|HPR.7 Dart Herald|
|Handley Page Herald of Air UK|
|Manufacturer||Handley Page (Reading)|
|First flight||25 August 1955|
|Retired||1987 (passenger) |
In the mid-1950s Handley Page developed a new fast short-range regional airliner, intended to replace the venerable Douglas DC-3, particularly in third-world countries. The design, originally known as the HPR.3 Herald, emanated from the drawing office at Handley Page (Reading) Limited—the former Miles Aircraft factory site, which had developed an earlier airliner design, the Miles Marathon. The Herald was an extensive re-development of the original concept of the Marathon, notable for its high mounted wing. Handley Page Reading succeeded in producing a modern design with excellent flight and performance characteristics. However, the company made a serious misjudgement which was, in the end, to cost the company dearly, and like some other classic British aircraft of the time, the Herald missed its chance.
After extensive consultation with DC-3 operators, it was decided to power the new airliner with piston engines, rather than turboprops, which were considered risky by the small airlines at which the HPR.3 was aimed. Handley Page preferred a four-engined design, which led to the new 870 hp (650 kW) Alvis Leonides Major 14-cylinder radial engine, driving three-bladed propellers being chosen for the HPR.3. At almost the same time, the Dutch company Fokker made the opposite choice for its competitor for the same market, choosing to power the F27 Friendship with two Rolls-Royce Darts.
The HPR.3 could carry up to 44 passengers in its pressurised cabin, which could be quickly converted to allow the carrying of freight, with the aircraft's high wing, nosewheel undercarriage and large doors at the front and rear of the cabin making the loading of cargo relatively simple. Large flaps were fitted to give good short takeoff and landing characteristics. It was designed to cruise at a speed of 224 mph (360 km/h), had a range of 1,640 mi (2,640 km), could land and take off in a distance of less than 500 yards (460 m) and had an initial rate of climb of over 1,800 ft/min.
At first, it seemed that Handley Page had made the right choices with the HPR.3, which was named "Herald" in August 1954, this being a name easily translatable into French and Spanish. Extensive work by the sales team had produced considerable interest from potential customers, and Handley Page had 29 orders for the Herald (from Queensland Airlines, Australian National Airways, and Lloyd Aéreo Colombiano) by the time the first prototype made its maiden flight from Radlett on 25 August 1955, three months ahead of the first flight of the Friendship. Break-even was expected after the sale of 75 aircraft and Handley Page expected total sales of up to 300 Heralds, with first deliveries expected to British independent airline Air Kruise in 1958.
By now, however, the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engine had shown proven success in the Vickers Viscount. Queensland Airlines and Australian National Airways cancelled their orders for Heralds in favour of turboprop-powered Friendships, while the Lloyd Aéreo Colombiano contract was stopped due to currency problems and Air Kruise's interest was ended when it was taken over by British Aviation Services. Before the second prototype had been completed, Handley Page was faced with the fact that it had no orders for the Herald, and that the market had changed and wanted turboprops.
There had already been a very substantial investment in the Herald project, such that the management held a meeting to discuss continuation. Handley Page decided to press ahead with the Herald project, in an effort to recover the investment; announcing a new uprated version powered by the Rolls-Royce Dart. The revised aircraft, now designated the HPR.7 Dart Herald, was powered by 1,910 shp Dart 527 engines driving 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m) variable pitch four-blade Dowty Rotol propellers, and the fuselage was lengthened by 20 in (51 cm), while other improvements included increased fuel capacity. The first prototype was converted to Dart Herald standard, making its maiden flight on 11 March 1958, with the first production aircraft flying on 30 October 1959. The initial Series 100 version of the Dart Herald was certified in April 1958. The basic price in 1960 was around £185,000.
The first order for the Dart Herald was in June 1959 from British European Airways for a lease of three aircraft for use on its Scottish Highlands and Islands routes. The Herald, had by this time, lost its initial lead over the Friendship, which had entered service over six months previously, and to stimulate demand, Handley Page launched in 1960 a further improved version, the Series 200, which was lengthened by 42 in (107 cm), with corresponding increased weights, allowing up to 56 passengers to be carried, and attracted an order for six aircraft from Jersey Airlines.
