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Handley Page Hermes IV

Old 8th Jan 2009, 18:40
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Thanks WHBM,

Yes, I remember now it was Falcon, but it was later than I thought. I agree that their record indicates they were a handful on landing, but in this ones defence, it was very wet at the time and I think that 06 wasn't very well drained, because I can remember seeing a Bristol Freighter doing a bit of train spotting a few years before and a Viscount had a close call too around the time of the Hermes accident. The old grey cells are now recalling that there was talk in the local paper of an earth ramp and a trip wire to cut-off the overhead power, but I think that lessons were learnt about aquaplaning and the runway draining was improved. Althought it would have been interesting to see Ski-Jump type takeoffs!
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Old 8th Jan 2009, 22:10
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Tonytech2, the Hermes 1 & the Hastings look very similar, they were essentially the same apart from the windows. The Hastings was not pressurized & I'm fairly sure that the Hermes 1 wasn't either. The Hermes 2 was longer & pressurized but still a tail dragger, it was the Hermes 2 design that was modified into the Hermes 4. The sole Hermes 2 outlived the last operational Hermes 4 by 4 years.

FAStoat that was fascinating & rather worrying info on the Centaurus. I hope they can be kept viable for a few more years, despite the obvious advantages of the US engine conversion the sound of a Centaurus with its five bladed prop is simply to die for.
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Old 9th Jan 2009, 04:09
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I started my apprenticeship in 1961 with a now distant airline that had a Bristol Hercules overhaul line which at that time was all for third parties. I spent a lot of time in the various sections comprising the line and deveoped a great deal of respect for the designers. We also had a low rate P&W R2800 overhaul line but I think I preferred the Hercules as a machine. Assembly of the Hercules was very simple and two experienced mechanics and an apprentice churned out an engine to the test cell every 10 working days without raising a sweat. Timing of the sleeve drive gears was a piece of cake. As far as I can recall we never had a serious failure and all engines ran to their overhaul life on wing. By this time Bristol seem to have resolved any sleeve lubrication issues.
In contrast there were some nasty, expensive failures with the R2800's eg. master rod cylinders blowing off, crankshaft failure.
One particular beauty of the Hercules was the elimination of lockwire inside the crankcase. Everything was locked by tabwashers or split pins. In contrast the R2800 used lockwire everywhere and one had to be very careful not to overtwist the wire which fatigued it and could result in an premature engine removal due to "lockwire in the filters". I recall a senior apprentice being very downcast after he had spent 1 or 2 days lockwiring all the valve gear in a front case only to have it all rejected by the inspector for overtwisting (no more than 5 twists per half inch rings a bell).
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Old 9th Jan 2009, 08:03
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My father flew various marks of Halifaxes from 1943-1950. Going through his log books it seems that losing an engine was a fairly common occurence. Not that they stopped going but that they would start 'gulping' and would be shut down before they ran out of oil. As a child at Aldergrove I used to watch the daily Bismuth trip come back with one feathered more often than not. He had two go at one time but he managed to drag it back to Shannon from somwhere in the Atlantic and received the AFC.
Fast forwarding to Labuan in 1966 and it was still a problem with Valettas and Hastings. Clutching cans of Tiger with the SEngO revealed that there was no reason for it. Fill it up with oil and it would carry on on for hundreds of hours without doing it again.
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Old 9th Jan 2009, 08:44
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The old man was a Flight Engineer on the Hermes for Airwork out of Blackbushe.
Being very young I dont remember much about it all but I do remember he was not too impressed with the engineers position facing rearwards!
I believe it was common to shutdown the wrong (opposite) engine when commanded from the sharp end!

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Old 9th Jan 2009, 13:28
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Here's someone on PPRuNe a few years ago quoting a BOAC staff magazine article about the Hermes. Obviously not the writer's favourite aircraft.

