The BEA Herald Story
About the Author
Adrian Balch is a well known collector of classic 1/400 scale models, especially those that operated to or from Heathrow. He is a font of information on classics and has contributed to the accuracy and release of many Aeroclassics and JC Wings models. He is regularly published in magazines like Airliner World and has written several books on civil aviation. Most recently in April 2016 he published 'Heathrow in Photographs: Celebrating 70 Years of London's Airport' buy it here.
Text and dioramas in this piece are courtesy of Adrian
The second prototype Herald, G-AODF, first flew in August 1956 powered by four Alvis Leonides piston engines, but as engine technology progressed following the success of the Roll Royce Dart turboprop in the Viscount, the two prototypes were re-engined with the new engines two years later, making them much more efficient and quieter for the passengers. BEA was looking to replace their DC-3s and when BEA announced a new livery in 1959, Handley Page were quick to paint up G-AODF in this new scheme and display it at the annual SBAC show at Farnborough in September 1959 in the hope of generating sales.
Prior to BEA putting its Heralds into service, G-AODF carried out some of the route-proving flights in Scotland. In April 1961, it was converted from a 100 Series to a 200 series with increased capacity and re-registered G-ARTC, being repainted in Maritime Central Airways colours in anticipation of an order. The aircraft remained a company demonstrator and was finally broken up for scrap at Radlett in 1969-70.
In February 1962, two BEA Heralds, G-APWA and G-APWC, took off from Mackenzie Airport, near Georgetown, British Guiana of which ‘PWA carried HRH the Duke of Edinburgh on the start of his tour of South America. During the eight-week, 20,000-mile tour the aircraft was flown by a BEA crew led by Capt W. J. Johnson. For many of the more than 100 hours of flying involved the Duke at the controls. The tour programme included visits to all the South American states including La Paz, Bolivia, where they are seen here.
The longest flight was the 850-mile sector between Belem (Brazil) and Georgetown (British Guiana) on April 2, a 4hr 40 min flight which rounded off a day of intensive flying during which the Duke, members of the Royal Party and the Herald's BEA crew spent some 11 hours in the air and flew more than 2,000 miles.
On March 2 1962, the Duke took controls of the Herald from the world's highest airport, at La Paz, capital of Bolivia—13,500ft up in the Andes. At the time, the Herald was believed to be the only turbine-powered airliner to have operated from El Alto, the highest of all civil airports. At the close of his tour the Duke of Edinburgh flew back to Georgetown and then on to visit Jamaica, British Honduras and the Cayman Islands before returning to London from Kingston (Jamaica) by BO AC Britannia on April 6 1962. Throughout the royal tour the Duke of Edinburgh's Herald was Handley Page demonstrator, G-APWA, painted in BEA colours,accompanied by a second BEA Herald 100,G-APWC.
Despite the Royal endorsement, the South American sales tour did not result in any sales for the Herald from any of the countries visited and it was only later that Sadia of Brazil placed an order for the type. Furthermore, Handley Page had hoped that HRH The Duke of Edinburgh would promote the aircraft to be operated by The Queens Flight, but in the end they bought Hawker Siddeley 748 Andovers.
Under an arrangement announced by the British Government in June 1959 three Dart Heralds were purchased by the Government at a cost of some £750,000, including spares and crew training. These were to be operated by BEA for an initial five-year period over Scottish routes where the aerodromes were too small for Viscounts. The three aircraft, series 100 G-APWB,’C & ‘D for BEA were delivered in early 1962. The original plan was that BEA would buy these three aircraft from the Ministry of Aviation at the end of a five-year period.
In December 1959, G-APWA arrived in Scotland wearing BEA’s newly introduced colour scheme of red, black and white, to carry out proving trials in anticipation of the 1961 summer services when Heralds were to take over from DC-3s. Unfortunately the three allocated Heralds were not ready for that season and were not delivered until early 1962. The ‘Highlands and Islands’ service never made money – they were primarily run as a social service. However, the Heralds had proved very reliable, operating six days a week and maintenance being done on a Sunday and at night with no spare aircraft required.
By March 1965, the three Heralds had carried more than 280,300 passengers and 1,650 tons of freight. G-APWB (the subject of the Aeroclassics model shown here) had logged the highest number of hours for any Herald – 5,050 – by April 30 1965, and the second highest total landings – 8,858. In October 1966, the Heralds were replaced by Viscounts on the Scottish islands routes and the three aircraft were sold to Autair International at Luton.
Today, if you want to see a BEA Herald, G-APWA is beautifully preserved at the Berkshire Aviation Museum at Woodley, near Reading, England, near to the Handley Page factory where it was built.
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: