C.Barnes Handley Page Aircraft since 1907 (Putnam)
W/400, W.8, W.8b and W.8c (H.P.16 and 18)
From the beginning of 1919, Handley Page realised that adaptation of the O/400 bomber as a transport could not produce a satisfactory post-war airliner, whatever its value as a means of generating traffic and enthusiasm for the new mode of travel. For one thing, the internal tubular bracing, which replaced tie-rods in the cabin, was a hindrance to passengers and prevented seats from being placed in the best positions. So in February 1919, when Volkert, assisted by S. T. A. Richards, began sketching layouts for a new project known as Type W, the first consideration was to eliminate internal bracing in the cabin altogether. At first it seemed that this could be done only by restricting the cabin length to 12 ft, and this would have needed a width of at least 5 ft 6 in to accommodate twelve seats, in four rows of three abreast. This, in turn, would have meant placing the two engines further apart and so increasing yaw with a single engine failure; the ability to maintain height with one engine dead was certain to be marginal and any increment in trim drag was most undesirable. The problem was solved by replacing the central cabane struts by braced vertical struts, whose longeron attachments were braced to the top and bottom ends of the engine struts. This made internal bracing across the middle of the fuselage unnecessary and allowed a longer cabin of 22 ft, with forward and aft frames stiffened at the corners. The internal cabin width could then revert to 4 ft 6 in as in the O/400, accommodating forward-facing pairs of seats in as many as eight rows, if desired, with a central gangway. To provide full height throughout the cabin, the bottom longerons were curved to taper less abruptly aft of the wing and the fuselage was deepened to 7 ft, with the crew’s cockpit lowered and the nose cockpit deleted; pilot opinion was strongly opposed to an enclosed cockpit and no attempt was made to incorporate one.
For the wing layout, Volkert proposed to use the V/1500 style with equal span, four ailerons and dihedral only on the lower wing, giving a gap of 11 ft at the centre and 8 ft 6 in at the tips, while retaining the O/400’s original chord of 10 ft and area of 1,650 sq ft; this resulted in a span of 85 ft. At a meeting on 3 March, 1919, Handley Page approved this suggestion and ordered a set of the new wings for C9713, an 0/400 which had been used at Cricklewood and Martlesham Heath for V/1500 development; since July 1918 it had had hornless balanced ailerons of the V/1500 type on its original upper wings; it made three satisfactory flights on 31 March with a simplified undercarriage of V/1500 pattern, the pilot being Lieutenant Carruthers, who flew it again in April with the new wings for speed and climb tests at 12,000 lb before taking it to Martlesham for official tests and instrument calibration. Meanwhile a new monoplane tail unit, with the stern tapering to a vertical knife-edge, was designed and made up, ready for assembly to C9713 when it returned from Martlesham; in the event it was flown on to Farnborough for airspeed calibration, which was completed on 22 May. On 19 May the test figures from Martlesham confirmed Volkert’s prediction and Type W was finalised with a fuselage width of 5 ft and variable tailplane incidence. Possibly with the intention of having it ready for the forthcoming First International Air Transport Exhibition (ELTA) at Amsterdam in August, Handley Page pressed on with as full as possible a conversion of C9713 to the new standard, retaining the original main fuselage and centre section, with the Eagles in nacelles extended to include new fuel tanks of 110 gallons each, with a 10-gallon gravity service tank above each, as already designed for the O/7. Carruthers was no longer available and Geoffrey Hill was ill with influenza when C9713, modified to ’W/400’ standard, was ready for flight. Lt-Col Sholto Douglas, chief pilot of Handley Page Transport Ltd, was therefore instructed by Handley Page to take Hill’s place, which he did under protest since Handley Page had declined to pay any bonus for test-flying. Douglas flew C9713 on 22 August, 1919, and confirmed the performance predicted from Boswall’s wind-tunnel tests but asked for the controls to be geared-up 1 1/2 times to improve response. It was already too late for it to appear at ELTA even if a special C of A could have been rushed through.
It has been suggested that C9713 was converted in stages to become the Type W prototype, which appeared in November 1919 carrying the number HP-15 in the sequence applied to civil conversions of O/400s, but company records show that both these aircraft co-existed for nearly a year; on 8 March, 1920, C9713 was being regularly flown at Cricklewood for routine testing of such experiments as a two-wheeled chassis, slewed engines (to improve directional control with one engine throttled), slotted exhaust pipe silencers, and triple fins and rudders (which had been allowed for in the original monoplane tail design). Arthur Wilcockson flew it on engine-out trials with a single rudder at the end of March 1920 and was waiting in April for a windy day on which to check weathercock effect on cross-wind taxying. A new main fuselage of Type W design had been ordered for C9713 on 24 February, 1919, but had not been incorporated in that aeroplane before it was taken out of service at the end of July 1920; it is likely that this new fuselage became the nucleus of the Type W prototype in May 1919, having initially been included in the production sequence as HP-15. C9713 never had a civil registration, remaining the Air Ministry’s property on loan to the company, thanks to good relations between Handley Page and the new Director of Research, Sir Robert Brooke- Popham. The Type W prototype came very near to the ideal ‘Large Transport Aeroplane’ envisaged by the Civil Aviation department of the Air Ministry, when it promulgated rules for a Civil Aircraft Comfort and Safety Competition, to be held at Martlesham Heath and Felixstowe in August 1920.
In the final design of Type W, it had been hoped to install a pair of 400 hp Cosmos Jupiter air-cooled radial engines instead of the Eagles, and clearance for 12 ft diameter airscrews had been obtained by narrowing the upper half of the fuselage immediately aft of the cockpit; at the same time the centre-section span was reduced by 2 ft, with the engines mounted on the outboard side of the outer struts, thus maintaining the same distance between engine centres as on the O/400. Jupiters were not available because the Cosmos company’s original contracts had been cancelled after the Armistice and, in reinstating a prototype order for six Jupiters, the Air Ministry had stipulated a more severe type test for civil use; instead of Jupiters, the Air Ministry agreed to lend a pair of 450 hp Napier Lions, since there was considerable official support for Handley Page’s enterprise. With more power available, Volkert reduced the wing area, giving a span of 75 ft, but (as in the earliest days of the O/100) retained the original aileron area by extending the aileron chord. The elevators, like the ailerons, were aerodynamically balanced by setting back the hinges, but a substantial horn balance was retained for the rudder, another sample of which was tested on C9713 in November 1919. In this form, the prototype was designated W.8 and allotted the civil registration G-EAPJ. Hill was still off flying duty and Douglas had resigned rather than undertake further test-flying, so Handley Page decided to delay the first flight until the furnishings had been completed to exhibition standard. They included wall-to-wall carpet, pelmets and curtains for the eight openable circular Triplex windows along each side, a clock on the forward bulkhead and several small electric candelabra on the walls. The sixteen cane seats all faced forward and were upholstered with plush-covered cushions, each passenger having an adjacent window; the cabin was entered by an outward opening door at the aft end on the port side, with a toilet compartment adjacent to the aft bulkhead, behind which was a cargo hold accessible through a floor hatch. An interesting facility at first was the provision of port-holes in the floor to enable passengers to view landmarks, but they proved unpopular and were soon deleted.
Structurally, the W.8 incorporated all the best features of both the O/400 and V/1500, retaining folding wings with hollow box spars and employing hollow compression struts and longerons, though not of the McGruer tubular pattern, which had given trouble through shrinkage allowing the strut fittings to loosen and rotate. All steel fittings were rust-proofed and stove enamelled, and the wooden members were thoroughly protected with copal varnish. Had Jupiters been available, the fuel and oil tanks would have been installed in circular section nacelles of good streamline form, but with the substitution of Napier Lions it became necessary to lengthen the nacelles, still keeping the circular section; the engines were fed from small cylindrical gravity tanks under the upper wing as in the O/7, fuel being pumped up to them from the main tanks. Finished all over in white Emaillite, the W.8 was rolled out for its first engine runs in November 1919. Geoffrey Hill was still unfit for flying, so 20 years old Robert Bager, of Handley Page Transport Ltd, undertook the first test flight, which lasted 20 minutes, on 2 December. He was entirely satisfied with the W.8’s handling and, on the morning of the 4th, took off at 11.30 for Hounslow to clear Customs before flying on to Le Bourget, which he reached in the record time of 110 minutes; en route he overtook the regular O/400, which had left Hounslow 40 min before him