Aircraft production during WWII had necessarily concentrated on military types, and it was realised that when hostilities ended there would be a lack of capacity for civil air travel. To meet the immediate need, wartime bomber designs were adapted for civil use. The Hermes used many features of the Handley Page Halifax bomber, and a parallel development produced the Hastings transport for the RAF.
The Hermes had an inauspicious start when the prototype crashed on its first flight, but eventually 25 were built for BOAC for use on its West African and South African routes. In the event only 19 went to BOAC and the others were taken by independent charter-flight operators. The Hermes was a pleasant aircraft to fly on and quite popular with passengers, but it suffered from severe engine problems, mainly because BOAC uprated its Hercules piston engines for operations to high-altitude African airports, putting additional strain on them. Eventually BOAC replaced the Hermes with the more reliable Canadair Argonaut but some were later brought back into service when two of BOAC’s new Comet 1 Jetliners suffered catastrophic accidents and all Comets were grounded. Once BOAC had finally withdrawn all its Hermes fleet many were snapped up by independent airlines such as Skyways and Airwork, where they gave many years sterling service. The last flight by a Hermes was in December 1964.
G-ALDG was delivered in 1950 to BOAC, who operated it until 1953. The following year it was sold to Airwork, then to Falcon Airways, and then to Silver City, who used it on holiday charter and trooping flights until 1962, when it was retired at Gatwick Airport to be scrapped. The fuselage survived and was used by British Caledonian for cabin crew training, before being passed to the Gatwick Fire Service who used it for smoke evacuation training. When they had no further use for it they appealed for an aircraft preservation group to rescue it, as it was the only surviving Hermes, and eventually it was moved by road to Duxford in January 1981. Restoration of the fuselage took until 2006 to complete; the Hermes is now on display in Duxford’s AirSpace building as part of the British Airliner Collection.
|First flight:||02 December 1945|
|Powerplant:||4 x Bristol Hercules 763 Radials of 1,566Kw (2,100hp) each|
|Wingspan:||34.4 metres (113 ft 0in)|
|Length:||30.4 metres (99 ft 10in)|
|Height:||9.1 metres (30 ft 0in)|
|Empty weight:||25,106 Kg (55,350 lb)|
|Maximum speed:||563 km/h (350 mph, 304 knots, Mach 0.46)|
|Range:||3,219 km (2,000 miles, 1,738 nmi)|
|Service ceiling:||7,468 metres (24,500 feet)|