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Military


Handley Page

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HP.33 Hinaidi2-engine bomber
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HP.38 Heyford 2-engine biplane bomber
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HP.58 Halifax heavy bomber
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HP.67 Hastings Transport
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HP.75 Manxexperimental aircraft
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HP.80 VictorStrategic Bomber
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HP.137 JetstreamRegional Airliner
H.P.R.1 Marathon passenger light transport
H.P.R.7 HeraldRegional Airliner
V/15004-engine biplane bomber
Frederick Handley Page, born in 1885, grew up in a modest-size town in Gloucestershire, England. In 1902 he entered college in London and enrolled in a program in electrical engineering. Graduating in 1906, he swiftly secured a position as chief engineer with a small electrical manufacturer. He proved so capable that only a year later, he was offered a position with Westinghouse, a manufacturer of electrical equipment, in the United States.

By then, however, he had begun to learn about aviation. Seized with enthusiasm, he took to carrying out experiments at his place of employment that had nothing to do with the task at hand—which soon got him fired. He started working on his own in a shed, carving wooden propellers for aircraft and building an airplane that a fellow aviation enthusiast had designed. In June 1909, he turned his shed into the firm of Handley Page, Ltd. This was Great Britain's first publicly traded aircraft manufacturing corporation.

From the very inception of his firm Mr. Handley Page pinned his faith to the future of the large aeroplane. Handley-Page built a succession of biplanes and monoplanes. Then in August 1914, Britain entered World War I. He approached the Admiralty and offered to provide planes for the Navy. A senior official took him up on his offer and asked him to create "a bloody paralyzer of an airplane" to hurl back the Germans. This led to the development of the twin-engine 0/100 bomber, which first flew late in 1915.

The 0/100 started the company on its way. Built as a biplane, it led to two larger successors: the 0/400 and the V/1500. The 0/400 was selected for production in the United States. The V/1500 was one of the first four-engine aircraft. Weighing 15 tons when fully loaded, it was built to bomb Berlin. The first of them entered service late in 1918, but the war ended just before they began to carry out their raids.

The first Handley Page bombing machines did not make their appearance until December, 1915, and it was not until August of the following year that the first squadron of the O-400 type was formed at Dunkirk. From that date until the conclusion of hostilities, all heavy night bombing on the Western Front was performed with these machines. The Handley-Page O-400 was one of the largest machines built to date. It carries its two 12-cylinder RollsRoyce engines in small nacelles between the main planes, and it can be recognized by these and its biplane tail. Many of these big bombing planes were designed for long distance work either by day or by night, and so they have been made enormous weight-lifters, with large supporting surfaces, two or more engines, and equipped with a fuel supply sufficient for long runs. The British Avro, for instance, is a huge biplane with three fuselages and two rotary engines. Its upper and lower wings are equal in span, and it can readily be distinguished from the British Handley-Page, whose upper wing has a large overhang.

Although the exploit of a Handley-Page machine in flying from England to Constantinople in order to bomb the Goeben will live as one of the most brilliant exploits of the war, the truth is that a huge flying machine has not the radius of a Zeppelin. It was only after "re-coaling" as it were, only after alighting several times, that the Handley-Page was able to reach Constantinople and to carry a great load of spare parts and tools.

During the Great War the US Army purchased the English Handley-Page O/400 and Italian Caproni designs for construction by US builders with Liberty 12-A engines in place of the original engines. Although the Handley-Page O-400 and Caproni planes remained in the US program, production was delayed. Both these types of bombing planes were included in the modified recommendations of the Joint Army and Navy Technical Board, on November 21, 1917, and these recommendations were approved by the Secretary of War and the Secretary of the Navy. On January 25, 1918, a resolution recommending a contract for Handley-Page planes with the Standard Aero Corporation was tabled by the Aircraft Board, in view of the fact that such an order might interfere with work already undertaken by the company. On February 8th the Board discussed the advisability of concentrating upon the manufacture of a single type of night bomber, and it was stated that due to the lack of history as to the comparative performance of the Handley Page and Caproni. the decision had been made to put both types into production in the United States.

The first Handley-Page plane assembled in this country was flown in the early part of July 1918. The huge machine was christened the Langley after one of the early experimenters with the heavier-than-air machine. It had a wing span of 100 feet, and a central fuselage 63 feet long. Small armored nacelles at either side of the fuselage carried its two 400 horsepower Liberty motors, each turning a separate propeller. Laden with its full supply of bombs, its two Browning machine guns and fuel for a long run, this giant of the skies weighs about 9,000 pounds.

There was little further demand for bombers after the war, but Handley Page found new opportunities in carrying passengers. London and Paris were two of Europe's largest cities and were only about 200 miles (322 kilometers) apart. But the journey required the inconvenience of a transfer from a train to a boat for the trip across the English Channel and then a transfer back to a train to get from the coast to London. Moreover, the war had severely damaged the railroads in northern France. However, the distance between these cities was well within the range of the aircraft of the day.

The V-1500 type was designed originally to bomb Berlin, but was being adapted for commercial use. One of these machines had carried forty-one passengers to a height of 8000 feet. One of the largest airplanes in the world, the new super Handley-Page could carry a total weight of nearly three tons, and the pilot had a six hours' supply of petrol. It was with this type of machine that the London to Paris service was to be established, comparing favorably with the present railway and steamboat service. A London-to-Rome service in twelve hours also will be started. With the project of trans-Atlantic airplane flights between England and America rapidly materializing, plans were complete for regular aerial passenger service between London and Paris and other European capitals. The V/1500 was too large for commercial use, but it had attractive design elements. These went into a modified 0/400, the W.8, which became the company's standard.