and was to land at Le Bourget ten minutes after him. Late at night a few days later, with wings folded, the W.8 was towed 12 miles on its own wheels to the centre of Paris and into the Grand Palais on the Champs Elysees, where the Handley Page working party, under foreman William MacRostie, was completing the stand to the satisfaction of Edward Cogni, publicity manager, and J. B. Richard, the company’s Continental agent. When the VI-ieme Exposition Internationale de Locomotion Aerienne opened on 19 December, the W.8, in a prominent central position, dominated the smaller exhibits, being matched in size only by the Farman Goliath, and was universally admired, not only for its sparkling white finish and luxurious interior furnishings, but also for its structural ingenuity, which banished all internal bracing from the capacious saloon. After the exhibition closed on 4 January, 1920, some time necessarily elapsed while the W.8 was extricated from the Grand Palais and returned by road to Le Bourget, whence Bager flew it back via Hounslow on 22 January in 130 min, bringing MacRostie and his party home to Cricklewood in time for the company’s annual staff dinner at the Connaught Rooms on the 24th. The W.8 was not flown again until the end of March, when Geoffrey Hill was pronounced fit for flying duties, having spent his latter weeks of convalescence on various wind-tunnel experiments. Soon after beginning a series of carefully graded handling tests, he asked for reduced fin and rudder height without changing the original chord, to improve directional stability and control with one engine throttled back. By the end of April he had completed performance measurements at full weight with varying c.g. positions, the load being made up with water ballast carried in three tanks supported by a strong wooden framework laid on the cabin floor. On receiving Hill’s report, Handley Page at once arranged for a demonstration climb to service ceiling with full payload to be officially observed for a possible world record claim; on 4 May Geoffrey Hill and his engineer, ‘Nigger’ Knight, flew G-EAPJ to a height of 4.276 metres (nearly 14,000 ft) with a payload of 1,674 kg (3,690 lb), equivalent to 26 passengers, in a flight from Cricklewood lasting 80 min. Although this flight did not qualify for homologation by the FAI, the Royal Aero Club recognised it as a British record and awarded a Certificate of Performance on 18 May, 1920. A few days later the W.8 was due to appear at Brussels for demonstration to King Albert of the Belgians, to whom the Aircraft Disposal Co were presenting a specially equipped touring conversion of a Bristol Fighter for his private use; there was great enthusiasm in the running shed to get the W.8 ready after various small modifications had been done, and, as soon as work on the port engine was finished, Knight started it while the starboard engine installation was still in progress, to save time. Unfortunately a panel-beater, in replacing a nacelle cowling panel, had had to disconnect the port throttle linkage and had inadvertently reversed it in reconnecting it, so that when Knight tried to slow the engine down its speed increased and the aircraft, still trestled on the starboard side, tilted on to its nose with the rudder rising into the roof girders; apart from a broken airscrew, little damage was done, but the W.8’s visit to Brussels had to be postponed.
At the beginning of the year, the Air Ministry had announced a competition to promote comfort and safety in the design of civil aircraft, offering prizes totalling ?64,000 for the best entries in three classes: large aeroplanes, small aeroplanes and amphibians. The competition was originally scheduled to begin on 1 June, 1920, but on receiving complaints from the SBAC that this would prejudice the Aero Show being held at Olympia in July, the Air Ministry agreed to postpone the starting dates to 1 August for the landplane classes and 1 September for seaplanes. A week before the Olympia show opened on 9 July, the W.8 once more made a road journey on its own wheels, with wings folded, this time from Cricklewood down Edgware Road and Park Lane to Hyde Park Corner and thence along Knightsbridge and Kensington High Street to Olympia, which was reached without incident before the morning rush-hour began. Again the W.8 occupied a dominating central position, on Stand 49, but had to share the honours for size with the Bristol Pullman triplane and the slightly smaller Vickers Vimy Commercial. The W.8 had been refinished in glossy white, with black nacelles and black lining along the edges of the fuselage, and its registration marks painted out, which greatly enhanced its appearance; the only external embellishment was the company badge on the nose and on each side of the fin. Its furnishings were acclaimed by a large number of visitors and on its return to Cricklewood after the show closed on the 20th it needed further refurbishing, but it was found that the brilliant gloss had to be stripped off ruthlessly to save a serious weight increase and only a light finishing coat could be permitted for the competition flying. So it emerged from the shops for its next test flight on 1 August finished in a light pea-green colour, the result of mixing Nivo dope with a minimum of gloss white; it retained this colour for the remainder of its life.
