The Handley Page HP.67 Hastings is a retired British troop-carrier and freight transport aircraft designed and manufactured by aviation company Handley Page for the Royal Air Force (RAF). Upon its introduction to service during September 1948, the Hastings was the largest transport plane ever designed for the service.
|Hastings TG503 in flight in June 1977|
|First flight||7 May 1946|
|Primary users||Royal Air Force (RAF)|
Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF)
|Variants||Handley Page Hermes|
Development of the Hastings had been initiated during the Second World War in response to Air Staff Specification C.3/44, which sought a new large four-engined transport aircraft for the RAF. Early on, development of a civil-oriented derivative had been prioritised by the company, but this direction was reversed following an accident. On 7 May 1946, the first prototype conducted its maiden flight; testing revealed some unfavourable flight characteristics, which were successfully addressed via tail modifications. The type was rushed into service so that it could participate in the Berlin Airlift; reportedly, the fleet of 32 Hastings to be deployed during the RAF operation delivered a combined total of 55,000 tons (49,900 tonnes) of supplies to the city.
As the RAF's Hastings fleet expanded during the late 1940s and early 1950s, it supplemented and eventually replaced the wartime Avro York, a transport derivative of the famed Avro Lancaster bomber. RAF Transport Command operated the Hastings as the RAF's standard long-range transport; as a logistics platform, it contributed heavily during conflicts such as the Suez Crisis and the Indonesian Confrontation. A handful were also procured by the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) to meet its transport needs. Beyond its use as a transport, several Hastings were modified to perform weather forecasting, training, and VIP duties. A civilian version of the Hastings, the Handley Page Hermes, was also produced, which only achieved limited sales. Hastings continued to be heavily used by RAF up until the late 1960s, the fleet being withdrawn in its entirety during 1977. The type was succeeded by various turboprop-powered designs, including the Bristol Britannia and the American-built Lockheed Hercules.
Amid the latter years of the Second World War, the Air Ministry formulated and released Air Staff Specification C.3/44, which defined a new long-range general purpose transport to succeed the Avro York, a transport derivative of the Avro Lancaster bomber. British aviation company Handley Page made its own submission to meet C.3/44, the corresponding design being designated H.P.67. According to aviation periodical Flight International, the H.P.67 was an extremely aerodynamically clean design, as well as being relatively orthodox in terms of Handley Page methodology. Its basic configuration was an all-metal low-wing cantilever monoplane with a conventional tail unit. It had all-metal tapering wings with dihedral, which had been designed for the abandoned HP.66 bomber development of the existing Handley Page Halifax; these wings were mated to a circular fuselage, which was suitable for pressurisation up to 5.5 psi (38 kPa). It was provided with a retractable undercarriage and tailwheel.
In addition to the Hastings, a civilian version was also developed, the Hermes. Initially, development of the Hermes prototypes had been assigned a higher priority over the Hastings, but that programme was placed on hold after the prototype crashed during its first flight on 2 December 1945; thus Handley Page opted to concentrate its resources on completing the military Hastings variant. On 7 May 1946, the first of two Hastings prototypes (TE580) made its maiden flight from RAF Wittering. Flight testing soon demonstrated some issues, including lateral instability and relatively poor stall warning behaviour. To rectify these problems, both the prototypes and the first few production aircraft were urgently modified and tested with a temporary solution: a modified tailplane with 15° of dihedral, and the installation of an artificial stall warning system. These changes enabled the first production aircraft, designated Hastings C1, to enter service during October 1948.
The Royal Air Force (RAF) had initially placed an order for 100 Hastings C1s; however, the last six were manufactured as weather reconnaissance versions, referred to as the Hastings Met. Mk 1, while seven other aircraft were subsequently converted to this standard. These weather reconnaissance aircraft were stripped of their standard interiors, the space being instead occupied by meteorological measuring and recording equipment, along with a galley and wardroom to improve crew comfort during routine flights of up to nine hours. A total of eight C.1 aircraft were later converted to Hastings T5 trainer configuration, which was used by RAF Bomber Command as a replacement for the Avro Lincoln at their Bombing School at RAF Lindholme. The conversion involved the installation of a large ventral radome; each aircraft could carry three trainee bomb aimers in a training section above the radome. The rear cabin retained a secondary passenger/cargo carrying area, giving it a limited transport capacity as well.
While tail modifications introduced to the C1 had allowed the type to enter service, a more definitive solution was provided in the form of an extended-span tailplane, which was mounted lower on the fuselage. An aircraft which had this modified tail installed, together with the fitting of additional fuel tanks within the outer wing, was predesignated as the Hastings C2; a further modified VIP transport variant, which was fitted with more fuel capacity to provide a longer range than standard aircraft, became the HP.94 Hastings C4.
By the end of production, 147 aircraft had been manufactured for the RAF; an additional four Hastings were built for the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF), which gave a total of 151 aircraft.
The Handley Page Hastings was a large purpose-built four-engined transport aircraft. It was furnished with several modern features, such as a Messier-built fully retractable undercarriage, which was operated hydraulically, and unprecedented stowage space for an RAF transport aircraft. Roughly 3,000 cubic feet of unrestricted area was used to house various cargoes or passengers. The cabin was fitted with a Plymax floor, complete with various grooves, channels, and lashing points for securing goods of varying sizes, while the walls were sound proofed and lined with plywood for increased comfort. Principal access is provided by a freight door on the port side, which incorporates a paratroop door, while a second paratroop door is present on the starboard side; on the ground, a rapidly deployable ramp suitable for road vehicles can also be used. In service, the aircraft was typically operated by a crew of five; it could accommodate either up to 30 paratroopers, 32 stretchers and 28 sitting casualties, or a maximum of 50 fully equipped troops.
In terms of its structure, the Hastings features a circular cross-section fuselage, which is constructed in three main sections from frames comprising rolled alloy. The frames are typically Z-section units using intercostal plate members, but the wing box makes use of larger I-section structures; these support a metal sheet covering that is rivetted directly onto stringer flanges. The maximum external diameter of 11 ft is maintained for a lengthy portion of the fuselage's length, running both fore and aft of the wing. In order that the Hastings could carry loads too large for its interior, such as Jeeps and some artillery pieces, strong fixture points are present on the underside of the fuselage for the fitting of an under-fuselage carrier platform.
The fuselage is paired with a low-mounted cantilever wing, the connection between the two being smoothly faired. This wing comprised a twin-spar structure complete with inter-spar diaphragm-type ribs; the trailing edge ribs terminate just short of the slotted flaps. Furthermore, the leading edge of the wing's center section was readily detachable, providing easy access to various electrical and control systems housed within the wing. The aircraft's fuel tanks are located just inboard of the inner engine nacelles; retractable ejector pipes were present within the wing, which were used for jettisoning fuel when such action would be required by an emergency situation.
The Hastings was powered by an arrangement of four wing-mounted Bristol Hercules 101 sleeve valve radial engines. These engines were installed upon the leading edge of the wing via interchangeable power-eggs; the air intakes and thermostatically-controlled oil coolers were also present within the wing. A Vokes-build automated air cleaner was present upon each engine, typically deploying during landings and take-offs. Fire detection systems were also installed to alert the crew to such dangers, while fire extinguishers were also installed around each engine. The engines drove de Havilland-built hydromatic four-blade propellers, which could be individually feathered if required.
The Hastings had been rushed into service with the RAF during September 1948 due to the pressing need for additional transport aircraft to meet the demands of the Berlin Airlift. Between September and October 1948, No. 47 Squadron rapidly replaced its fleet of Halifax A Mk 9s with the Hastings; the squadron conducted its first sortie using the type to Berlin on 11 November 1948. During the airlift, the Hastings fleet was intensively used, principally to carry shipments of coal to the city; before the end of the crisis, two further squadrons, 297 and 53, would be involved in the effort. The final sortie of the airlift was performed by a Hastings, which occurred on 6 October 1949; according to aviation historian Paul Jackson, the 32 Hastings deployed during the operation had delivered a total of 55,000 tons (49,900 tonnes) of supplies, during which two aircraft had been lost.
A total of one hundred Hastings C1 and 41 Hastings C2 were procured for service with RAF Transport Command, who commonly deployed the type upon its long-range routes, as well as some use as a tactical transport until well after the arrival of the faster turboprop-powered Bristol Britannia during 1959. A total of four VIP-configured Hastings were assigned to 24 Squadron. An example of the latter use was during the Suez Crisis of 1956, during which several Hastings of 70, 99 and 511 Squadrons dropped paratroopers on El Gamil airfield, Egypt.
Hastings continued to provide transport support to British military operations around the globe through the 1950s and 1960s, including dropping supplies to troops opposing Indonesian forces in Malaysia during the Indonesian Confrontation. During early 1968, the Hastings was withdrawn from RAF Transport Command, by which point it has been replaced by the American-built Lockheed Hercules and British-built Armstrong Whitworth AW.660 Argosy, both being newer turboprop-powered transports.
Starting in 1950, the Met Mk.1 weather reconnaissance aircraft were used by 202 Squadron, based at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland; they were used by the Squadron up until its disbandment on 31 July 1964, having been rendered obsolete by the introduction of weather satellites. The Hastings T.Mk 5 remained in service as radar trainers well into the 1970s; the variant was used for other purposes as well during this time, such as the occasional transport, air experience, and search and rescue missions. The Hastings was even deployed for reconnaissance purposes during the Cod War with Iceland during the winter of 1975–76; it was finally withdrawn from service on 30 June 1977.
In addition to its use by the RAF, several Hastings were also procured by New Zealand, where they were operated by No. 40 and No. 41 Squadrons of the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). The service flew the type until it was replaced by American-built Lockheed C-130 Hercules during 1965. Four Hastings C.Mk 3 transport aircraft were built and supplied to the RNZAF. One crashed at RAAF Base Darwin and caused considerable damage to the city water main, its railway and the road into the city. The other three were broken up at RNZAF Base Ohakea. During the period that the engines were having problems with their sleeve valves (lubricating oil difficulties) RNZAF personnel joked that the Hastings was the best three-engined aircraft in the world.
Four Hastings are preserved in the UK and Germany:
Data from Jane's All The World's Aircraft 1951–52, Flight International