The second prototype was converted to Series 200 standard and first flew in that form on 8 April 1961. Jersey Airlines began operations with a leased Series 100 on 16 May 1961, receiving the first of its own Series 200s in January 1962, while BEA began Herald operations in March 1962.
The Herald attracted much early interest around the world because of its astonishing short field performance and excellent flight characteristics, but Handley Page failed to close many of the deals, as the F-27 and the Avro 748/HS.748 had become rival offerings, both of which proved significantly more popular. A key design feature of the Herald was the high-mounted wing, but with a noticeable dihedral. In addition, the Herald's vertical fin was covered with miniature airfoils, adding further to the Herald's excellent stability. Pilots reported that the Herald flew like a dream; very stable in the air, yet highly manoeuvrable even at slow speed. Ground handling was said to be the Herald's only vice due to an overlarge tailfin.
While the Series 200 was more commercially attractive, with no more Series 100 being ordered, sales were still slow. While the Herald was cheap compared to its major competitors, and in the 200 series had a roomy cabin, the Friendship could carry a larger payload and both the Friendship and the Avro 748/HS.748 had better performance, resulting in superior long-term economics. By 1963, only 35 Heralds had been sold compared with over 240 Friendships.
One hope of improving sales was to develop the Herald as a military transport. The Royal Air Force had a requirement for 45 tactical transports to replace piston-engined Vickers Valettas, and Handley Page began work in 1960 on the HP.124 to meet this need. This would have a new rear fuselage with a rear loading ramp under the raised tail. The HP.124 was considered favourite to beat Avro's 748 derivative, the Avro 780, with the high wing of the Handley Page expected to give easier loading than the more expensive Avro. While short-field testing of the prototype Herald 200 at RAF Martlesham Heath in 1961 showed off the Herald's good handling and ability to operate from unprepared airstrips, other obstacles were more taxing. The Minister of Aviation, Peter Thorneycroft, refused to sign a contract for the HP.124 unless Handley Page would agree to a merger with British Aircraft Corporation or Hawker Siddeley as part of the government's policy of consolidation of the British aircraft industry. As Hawker Siddeley offered less than half the valuation that Frederick Handley Page placed on the company, the merger did not occur, and the RAF's order went to the Avro 780, which became the Andover. The Herald Series 400 was a simpler tactical transport with a strengthened cabin floor and side loading doors that could be opened in flight for dropping of supplies or paratroops. Eight were built for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.
By 1965, almost all sales momentum had been lost, and Handley Page proposed the Series 700, powered by 2,320 ehp (1,730 kW) Dart 532s, with increased fuel and weights and was capable of seating up to 60 passengers. The Brazilian airline VASP placed an order for ten Series 700s, with plans made for production in Brazil, while further orders for the 700 were placed by Swiss airline Globe Air and Taiwanese Far Eastern Air Transport, and production started on the new model. VASP cancelled its order, however, when it could not obtain financing from the Brazilian government, and Handley Page stopped work on the 700, scrapping six airframes on the production line.
Production ended in 1968. Only 36 examples of the Series 200 production model were eventually built during the six years of production, together with four Series 100s and eight Series 400s. The 50th, and last, Herald (a series 200 for Israel's Arkia) was flown and delivered in August 1968, after which Herald production ceased, allowing Handley Page's attention to be fully focused on the HP.137 Jetstream.
Handley Page went into voluntary liquidation in August 1969, the spiralling cost of developing the Jetstream forcing its closure. Continuing support for the remaining Heralds in service was maintained by the setting up of a new company, Dart Herald (Support) Ltd, partly owned by Scottish Aviation.
The Herald's last ever passenger flight was operated by British Air Ferries in 1987 doing subcharters for Ryanair. The type remained in use as a freighter, but by 1999 the only one remaining in service was a series 401 G-BEYF with Channel Express; it was retired at Bournemouth after its last flight on 9 April 1999.
Data from Jane's All the World's Aircraft 1969-70
Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era
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