G-EAPJ’s pilot for the Air Ministry competition was Major Herbert Brackley, who had been appointed chief pilot of Handley Page Transport Ltd in March 1920, soon after returning from Egypt. He found it handled well, with remarkable climb and speed, and flew it to Martlesham Heath on 3 August, but next day one of the airscrews was found to be defective and could not be rectified until Friday the 13th. Next morning, Brackley began the prescribed reliability and economy test, but after 2 3/4 hours the fabric at the port hinged trailing edge of the upper wing began to strip and vibrate in the slipstream, and when three of the tail-ribs broke he had to land. All through Sunday and Monday work continued to repair the ribs and renew the fabric, but just as the job was finished, in the afternoon, one of the riggers fell off a trestle and through the trailing edge of the lower wing, breaking two of the hinge ribs on this wing also, so they had to work throughout the night to complete this repair. On Tuesday the 17th the W.8 was ready for flight again and Brackley completed the high speed test at 118 mph, and next day the economy and reliability test with two flights of 3 1/2 hr each. Bad weather and low cloud then interrupted flying till Saturday the 21st, when Brackley began the single-engined test, but had to give up after half an hour; on Monday he flew for 35 min with the starboard engine switched off losing 150 ft of height and then for half an hour with the port engine off without loss of height. Next day he completed the short take-off and slow flying tests satisfactorily, but failed to demonstrate uncontrolled flight for 5 min as required, in spite of repeated attempts at several different altitudes, his best time being 3 min. On the 27th, having achieved half an hour with starboard engine off without losing height, he completed the landing tests over a 50 ft barrier of balloons, and on the 28th made a final attempt to improve on his slow speed, which he got down to 55-2 mph; after this he flew the W.8 back to Cricklewood with eleven passengers, including the competition judges and rival competitors. The results were announced a month later, when the judges withheld the first prize of ?20,000 in the large aeroplane class, but awarded the second prize of ?8,000 to Handley Page and the third prize of ?4,000 to Vickers for their Vimy Commercial; their reasons for not giving the W.8 the first prize were that it had failed to demonstrate sufficient stability in uncontrolled flight and that none of the competitors offered the radical advance in design that the Air Ministry had wished to elicit.
Handley Page had hoped to put the W.8 into immediate revenue earning service, and a C of A was granted on 7 August, 1920, but the Napier Lions were still on loan and there were none available for sale, so the machine could only be used for such flying as was authorised by the Air Ministry. The next opportunity of showing its paces occurred on 13 October, when the International Air Conference visited Croydon aerodrome for a display of the latest types of civil aircraft. The W.8 and an O/400 arrived from Cricklewood in formation, the O/400 being already at maximum speed, but over the aerodrome the W.8 accelerated to its own maximum speed with spectacular effect, leaving the O/400 standing. But by this time all British air services were losing revenue to subsidised French operators, who could afford to charge only half the true economic fare needed to show a profit; consequently, even when Napier Lions became available for sale, Handley Page Transport Ltd could not find the purchase money for a pair for the W.8; the possibility of hiring Jupiters from the Bristol Aeroplane Company had led to the registration of a second W.8 as G-EAVJ on 6 September, but construction never began of this machine (W.8a), which was to have had slotted wings. With the withdrawal of the Cricklewood Amsterdam service at the end of October and total cessation of British civil air traffic four months later, the government was forced to act and a new phase began on 19 March, when subsidies recommended by the Londonderry committee enabled the Cricklewood Le Bourget service to be restarted at the same fares as the French airlines. After further unsuccessful attempts to replace the Napier Lions in G-EAPJ, which the Air Ministry had handed back to the makers after removing its engines, S. T. A. Richards proposed a version, W.8b, with Eagle VIII engines which, though of lower power, could carry nearly the same payload at a slightly reduced cruising speed; this nevertheless gave a useful margin against the worst headwinds and enabled flights to be completed within the maximum time limit permitted for payment of the subsidy, which the O/400s could not always achieve. Meanwhile, both Brackley and Volkert had joined Colonel The Master of Sempill’s naval aviation mission to Japan, and had been succeeded by R. H. McIntosh as chief pilot of Handley Page Transport Ltd, and S. T. A. Richards as chief designer.