The 0/400 had a fuselage that was large enough for passengers. Several of them became airliners with minimal modification, while the new firm of Handley Page Transport, which opened in 1919, became one of the world's first airlines. Private enterprise in the shape of the Handley-Page London-Paris commercial air service, which started on 25 August 1919, marked another milestone, on the road to British aerial development. This was an "express" trial flight, with 15 persons on board. A week later the Handley-Page service was established on regular lines, and public interest in aviation was at once greatly stimulated. Thus the United Kingdom claims the credit of being the first country to start regular international air services. The first machine of the regular service carried 7 passengers and 300 pounds of freight, the full accommodation providing for 10 passengers and 600 pounds of freight.

Airco machines were likewise doing the London-Paris route; and, as a result of these two regular services, already a certain amount of competition is reported in air rates. The HandleynPage service charges $0.60, against $1.60 per pound of freight by the Airco company; but it is claimed that the Airco machines, being faster than the Handley-Page, will be able to do the trip on a larger percentage of days. A very good impression had been created by the regularity and safety of the two services. An official of the Handley Page Co. stated that his service has maintained an average of reliability as high as 94 percent — an indication of its present value to the business world. In 1924, Handley Page Transport merged with three other carriers and formed Imperial Airways, Britain's first national airline.

Handley Page also had a strong commitment to research. His company may well have been the first to install its own wind tunnel for in-house experiments. He was keenly interested in air safety, more so because he had lost close friends in crashes. A serious problem of the day lay in the tendency of airplanes to go into a spin and often crash, and he looked for ways to counter this.

He decided that a solution lay in running a slot down the length of the wing from the fuselage to the wing tip. This in effect divided it into two wings set closely together. Airflow through the slot would flow evenly over the rear wing to produce more lift for better control. A German inventor, Gustav Lachmann, had developed similar ideas on his own, and Handley Page brought him into the company. Handley-Page received a patent for the invention on October 24, 1919, and slotted wings became a key to the firm's fortunes, as sales of patent rights earned £750,000 (about $3.6 million at the time) in payments from other planebuilders. In turn, slotted wings led to the development of flaps for wings. These extended to give extra lift and also greater drag, permitting takeoff and landing at relatively low speed. The flaps then folded into the rear of the wing, for the reduced lift that was appropriate at high speed during cruising flight.

The testing of the Handley Page torpedo-carrying machine began in early 1922. This machine was an ordinary-looking biplane, fitted with the Handley Page slots and was in fact the first aeroplane to be flown built expressly for the slotted wing. The new Handley Page biplane has definitely demonstrated that it can overcome two of the very greatest drawbacks to civil aerial transport as it is at present., namely, the need for a long run in getting off and the danger of high speed landings. The get-off and the landing showed that the machine could have got out of and into any ordinary football field with trees round it or that it could have got out of and into a tennis lawn provided that there was nothing higher than a hedge round it.

Handley-Page remained involved with airliners during the next decade. In 1931, Imperial Airways began flying the Handley Page Hannibal, a four-engine biplane. It was built for comfort, with wall-to-wall carpeting and a bar. Stewards served four-course hot lunches and seven-course dinners, while soundproofing diminished the roar of the motors. The Hannibal carried up to 40 passengers and remained in service through the 1930s.

Like the 1920s, the first years of the 1930s were lean years for the company, when few orders came in. That situation changed in 1935, for with the threat of war in Europe now looming again, the British government launched a military buildup. Handley Page contributed a twin-engine monoplane bomber, the Hampden. The fortunes of war soon would give this plane a key role in saving Britain from Nazi invasion.

This happened in 1940, during the Battle of Britain. Nazi air fleets hammered hard at airfields of the Royal Air Force, slowly weakening it. Had they continued, they might well have won air superiority, opening the way for a German conquest of England. However, on August 24 the RAF sent a force of medium bombers, including Hampdens, to attack Berlin.

The bombers did little damage, but this raid prompted the Nazis to seek revenge. German leaders ordered their own bombers to strike the city of London. They killed and injured a great many people—but they did not continue their attacks on the RAF itself. This gave the RAF time to recover. It went on to defeat the Germans in the air, forcing them to abandon their plans for invasion. That British raid on Berlin was small in its destruction but very large in its consequences. The Handley Page Hampden played a central role.

By then, the company was already producing the Halifax, a large four-engine bomber. It was one of three such aircraft designed and built by Britain, the others being the Avro Lancaster and the Short Stirling. More than 6,000 Halifaxes came off the assembly lines, with other planebuilding companies sharing in the production. At the height of Britain's bomber offensive, the Halifax comprised 40 percent of the strength of the RAF Bomber Command.

Frederick Handley Page was knighted in 1942, becoming Sir Frederick. After the war, he again had to seek new opportunities. For a time he continued to find them in military orders, for the Cold War with the Soviets soon began, and Britain upheld its centuries-old policy of maintaining its own offensive force. Sir Frederick contributed the Victor, a four-engine jet bomber. Full of years and honors, he died in 1962. His company could cherish a proud boast—that Handley Page aircraft had served continually with the RAF since it had been founded in 1918. By 1962, however, the days of his firm were numbered.

The Minister of Defence, Duncan Sandys, had launched a plan to combine Britain's aircraft companies into two large corporations. This reflected the growing cost of major civil and military aircraft programs, which were becoming too expensive for the relatively small aviation companies of prior decades. However, the firm of Handley Page elected to remain independent, and it soon felt the consequences. Business dried up; new orders went to Sandys's big combines. In 1970 the firm of Handley Page Ltd., still using its name that dated to 1909, filed for bankruptcy. It soon vanished in a corporate collapse.





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Page last modified: 25-08-2016 12:35:46 ZULU