Proving flight to Alderney for the Handley Page Herald
The Handley Page Herald would become one of the most popular aircraft used by Jersey Airlines and other operators on Channel Island routes in the 1960s and 'seventies. This article from Flight Magazine on 19 October 1956 covered the proving flight of a prototype to Alderney and Guernsey to demonstrate it to Jersey Airlines executives. The Herald would enter service with the airline five years later.
The Handley Page Herald's tour of the Channel Islands last Friday was beyond doubt a successful occasion. Comments of airline officials and casual passengers alike were favourable and anticipatory;
- "There is no doubt that the Herald can be operated safely in the Channel Islands. The point is proved," declared Maldwyn Thomas, the managing director of Jersey Airlines.
- "Shall we soon be seeing that attractive aeroplane here regularly?", inquired two lady passengers awaiting a scheduled flight in the lounge of Guernsey airport.
Take-off from Woodley
The take-off for the islands, which was delayed by fog, was made from the Handley Page factory at Woodley, and the first half-hour in the air provided us with an opportunity to assess some of the passenger appeal of the new branchliner, which was fully equipped as a 36-seater.
The noise level, which was unexpectedly low on the climb, was very subdued indeed at a steady cruise condition—and a good deal quieter than was implied by the high-wing position in which the four Alvis Leonides Major engines are mounted.
Certainly it was acceptably better than most passengers in aircraft designed for the Herald's operating role would be prepared to tolerate. Except in the sparsely soundproofed toilet right aft, the noise level decreased slightly towards the rear of the cabin. The plane of the airscrew discs is exactly in line with the forward bulkhead in the cabin, but even here the decibel-level was by no means excessive.
As with all piston-engined aircraft there was some slight vibration, which was transmitted into the fuselage as a barely perceptible low-frequency lateral shake of low amplitude.
Inside the cabin
The cabin colour scheme is an attractive mushroom-grey, with contrasting red. The Vynide-covered walls are in the restful pinky-grey colour and the roof and hand-luggage racks are cream. The paired non-adjustable seats are upholstered in cloth, with bright red leather under-knee and head sills.
A combined steward-call button, punkah louvre and swivel reading light are provided for each passenger in a single paired panel (for each double chair) under the overhead racks.
Normally. the Heralds in service would be pressurized to a maximum of 3.35 lb/sq in; G-AODF, the second prototype, was incomplete in this respect; but at our height of 7,000 feet it passed unnoticed.
One feature of the Herald's cabin that attracted particular attention was the headroom, which even under the spar would enable a man six feet tall to walk upright beneath the wing centresection.
An unrestricted downward view is provided by the quite generous double-panel windows; the raised seat backs do, however, make it difficult to see very far forward or aft.
The inboard nacelles and undercarriage legs, which to occupants of the central-cabin seats appear formidable obstructions on the ground, pass unnoticed in the air when the wheel-well doors are closed. Retraction of the flaps and undercarriage can be observed from these seats but was not accompanied by any disturbing hydraulic gurgles.
One of the declared objects of the day's Alderney exercise was to demonstrate the aircraft's short-field capabilities on the island's 950 yard grass runway—an attempt which was delayed for some minutes while stray cows were rounded up and tethered.
Sqd Ldr H G Hazelden's landing was both uneventful and unspectacular. The touch-down was made comfortablv within the airport boundary and the landing run was completed within about 650 yards, allowing a good margin of additional run should it have proved necessary.
The advantages of the Goodyear antiskid units on the wet grass were most apparent—a steady and aporeciable braking retardation was obtained throughout the run Outside the tiny airport building, the Herald was welcomed by the islanders and by officials of Jersey Airlines, among them the managing director, Maldwyn Thomas, who had flown over in a DH Rapide to see for himself the largest aircraft (the landing weight was about 32,000 lb) ever to land on Alderney.
The east-west runway at Alderney used bv the Herald on its first landing is likely to be the one that would be regularly used in service; the other two grass strips which were available are appreciably shorter, with rather awesome approaches over the sea and cliffs. The demonstrated performance of the Herald at Alderney — on a day when the surface wind was unlikely to have exceeded five knots — leaves no room for doubt that dayby-day operations by airline pilots would be entirely practicable.
From Alderney passengers in the Herald and the Rapide exchanged places in order that the Jersey Airlines people could "see for themselves"; and we, for our part, were able to watch and photograph the Herald's take-off from the island.
The aircraft looked huge at the end of the runway and ridiculously close to our vantage point opposite the control tower. A few hundred yards behind it was the sea; 950 yards ahead were rough pasture and rocks; and then the sea again.
Yet the take-off was all so simple — Hazelden lifted the wheels off in less than 450 yards and swung away into the mist in the direction of Guernsey. The take-off, like the landing, had been demonstrated as being as unspectacular as the Handley Page personnel had predicted.
During the Guernsey stop, two of the island's civil dignitaries, Air Marshal Sir Thomas Elmhirst, the Lieut-Governo, and Sir Ambrose Sherwill, the Bailiff, were given a flight around the island in the aircraft. Their favourable impression was a general reaction.
Mr Thomas, of Jersey Airlines, said after his flight from Alderney that his company could make use of the aircraft for the numbers of passengers that they were carrying. In his opinion, JAL, which at present operate seven Herons and three Rapides, could use three Heralds, although, he said, it would be quite practicable to begin services with one.
The link-up with BEA, who hold 25 per cent of the shares in JAL, would mean, Mr Thomas added, that considerable thought would have to be given to the financial implications of purchasing Heralds (which cost about £145,000 without radio and unfurnished).
Another circuit by the aircraft for the benefit of the photographers rapidly began to use up the already depleted autumn day. To go on to Jersey was out of the question if Woodley was to be reached before dark, so we reluctantly turned towards home.
The mist gathered beneath us as we enjoyed the last moments of sunshine; but as we reached Woodley the sun disappeared, the lights were twinkling below and we landed in the gathering dusk.
Between 11.30 and 5.30 we had visited two Channel Islands, created a record for a landing and interested a lot of people in a very promising aeroplane. At the present time 35 Heralds have been ordered and 100 are being laid down. If any directly attributable sales results of our trip are forthcoming, it must be because no other way of selling can be superior to demonstration over the customer's home ground, where the aircraft's comparison with existing equipment is anything but odious.