Ah, the Hermes 4! In contrast to the Argonaut, it entered service with BOAC on 7 August 1950. All 19 were gone by 1 October 1953. As early as August 1952, BOAC were passing some on to Airwork. Apparently it was: " ... the biggest Heap that anyone ever flew, that it built up an unenviable reputation among passengers for monstrous irregularity and non-appearance, and that it did more damage in its ludicrously short operational life to BOAC's reputation than all the other aeroplanes we ever owned put together." (Horizon - The Magazine of BOAC Flight Operations September/October 1966.)
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Old 17th Feb 2009, 12:22
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My father flew Hermes with Airwork from start to finish, he flew some 'hot and high' trials with Hedley Hazeldon who was Handley Pages Chief Test Pilot at the time.(they also served together in 49 and 50 Squadron during the war flying Hampdens). Father always said there was not much wrong with the aircraft, just the pilots who flew them. One of Airworks was put down in the sea off Malta, and one in a French cornfield mainly due to over heated engines. My father was Chief Pilot and Training Captain with Airwork and never had a problem with the Hermes, although he did have to shut down the occasional engine due to over heating. I flew on several trips to EGYPT during the Suez crisis when the Hermes had RAF registrations, they certainly didn't like the sand around Fayid.
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Old 17th Feb 2009, 13:03
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I know an Australian group is trying to resurect a Centaurus to running order and having problems.
That would be a PPRuNe mate of mine in Australia who goes under the username of Centaurus. He is a bit old now and certainly has "running order problem" to the toilet several times a night
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Old 17th Feb 2009, 14:03
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As Treadigraph says, the only surviving Hermes fuselage is at Duxford. Having admired it for many years from the outside, I now find that public are allowed in it. I was astonished to find that the flight deck was complete, and was delighted to be allowed to sit in the Captain's saeat. Well worth a visit.
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Old 18th Feb 2009, 17:29
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Can anyone post a photo of the Hermes as a cabin trainer at Gatwick. Goodness knows how many times I passed it on the A23 but never took a photo of it!
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Old 18th Feb 2009, 20:27
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Sorry fauteuil volant, I do not have a photo of her on the A23, but do remember it very well !
I do have photos of her at Duxford as she is now !


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Old 24th Feb 2009, 10:01
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Airwork Hermes

Hi My Names Geoff Milner.my Mother Was A No I Air Stewarddess On Airwork Vikings And Then On Hermes Aircraft.she Was No1 On Board Hermes G-aldo That Shot Off The Runway At Paya Lebar Airfield On 29th Oct 1957.the Aircraft Ended In A Ditch.the Toilets Broke Open And All The Contents Ran Down The Aisle.my Mother Let Me Copy The Photos Of The Crashed Aircraft.the Aircraft Was Repaired And Flown Back To Blackbushe And Burnt On The Firedump.what A Waste.my Mother Was 83 On 14th Feb 2009.her Maiden Name Was Barbara Hey.she Probably Flew With Your Father.the Captain Was Bill Winsland.my Mother Has Lent Me A Photo With An Airwork Hermes Flt Engineer Called George Piper Taken Down At Ankara,turkey.your Father Would Have Known Him.what Was Your Fathers Name?my Tel No Is Horsham 01403-241238 If You Would Like To Chat.mymother Married My Father Who Was A Pilot Flying Lancs,then Lots Of Other Militaary And Civil Aircraft.speak Soon I Hope....
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Old 25th Feb 2009, 07:26
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Hermes Cabin Staff Trainer

fauteuil volant:



British Caledonian:

The above are copyright Caz Caswell and are published with his permission.
Freddie Laker 'rescued' the airframe from the fire dump when MD of BUA and it served generations of Cabin Crew as a trainer. Despite being 'in service' as such for most of its life once the takeover occurred and moved to Duxford, misplacing its Fin in the process, it reverted to the original operator scheme:

BOAC at Duxford Minus Fin:

I am not sure of the copyright on these two.

I know I wrote some extensive notes on this aircraft G-ALDG, but I think it was for a Closed User Group and therefore is not generally available, although as I seem to get into trouble with the Mods when I publish a link to my sites that probably is fortunate,
Edit to correct Registration!

Last edited by Opssys; 25th Feb 2009 at 07:48.
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Old 25th Feb 2009, 07:52
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Notes on G-ALDG - Hermes Cabin Trainer

Found Notes:
The Handley Page HP.81 Hermes 4 which ended up as a Cabin Trainer for 26 years and is currently a Museum Exhibit, was orignally built in 1950 as part of an order for BOAC with constructor number (cn) 08. On completion the Aircraft was registered G-ALDG and was delivered to BOAC on the 9th March 1950, when it was Named: 'Horsa'.
In August 1957 the Aircraft was sold to Airwork, and subsequently sold to Falcon Airways in October 1959.
Almost immediately the Aircraft was passed to Britavia/Silver City, being delivered to the Manston Base during December 1959. The Aircraft was renamed: 'City of Chester'. However the Aircraft's flying career was nearly over and was withfrawn from use (wfu)in September 1962 and was listed as scrapped at Gatwick in October 1962.
Although not the last operational Hermes 4 (G-ALDA lingered on to 1964 and operated the last commercial service in Air Links colours on 13th December 1964 and the last ever Hermes flight when it was ferried to Southend for scapping on the 22nd December 1964), GALDG was the most fortunate and whilst the rest of the type were reduced to produce and then totally scrapped (the last one, G-ALDM being scrapped at Hurn in May 1968 after being wfu for a number of years), the Fuselage was rescued to become a Cabin Services Trainer for British United Airways.
Over the years the Colour schemed Changed in line with the current livery, until 1971 when post the Caledonian takeover of BUA it was painted in the Caledonian-BUA Scheme, which fortunately soon became BCAL.
When the Security fence was built, the Airframe was moved (making photography more difficult).
Post the British Airways takeover the Airframe was moved to Duxford to be part of the British Airways Collection, in the process loosing its vertical tail.
The Aircraft was repainted in its original BOAC Colour scheme, complete with the Name Horsa.

Handley Page Hermes 4 Known Cabin Configurations
BUA/CA-BUA/BCAL : - Unknown - can anyone advise?
Handley Page PR: - 63 Passenger - 7 Crew
BOAC: - 40 Passenger - 5 Crew
Airwork - 68 Rearward Facing Seats (Trooping Requirement)
Bahamas Airways Ltd - 78 Seats
Air Links - 82 Seats

Handley Page Hermes 4 General Specifications
Engines: 4 x 2,100 h.p Bristol Hercules 763.
Span:- 113 feet, - Length:- 96ft. 10in. - Height:- 29ft. 11in. Tare Weight:- 55,350lbs - All-up Weight:- 86,000lbs
Max Speed:- 350mph. Cruise Speed:- 276mph
Ceiling:- 24,500ft. - Range:- 2,000miles
Production: Hermes 4 - 25 Aircraft:

Handley Page Hermes 1,2 and 5 Brief Notes
HP.68 Hermes 1 - Crashed on First Flight the most similar to the HP.64. Hastings - 1 Built
HP.74 Hermes 2 - Development Prototype (Tail Wheel) - 1 Built.
HP.84 Hermes 5 - Turoprop Powered Development and Test Aircraft for MoS - 2 Built
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Old 25th Feb 2009, 12:18
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Did the Hernes have a pressurised cabin?

Nearest competitor was probably the Dc4 but wonder how the specs compared in terms of speed, ceiling, payload and range.
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Old 25th Feb 2009, 13:38
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Yes the Hermes was pressurised, although 4 aircraft flew without it to wards the end of their careers. Handley Page liked to compare it to the DC6, had it received the same level of development it probably could have competed with it. But the Hermes was designated as an interim development, being based on the Halifax wing, therefore I doubt that there was any intension to take it further. The Britannia was going to be Britain's world beating propliner!
It's nice to see some positive recollections of the Hermes on this thread, keep them coming

Some figures from the Observers book of aircraft 1955 edition;

Cruising speed.
DC4, 246mph. DC6, 313mph. HP81, 266mph.

Weight empty/loaded lbs;
DC4 40,806/73,000. DC6 51,495/97,200. HP81 55,350/86,000

The range is not given in the Observers book, but the absolute max range for the DC6 & HP81 are given as 2,811 & 3,080 respectively, in the book Hastings & Hermes by Victor. F. Bingham.

Last edited by GAZIN; 25th Feb 2009 at 13:59.
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Old 26th Feb 2009, 09:57
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There has been a myth that UK was required in 1942 by US to exit airliner design, thus putting headwinds on the Brabazon-suite's development. No. Priority in production would be bombers/UK, transports/US, not to inhibit new US bombers, nor Cabinet Committee on Reconstruction Problems from airliners. War Cabinet Minutes W.M.(43).35,25/2/43, SecState for Air, approving Brabazon Committee Types: “We will not accept a solution (to Civil Air Transport) on the basis that we won’t build any a/c and we want authority (to) plan some production”. A US/UK Conference on International Air Transport, 3-7 April,1944 set technical matters which became UN (ICAO) standards; to strengthen UK's stature there, MAP issued ITPs 4/5 April,1944 for Brabazon Interim Type III Empire H.P.88 (Halifax-derived, evolving as Hermes IV) and Avro 687/XX (Lincoln-derived, morphing in Sept.’44 as Avro 688 Tudor I). Commercial issues (to be the Eight Freedoms) were to be addressed in Chicago, Nov.,44. To prepare for that a Ministry of Civil Aviation was formed 8/10/44, to be the sponsor of $ export-earning/import substitution types. Should they have Theseus/Clyde turboprops to dish C-54/C-69 and US' raft of gargantuas like L-89 Constitution? HP and Avro schemed such things, while prototyping their Interims.

What went wrong was this:
1. BOAC finessed "used" L-049, B.377, and part-£ DC-4 (C-4M), and lost any yen for feeble UK Interims;
2. The need for B-29 pressurisation caused (Garrett)AiResearch: all Brabazon Types "leaked" until we sorted this out, structurally, and by Westland licence as Normalair;
3. From late-1946 HP and Avro became distracted from BOAC/BSAAC's Empire business by the prospect of a jet Medium Bomber, won end-1947 by (to be) Victor and Vulcan. Tired Halifax/Lanc retreads took junior priority. Bristol, with zero large structures expertise, was in a field of one for son-of-Type III, Medium Range Empire. BOAC succeeded in dumping Tudor, very nearly ditto on Hermes, and extracted scarce $ for proper equipment, which, they told Ministers, would be self-financing (Bring Over American Currency).
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Old 26th Feb 2009, 17:41
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Handley Page Hermes

Flew home from Habbannia in a Britavia Hermes Nov 1955. As for memories , saw red hot cylinder heads through the gill openings .
Ice clanking down the side of the fuse as the deicing system worked overtime during the bad weather that tossed us all over the place . At least it was better than the out bound flight in a York, two and a half years previous . Am I right, that one of the letdowns of the Hermes was its incompatability of its electrical system when it came to the general handling, different from most types of that era
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Old 26th Feb 2009, 23:43
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Merv, you are correct about the electrics, the Hermes used 125 volt ac generators, but the world eventually settled on the US favoured 115 volt ac elec. systems. I believe that there were other voltages used for various components that also failed to become industry standard.
I hadn't realised how hot those engines could get, it has been mentioned a couple of times on this thread.
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Old 1st Mar 2009, 17:42
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Thanks, opssys, for the images of G-ALDG at Gatwick. They certainly brought back some memories. I chuckled to see the perimeter road as it was. I used regularly to ride along it on my bike. I suspect that I would cause a major police incident if I tried that nowadays. How times change!
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