being moved by a ground crew. (State Library of New South Wales)
Imperial Airways’ Handley Page HP.42, G-AAXF, Helena, being moved by a ground crew. (State Library of New South Wales)

Several aircraft were placed in service with the Royal Air Force at the beginning of World War II. Helena was damaged in a hard landing, and after inspection, was scrapped. By 1941, all HP.42s had been destroyed.

Imperial Airways poster by Theyre Lee-Elliott (David Lee Theyre Elliott), 1932. Elliott created the “Speedbird” logo. (1stdibs)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

13 December 1918

Handley Page V/1500. (Royal Air Force)
Handley Page V/1500. (Royal Air Force)
Archibald Charles Stuart MacLaren.
Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Squadron Leader, Royal Air Force.

13 December 1918: Major Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren, Captain Robert (“Jock”) Halley, D.F.C., A.F.C., accompanied by Brigadier General Norman D.K. MacEwan (later, Air Vice Marshal Sir Norman Duckworth Kerr MacEwen C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., R.A.F.), who would be the new Air Officer Commanding in India, left Martlesham Heath, Woodbridge, Suffolk, England, for India aboard a Handley Page V/1500 heavy bomber, J1936, HMA Old Carthusian. Also aboard were Flight Sergeant Smith and Sergeant Crockett, fitters, and Sergeant Thomas Brown, rigger.

N.D.K. MacEwan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Air Force
N.D.K. MacEwan, Lieutenant Colonel, Royal Air Force

The route of flight was Rome, Malta, Cairo, Baghdad, and finally, Karachi. They would arrive on 15 January 1919.

2nd Air Mechanic Archibald Stuart Charles Stuart-MacLaren was issued Aviator’s Certificate No. 1310 by The Royal Aero Club of the United Kingdom, 4 June 1915. He trained in a Caudron Biplane at the British Flying School, Le Crotoy, France.

Group Captain Robert Halley, R.A.F., had been a cyclist with the Royal Highlanders. He requested flight training and was accepted as a probationary Flight Officer. He was trained at RNAS Vendome. During World War I, Halley flew more than twenty long range night bombing missions over Germany, for which he was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses.

On 24 May 1919, during the Third Afghan War, Halley flew Old Carthusian through the Khyber Pass in pre-dawn darkness with observer Lieutenant Ted Villiers and the three sergeants, Smith, Crockett and Brown.

The Handley Page V/1500 was armed with a bomb load of four 112 pound (50.8 kilogram) and sixteen 20 pound (9.1 kilogram) bombs. The target was the royal palace of Amanullah Khan in Kabul. The bombs were released from an altitude of 700 feet (213 meters) and did little damage, but with the resulting panic, the Khan surrendered. The single bombing raid is credited with ending the war.

Cockpit of a Handley Page V/1500.
Cockpit of a Handley Page V/1500.

The Handley Page V/1500 first flew 22 May 1918. The designation comes from the original name, Type 5, combined with the total horsepower of its engines. It was a three-bay biplane with four engines mounted in two nacelles between the upper and lower wings. The bomber was 64 feet, 0 inches (19.507 meters) long with a wingspan of 126 feet, 0 inches (38.405 meters) and was 23 feet, 0 inches (7.010 meters) high. Empty weight was 17,600 pounds (7,983 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight was 30,000 pounds (13,608 kilograms).

The engines were water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 1,240.536-cubic-inch-displacement (20.329 liter) Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12s, each rated at 360 horsepower at 1,800 r.p.m. Maximum engine speed was 1,900 r.p.m. The Eagle VIII had a propeller gear reduction ratio of 0.6:1. Two of the engines were at the forward end of the nacelles in tractor configuration, and two were at the rear in pusher configuration. The propellers were two-bladed units with fixed pitch.

Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII aircraft engine (serial number 5272) at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. (NASM)

The V/1500 had a maximum speed of 99 miles per hour (159.3 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, and its service ceiling was 11,000 feet (3,353 meters). It carried fuel to remain airborne for 17 hours. Maximum range was 1,300 miles (2,092 kilometers).

The V/1500 was armed with three .303-caliber Lewis machine guns. The maximum bomb load was 7,500 pounds (3,402 kilograms).

Handley Page built 63 V/1500 bombers. J1936, being constructed primarily of wood and fabric, finally succumbed to termites.

Handley Page V/1500 (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
Handley Page V/1500. (Bain News Service/Library of Congress)
Handley Page V/1500 with wings folded. (Royal Air Force)
Handley Page V/1500 (Bain New Service/Library of Congress)

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes