Aviation History and Nostalgia Whether working in aviation, retired, wannabee or just plain fascinated this forum welcomes all with a love of flight.

Handley Page Hermes IV

Old 5th Jan 2009, 21:28
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Greensboro, NC USA
Posts: 58
Handley Page Hermes IV

In the 1950's I worked at Lockheed Air Service at New York's then KIDL (now KJFK). We handled a lot of "nonskeds", etc plus scheduled foreign and domestic carriers. Rarest bird I ever worked was a Hermes IV. Came in with a replacement merchant ship crew for a ship in NY harbor.

Rode on the taxi over from old IAB terminal to Hangar 7 and noted that air brakes require some engine revs to maintain pressure. Got to uncowl one engine and replace some spark plugs which to my American eyes were strangely located in the top of the cylinder heads. I know that was due to the Bristol Hercules sleeve valve design. Also the aft of the cabin was empty of seats as I was told the Hermes was a rework of the H.P. Hastings which was a tail dragger. This apparently made the Hermes rather tail heavy, hence plenty of room for the biggest and most luxurious lavatories in the aft end but no seats in the cabin for at least last ten feet. Flight engineer's panel had a lot of very large diameter gauges.

Does anyone know who the operator of the aircraft was? I lost my notebook where I logged the odd ones we worked. Airwork seems to be in my head as the airline. Even better, anyone know the registration of the aircraft? To my knowledge it was the only Hermes ever to come to New York.
tonytech2 is offline  
Old 5th Jan 2009, 22:55
  #2 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: London UK
Posts: 6,232
BOAC were the original operator of the Hermes, in the early 1950s. Yes, it was a thoroughly unsatisfactory design and they got rid of them after just a few years. They mainly got used on shorter trips to East/West Africa. The tail-heavy aspect was never overcome and apparently they presented a curious nose-high view air-to-air. Alas the prototype was so unstable in this respect, compounded by a miscalculation of the elevator rigging, that it crashed on the maiden flight, killing among others Jamie Talbot, the Handley Page chief test pilot.

They were never looked on favourably by BOAC and were sold off to UK independents operating mainly long-haul military charters, a major business in the 1950s, to points such as Aden and Singapore. Such independents were not allowed foreign currency to buy US-built aircraft, so it was the Hermes or nothing. Airwork was one of these operators, along with Skyways and Britavia, and later Air Safaris.

Airwork got a licence to operate cargo services from London to New York in 1955 but had no suitable aircraft for regular transatlantic operation, so chartered Transocean DC-4s for the route. It never worked out and they gave it up after a few months. I am surprised they managed a passenger charter because that involved all sorts of further licences, but I wasn't there to see it and you were

The various Bristol Siddeley sleeve-valve radials were known for their smoke on startup, when controllers in the tower would joke about "LVPs for the next 10 minutes". The engine manufacturer had a long although abortive relationship with such engines, Armstrong Siddeley luxury cars in the 1930s having the same style of sleeve-valve engine (although not radials of course).

It would be unkind to call the Hermes just a version of the Handley Page Halifax bomber (which my father flew in WW2) with a pressurised fuselage, but that's basically what it was.

The operating period for Airwork's fleet was from February 1952 to late 1959. The fleet comprised seven aircraft G-AKFP, and G-ALDA/B/C/F/G/O. DB and DF were both lost in 1952 within months of introduction, AKFP was a replacement, itself lost in 1957, and DG its replacement that year, so there were never more than five at once, and mostly four.

The Wikipedia page on the Hermes is pretty straightforward.

Last edited by WHBM; 5th Jan 2009 at 23:28.
WHBM is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 16:01
  #3 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: glasgow
Posts: 301
I found this in Propliner 87.
Britavia Hermes G-ALDU operated a passenger charter from Blackbushe to New York on 14Nov1955.
renfrew is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 17:34
  #4 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: London UK
Posts: 6,232
Very good. A little more detective work gives an account of the journey published in Flight magazine at the time

jersey airlines | air france | 1955 | 1698 | Flight Archive
WHBM is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 17:42
  #5 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Greensboro, NC USA
Posts: 58
My deepest appreciation to renfrew for digging out the date and information on the charter. The time fits as I was working there then. Interestingly enough, the maintenance people had to taxi the aircraft - apparently the pilots had already left for the hotel leaving the flight engineer who strangely wasn't authorized to taxi the aircraft. So he started the engines for us, did the taxi prep and set the radios and we drove it over. It was during the taxi that he told us to rev the engine a bit as the air compressor wouldn't charge the brakes at low rpm's. Seemed peculiar to me to have to rev the engines to stop!

Anyway, an interesting looking aircraft indeed - at first glance (at night on ramp) it looked like a DC-4. I was always on the lookout for different aircraft or airlines.

One other rare bird I saw (didn't work it though) later at KJFK was a Trident belonging to an Arab airline. It was taxiing on the outer perimeter taxiway and again, I did a double-take thinking it was a B727 and then seeing the offset nose gear and boom in front of the horizontal stabilizer I realized what it was. That was the only Trident I ever saw at KJFK.
tonytech2 is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 17:47
  #6 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2002
Location: glasgow
Posts: 301
Looking through Google I remembered that Bahamas Airways had a few Skyways Hermes for a short time.
I wonder what route they took on delivery?
renfrew is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 18:12
  #7 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Greensboro, NC USA
Posts: 58
I am amazed at the depth of knowledge of PPRUN'ers. Thanks for the article WHBM and I am a little proud that I correctly remembered it was a mechant ship crew exchange after so many years. I copied the text of the article below for others information. Didn't know at the time I was taking a small part in such a historic event.

I suspect that any ferry flights to the Bahamas would have staged through Bermuda rather than New York.

TRANSATLANTIC HERMES

One of the six Handley Page Hermes operated by Britavia. Ltd.,
last week became the first aircraft of its type to fly the North Atlantic. Carrying 39 passengers on both outward and return trips, it was chartered to carry relief members of a ship's crew to New York and to return the replaced men to the U.K. The aircraft, Hermes 4 G-ALDU, left Blackbushe on November 14th and reached New York in 17 hr 15 min flying time via Shannon and Gander; it returned via Gander in 16 hr 9 min. It was commanded by Britavia's flight captain, Capt. W. P. Allan.
tonytech2 is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 19:25
  #8 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 121
Although a bit before my time I have always thought that the Hermes IV was one of the best looking propliners. Despite being a flawed design it proved a useful aircraft in the end.
I believe Falcon Airways also performed a US charter with one of their Hermes, & as already mentioned Bahamas A/W (Skyways) operated three of the type into Miami.
The engineers panel!
GAZIN is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 19:35
  #9 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: It wasn't me, I wasn't there, wrong country ;-)
Age: 74
Posts: 1,757
GAZIN

What led you to that opinion ? The Hermes was a real crock in any operators book Nice shot of the Spanner's panel though
merlinxx is offline  
Old 6th Jan 2009, 19:38
  #10 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Location: norwich, norfolk, UK
Age: 70
Posts: 620
Just checked out my bible, "British Independent Airlines since 1946" there is no mention of this flight ! But there is this photo by Micheal Stroud.

Keith.

norwich is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2009, 02:44
  #11 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 4,597
A six foot plug in the front fuselage, a modified fin and the Hermes could have been quite successful. Despite the complexities of the sleeve valve arrangement the Bristol Hercules radials were the mainstay of the Royal Air Force transport units until the mid sixties. It's successor, the Centaurus, still shows its mettle at the Reno air races. A real nightmare, or how many bits can you get inside an engine block, is the sleeve valved H24 Napier Sabre.

Last edited by Fareastdriver; 7th Jan 2009 at 05:51.
Fareastdriver is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2009, 20:15
  #12 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Greensboro, NC USA
Posts: 58
Are any of the Sea Furies being raced with the Centaurus engines? I thought they replaced them with modified R3350's where they use the power section of the turbo compounds less the power recovery turbines. I know an Australian group is trying to resurect a Centaurus to running order and having problems.

Wonder how they got the C.G. so screwed up on the Hermes? Enormous waste of cabin space. One would think that could have been corrected as mentioned with a cabin plug. Douglas certainly stretched the DC-4 fuselage enough through the DC-6 to DC-6A/B and DC-7 to DC-7C as did Lockheed did with the Constellation.

Also, the crash of the prototype Hermes as noted above eerily echos the crash of the prototype Avro Tudor where they crossed the aileron controls and killed the designer along with the crew.

So both of the Brits hopes for a four engined transport to compete with the Connies and DC-6 had crashes of the prototypes. I don't think the Tudor had a hope as a taildragger but the Hermes at least looked promising. The Britannia originally was to be Centaurus powered but went to the Proteus early on but strangely, went back to pistons in its reincarnation as the Argus at Canadair. And then regrew turboprops as the CL-44.
tonytech2 is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2009, 21:34
  #13 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: UK
Posts: 121
From what I have read the Hermes project was dogged by delays & indecision on the part of BOAC, a critical delay involved the interior layout, particularly the galley, this resulted in the wing position & incidence being less than optimal. Remember also that this was a so called interim airliner based on bomber wings. A pretty big compromise to start with! The engine performance wasn't what was expected either, contributing to a tail down cruise attitude.
There was little or no interest on the part of the various ministry's responsible for aircraft production in accommodating the needs of any airlines other than BOAC & BEA, so no money for further development.
The more I read about this period in British aviation the more amazed I am that our manufacturers managed to build any decent airliners. They seem to have persevered despite intolerable restrictions.
I have been told that Air Safaris put a rear galley in one of their Hermes (G-ALDA) & after the addition of more windows forward of the wings, quite a few extra seats.

Last edited by GAZIN; 7th Jan 2009 at 22:37.
GAZIN is offline  
Old 7th Jan 2009, 21:41
  #14 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Australia
Posts: 262
The original tail wheel prototype Hermes was still flying in the late sixties.
It visited Ballykelly 1967 ? I believe it was employed by the Radar trials
people at Pershore.
Krakatoa is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2009, 05:43
  #15 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Greensboro, NC USA
Posts: 58
Boeing of course used the wings from its bombers on various of it airliners with considerable success.
The B.314 boats used the wings and cockpit section of the XB-15 but of course upgraded to R-2600 engines.
The Boeing 307 used the wings and empannage from the B-17 and in fact near wars end some of them swapped out the wings with those from the B-17G model. One difference though, the B307 wings were fitted with fixed slots outboard due to the crash of the prototype during a demonstration flight for KLM.
The B377 Stratocruiser used the B-29 wing and engines in the prototype and then upgraded to the B-50 configuration.
tonytech2 is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2009, 07:47
  #16 (permalink)  
Gnome de PPRuNe
 
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Too close to Croydon for comfort
Age: 55
Posts: 5,737
Re Sea Furies and Reno, I believe they are all R3350 driven these days, with the exception of "Dreadnaught" which boasts an R4360 nailed to the front.

Tonytech2, you mention an Arabic Trident - Iraqi Airways and Kuwait Airways both operated them in the 1960s - New York seems a long way from home for them though!

Wanna see another Hermes? The fuselage of G-ALDG is preserved at Duxford. I well remember it between the British Caledonian hangars and the A23 at Gatwick in the 1970s, used for Cabin Crew training.
treadigraph is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2009, 11:07
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2007
Location: Hampshire
Age: 74
Posts: 208
Re Centaurus Sea Furies,No one in Europe since Hoistler Gmbh in Germany,has an interest in maintaining Sleeve Valve Engines.Ricardo in Shoreham did the last RNHF Overhaul,and it cost so much the Engines now go to the States.However,the States as already stated are putting anything from 3350 t0 4800 P&W' s in ,because the remanufacture of the Sleeves is not financially possible.Getchell Ellesworth has looked at it at length.In the 70s when I was heavilly involved with this,I received a midnight knock on the door,to find both Frank Sanders and Getchell standing in the rain,asking to come in.The RTO from Rolls Bristol,Johnny Danes and Buster Paine ,and myself were looking at cobbling one seviceable engine from 3 Time Ex Ex Hoistler ones.They had civilianised the Spec to replace the long Piston with oil control ring below the gudgeon pin,with the Slipper type from the Bristol Hercules,which was identical in bore and port profile.This meant a lot less stress in the rotary gear that operated the sleeve drive,that caused so many failures.They looked at the pistons we had extracted and miked them up,and went off to find a source for Hercules Pistons.The Americans (Lloyd Hamilton),had tried chroming the bores,like P&Ws,but after ground running for hours on end,could not get the engines to bed in,even with cast rings.The Sleeves did not appear to be concentric ,but had a slight polygonal inner surface,like modern semi automatic pistol barrels that have no rifling,and thus are incredibly difficult to remanufacture.The only alternative was to fit a Corncob derivative.Frank and Lloyd were the first to do this,and everyone else followed,except Getchell Ellesworth who has perservered.There is another problem,and that is lubrication.Sleeve Valve engines use a very different spec oil-100U-A heavy detergent oil which allows burnt oil dross to stick to the clearances of the moving parts,and fills its own gaps,without having to have tighter tolerances.Thus the complexity of the moving parts is kept together.If a straight oil is used ,or even a W,this Oil residue is flushed out into the filters and is lost,thus a lot of metal to metal movement occurs ,causing too much wear.Shell has not made this for decades,until a batch ordered from Chris Fear by me,for RNHF in '76 ,coinciding with a RNZAF Order for their Freighters,and RNHF again in 2000.The mod for fitting P&Ws is quite straightforward,but can only use the Hamilton 4 Blade Prop.They have a never ending supply of these,so that is the only way Sea Furies can be maintained.The other Sea Fury problem the the Bag operated Pneumatic brakes-These are the same as Meteors,and no longer exist,apart from M&B at Chalgrove.Thus Lloyd and Frank modified F102 Brakes and Wheels(Same section and diameter),and the rudder pedals to give Hydraulic Brakes and a safe landing.Sorry this is a bit off thread,but Sleeve Valve knowledge is dying out ,so I have tried to explain the problems.Stephen Grey may have the wherewithal to remedy this,as he goes to great lengths to be original.
FAStoat is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2009, 16:09
  #18 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Greensboro, NC USA
Posts: 58
Happy to hear at least a Hermes fuselage is preserved.
Question though: What is the connection between the H.P. Hastings and the H.P. Hermes. I thought the Hermes was basically a Hastings that grew a nose gear and was civilianized a bit. Was the Hastings pressurized?

Granted its off thread but sleeve valve engine history is getting lost. Thanks so much for a lesson in realities of operational problems.
Back when I was turning Britannias around at KJFK, I talked a bit with the Bristol rep who helped us with the Proteus engines. He had a lot to say about sleeve valved engines. He was not an enthusiast. They certainly were quiet enough and superbly constructed but he had some interesting tales of trying to start some of TransCanada's Bristol Freighters in dead cold of winter up North.

I would love to see some of this sleeve valve info spread to the Aircraft Engine Historical Society. The gearheads there will eat it up. There has been quite a bit of mooning about the superiority of sleeve valves over poppet valves. It would appear there may be some theoretical advantages but practically speaking, Father Time sorted it out and poppet valves persist.
AEHS Home

Regarding the Arab operated Trident I saw - I believe there was a big affair going on at the United nations in New York so it was undoubtably bringing in a delegation. Used to see some Russian airliners in for the same reason.

Last edited by tonytech2; 8th Jan 2009 at 16:18. Reason: Adding information
tonytech2 is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2009, 16:51
  #19 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Minehead Somerset UK
Age: 72
Posts: 3,684
On my way to school sometime in the mid fifties, I saw a Hermes at Southend Airport that was rather tail high (about 40 degrees), unfortunately, it had buried its nose in the Southend (Victoria) to London (Liverpool Street) railway line after running of the end of the runway. I dont think there were any serious injuries, but the operator's name was soon painted over to cover their embarrassment.

I can't remember the operator or if the line had been electrified by this time, but it would have been very near to the 24kV overhead wires if it was!
SincoTC is offline  
Old 8th Jan 2009, 17:17
  #20 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2002
Location: London UK
Posts: 6,232
Originally Posted by SincoTC View Post
On my way to school sometime in the mid fifties, I saw a Hermes at Southend Airport that was rather tail high (about 40 degrees), unfortunately, it had buried its nose in the Southend (Victoria) to London (Liverpool Street) railway line after running of the end of the runway. I dont think there were any serious injuries, but the operator's name was soon painted over to cover their embarrassment.

I can't remember the operator or if the line had been electrified by this time, but it would have been very near to the 24kV overhead wires if it was!
This would be G-ALDC, operated by Falcon Airways, which aquaplaned and pitched in at Southend on 9 October 1960, returning on a holiday charter from Barcelona. Several of the Hermes losses, from quite a small fleet, were on landing, I get the impression it was quite a handful.

Going back to the start of this thread, this aircraft had also performed a couple of charters across the Atlantic earlier that 1960 summer, transiting via Keflavik. Not stated what its ultimate destination was, but it seems several Hermes ventured over there through time.

That railway line was electrified in 1956. I come overhead it from time to time myself on the Southend 24 approach; even when right on the PAPIs you still feel quite close to the wires ! There are special guard wires on short poles at the railway fence on both sides of the tracks which, if broken, set the railway signals to red and cut off the power. I presume if the Hermes aquaplaned and ended up against the railway they must have been on 06. I believe its not the only aircraft to have ended up there.
WHBM is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us Archive Advertising Cookie Policy Privacy Statement Terms of Service

Copyright 2018 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.