Handley Page Hermes/Hastings
|G-ALDG is the only surviving Hermes, having served British Caledonian as a cabin trainer at Gatwick airport. It is now preserved, without wings and tailplanes, at Duxford.|
|The Handley Page HP68 Hermes was originally intended to
precede the military HP67 Hastings variant after World War II but the
project was delayed when the prototype crashed on its maiden flight on
December 3, 1945.
The Hermes then took a back seat to the Royal Air Force order and it was not until September 2, 1947, that the civil type flew again, as the HP74 Hermes II. That led to the HP81 Hermes IV, which was the definitive production version, and this flew on September 5, 1948.
This variant differed mainly in having a tricycle landing gear and more powerful, 2,100hp, Bristol Hercules 763 14-cylinder radial piston engines. Twenty-four aircraft were built for BOAC and the type entered service in April 1950 when it flew between London and Accra, Ghana. The standard interior layout allowed for a crew of five with 40 passengers, although a maximum of 63 passengers could be carried.
BOAC replaced its Hermes with canadair C4 Argonauts and they were taken on by a number of smaller airlines. Most were re-engined with Hercules 773s and became Hermes IVAs, while Handley Page also built two HP82 Hermes Vs. These last two were powered by 2,220hp Bristol Theseus turboprops but the variant did not attract any orders. The type continued in service into the 1960s with operators such as Airwork but the only survivor is a former cabin trainer, now preserved at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford in the UK. Remains of a further crashed BOAC example were rediscovered in Mauretania, West Africa, in the early 21st century.
The Hastings was developed as a long-range transport that served with both the RAF and Royal New Zealand Air Force. The first prototype flew with four Bristol Hercules 101 radial piston engines on May 7, 1946, and the initial C MK1 entered RAF service in October 1948. Production aircraft could accommodate 30 partatroopers or 50 fully-equipped soldiers. The RAF's aircraft saw heavy use in the Berlin Airlift.
A total of 147 were built, including two prototypes. These comprised 100 C MK1s, 43 C MK2s and four C Mk4 VIP transports. Four C Mk3s were sold to the New Zealand service.
The C Mk2 had a larger tailplane mounted lower on the fuselage and increased fuel capacity. All C Mk 1s were rebuilt to this standard as C Mk1As.
The last C Mk1s were delivered as Met Mk1s for weather reconnaissance. Eight Mk1s were also converted as T5 bombing trainers.
The RAF retired its aircraft in 1968 when the Hercules entered service but none found their way on to the civil market. Several survive in museums in the 21st century.
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