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Handley Page HPR7 Dart Herald


Another Great British Should-Have-Been

When Handley Page acquired the Miles Aircraft Company in 1947 it also inherited the Miles Marathon, an aircraft designed to meet the Brabazon Committee specification for a ‘feeder’ airliner. This was redeveloped as the Herald, aimed at the DC-3 replacement market. After extensive consultation with DC-3 operators, it was decided to power the new airliner with piston engines, rather than the relatively new and untried turboprops, which were considered risky by the small airlines at which the Herald was aimed. This led to the HPR3, with four Alvis Leonides Major 14-cylinder radial engines. The aircraft attracted considerable interest, and 29 orders had been received by the time it made its maiden flight on 25 August 1955.

At the same time, Dutch company Fokker were developing their F27 Friendship for the same market but had decided to power the aircraft with two Rolls-Royce Dart turboprops. By the time the Friendship made its first flight three months after that of the Herald, early fears about the reliability of turboprops had been dispelled by the success of the Dart in the Vickers Viscount, and the initial Herald orders were all cancelled in favour of the Friendship. As there had already been a very substantial investment in the Herald project, Handley Page decided to press ahead with it to try to recover the investment, announcing a new version powered by Rolls-Royce Darts. The revised aircraft, now designated the HPR.7 Dart Herald, first flew on 11 March 1958.The first proper order for the Dart Herald was in June 1959 from British European Airways for three aircraft for use on its Scottish Highlands and Islands routes.

The Herald attracted much early interest around the world because of its astonishing short field performance and excellent flight characteristics, but the rival Friendship could carry a larger payload and both it and the Avro 748 (Darts again) had superior performance, which resulted in better long-term economics. By 1963, only 35 Heralds had been sold compared with more than 240 Friendships.

The Herald's last ever passenger flight was operated by British Air Ferries in 1987 on charter to Ryanair. The type remained in use as a freighter, but by 1999 the only one remaining in service, with Channel Air Ferries, was retired at Bournemouth after its last flight on 9 April 1999.

The British Aircraft Collection’s Herald was built at the Handley Page factory at Radlett, Herts – the tenth Herald 201 off the production line. Its first flight took place on 29 May 1963 and it was delivered to British United (Channel Island) Airways Jersey Airport on 13 June 1963. On 1 November 1968 it was re-registered to British United Airways, and on 20 July 1970 it was re-registered again, this time to British Island Airways, who operated it until January 1980, when it was re-registered to Air UK and based at Norwich. This aircraft flew the last scheduled passenger service of the Herald, from Leeds to Belfast in 1985.

Throughout its entire career the aircraft was used mainly on the short Blackpool, Isle of Man and Channel Island routes, and also routes to France, and during 22 years in service it flew more than 33,000 hours in 44,000 flights, carrying an estimated 2 million passengers a total of more than 6 million miles. By 1985 it was the only Herald being operated by Air UK, all the others having been retired and replaced by Fokker F27 Friendships. Its last revenue flight was on Sunday 30th June 1985, from Leeds to Belfast after which it was donated to the Duxford Aviation Society for preservation and made its final flight from Norwich to Duxford on Sunday 7 July 1985.

Datafile: Handley Page HPR7 Dart Herald

First flight:25 August 1955
Passenger capacity:56
Powerplant:2 x Rolls-Royce Dart Mk527 turboprops of 1,425kW (1,910hp) each
Wingspan:29.5 metres (96 ft 10in)
Length:23.3 metres (76 ft 6in)
Height:7.3 metres (24 ft 0in)
Empty weight:11,322 Kg (24,960 lb)
Maximum speed:443 km/h (275 mph, 239 knots, Mach 0.36)
Range:2,631 km (1,635 miles, 1,421 nmi)
Service ceiling:9,053 metres (29,700 feet)


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