At last two Napier Lion IBs were obtained for G-EAPJ, which was overhauled and flight-tested again on 29 August, 1921, by H. H. Perry. On the same day he ferried it across to Croydon, now the Customs terminal for Handley Page Transport Ltd as for other British operators, and for the remainder of the week it was flown by the other pilots, who all expressed enthusiasm for its handling and performance. Another month elapsed while the Civil Aviation department of the Air Ministry deliberated its approval for public transport, and there was disappointment when its C of A was endorsed for a maximum load of only twelve passengers, but on Wednesday 20 October Perry was ready to fly the first service to Paris, only to be grounded by the fog which, as already related, ‘All-weather Mac’ alone succeeded in penetrating with his famous blind arrival that day. Next day at 2.25 p.m. Perry took off from Croydon on a 125-minute maiden flight to Paris with all seats occupied and G-EAPJ, now named Newcastle, was thereafter flown in regular service. On 15 November seven passengers were booked for the morning flight to Paris, including Sir Henry White-Smith and J. D. North, who had been invited to join Handley Page en route to the Paris Salon. Their pilot was the Cockney W. L. Rogers, who insisted on leaving punctually at 11.10 a.m. although Handley Page had been delayed and in fact arrived in time to see the W.8 receding over Purley. Three weeks later Arthur Wilcockson brought off an emergency landing near Beauvais after one airscrew and reduction gear had broken adrift; fortunately, spares were ready to hand and the W.8 was flown back to Croydon without passengers next day. An order for three W.8bs, to specification 16/21, was agreed in November and G-EAPJ, having been overhauled at Cricklewood, was retained there for flight trials with its Lions restricted to Eagle VIII power ratings, to provide performance data for the W.8b, so was not available for demonstration at the second Air Conference display at Croydon on 5 February, 1922.
Meanwhile, the three new W.8bs were making quick progress through the works, but when the first emerged it looked too sombre in a new livery of silver-doped wings and tail, with a black fuselage relieved only by gold lining along the edges. Before sending it to Croydon, Handley Page had the colour scheme changed to silver, with black lining and lettering, although the first W.8b, G-EBBG, retained its gold lining at first and G-EAPJ remained pea-green even after its wing and tail fabric had been renewed. The main differences between W.8b and W.8, apart from the change of engines, were the continuous rectangular windows along each side of the saloon, instead of separate round port-holes, and the removal of the fuel tanks from the nacelles to the top of the upper wings, which reduced the risk of fire and provided a simple and reliable gravity feed to the engines without using pumps; the wing-folding facility was also deleted to save weight and improve the wing root strength. Although ICAN had standardised a cockpit layout with the pilot on the port side and the engineer or radio operator on the starboard side as early as November 1919, this rule had not been enforced on the O/400 civil variants or the original W.8, which had inherited the opposite layout from the O/400 bomber; in spite of its having been designed three years after promulgation of the ICAN standard, the W.8b retained the pilot in the right-hand seat, apparently because Handley Page Transport pilots were accustomed to it and resisted any change. Since the number of passengers was still limited to twelve, the front bay of the saloon was partitioned off as a cargo compartment in addition to the main hold aft of the entrance door, and this permitted easier adjustment of the centre of gravity during loading.
After its first flight by Wilcockson at Cricklewood on 21 April, 1922, G-EBBG was flown to Croydon and thence to Martlesham Heath for official C of A trials, in which it took off easily with 300 lb overload; it was flown back to Croydon on 3 May by Harold Payn. Although the full C of A was not issued till June, G-EBBG went into immediate service, its maiden flight to Paris being made by Wilcockson with eight passengers on 4 May; returning next day, he made a precautionary landing at Lympne because of bad weather and broke the tailskid, but managed to repair it temporarily so as to fly direct to Cricklewood after sending his passengers on by train. On the 5th he also flew G-EBBH, the second W.8b, for the first time and delivered it to Croydon on the 9th. During their first short period of service, these two W.8bs were named Bombay and Melbourne respectively but on 16 May they were unveiled as Princess Mary and Prince George by the new Director of Civil Aviation, Sir Sefton Brancker, performing his first official duty at Croydon. In a well-attended ceremony, Sir Sefton confessed to being a purist who thought that transport should be dissociated from manufacture, but hoped that Handley Page Transport Ltd might be the exception to this rule. In reply, Handley Page felt he was addressing a Salvation Army meeting and although he did not intend to lead those present in praise and prayer, he thought they should praise Sir Sefton for his past and pray for his future; during the subsequent joy-riding by the guests, one flight was made in G-EBBG with 25 passengers on board. Although the W.8bs came out 150 lb below their estimated weight, it was found necessary to strengthen the landing gear to avoid damage from taxying on rough grass and this absorbed some of the weight saving. The third W.8b, G-EBBI, named Prince Henry, was delivered from Cricklewood to Croydon on 2 June and entered service on the 7th, being flown to Paris that day and back the next day by McIntosh, followed by out and return flights by Olley on the 9th and 10th. G-EBBI incorporated further weight-saving modifications and had an appreciably better performance than the other two, so it was chosen to compete in an international aviation meeting at Evere, Brussels, held by the Belgian Aero Club on 23-26 June; this event included a competition to select a commercial airliner to be operated the next year by the newly formed Societe Anonyme Beige pour l’Exploitation de la Navigation Aerienne (SABENA). Flown to Brussels on the 24th by R. H. McIntosh and Leslie Foot, with Handley Page and Cogni among the twelve passengers, G-EBBI scored a runaway win in all its classes on 26 June, well ahead of the French ace, Sadi Lecointe, in a single-engined Nieuport-Delage. King Albert and his sons, Prince Leopold and Prince Charles, watched the events and took a keen interest in G-EBBI’s performance. As a result of this demonstration, SABENA ordered two modified W.8s from Cricklewood and its associated manufacturing company SABCA acquired a licence to manufacture others of the same type, to equip the SABENA fleets in Europe and the Belgian Congo.
On 30 June W. L. Rogers flew G-EAPJ back from Cricklewood after an extensive overhaul and demonstrated its ability to fly and manoeuvre on either one of its Napier Lions alone; with all four W.8s in service, traffic increased substantially and ’PJ, being the fastest, was frequently chartered for additional flights to carry full loads; only one O/10, G-EATH, was still held in reserve by Handley Page Transport and the borrowed Bristol Ten-seater G-EAWY and D.H.18 G-EAWX were returned to the Air Ministry at the end of June. On 19 July Leslie Foot flew ’PJ from Croydon to Le Bourget in 102 minutes, thus improving on Bager’s maiden flight for the first time; a month later it was withdrawn for further modifications including installation of overwing gravity fuel tanks of W.8b type and removal of the long nacelle cowling panels; at this stage it was renamed Duchess of York.
Meanwhile, Sir Sefton Brancker had sought to rationalise the British airlines, to prevent waste of subsidy through competition on the same routes, and from 1 October Handley Page Transport Ltd was given the sole responsibility for the London-Paris route, with a future extension to Basle and Zurich, and withdrawn from the Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne routes. As a result, the Instone Air Line, on the advice of Colonel Bristow, proposed to adopt an improved W.8c carrying sixteen passengers and powered by 390 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle IXs; this was similar to the W.8b as supplied to SABENA with gravity fuel tanks slung under the top wing to reduce drag. Taking advantage of this development, W. P. Savage, chief engineer of Handley Page Transport, next year converted ’BG, ’BH and ’BI to carry fourteen passengers by removing the baggage locker at the front of the saloon and putting in an extra pair of seats, although the side windows were not correspondingly extended. At the end of October, Larry Carter had a double engine failure in ’PJ near Tonbridge, but with adequate height in hand he managed to reach Penshurst for a safe landing; after this it was decided to convert ’PJ to Eagle VIIIs; this proved to be a long job, from which it did not return to service till the end of April 1923, an attempt to use direct-drive Eagles (to avoid the frequent reduction gear failures) having proved unsuccessful. With Eagle VIIIs, ’PJ’s performance was equal to the standard W.8b’s, but its payload was slightly lower because its empty weight was higher; only six months later, on 22 November, 1923, flying towards Paris near Poix, Wilcockson ran short of fuel on one engine, probably from a leak in the tank, and in trying to reach Le Bourget on the other engine, its radiator boiled dry and it seized up; Wilcockson made a perfect landing in an apparently suitable field, but failed to notice a sunken road, into which ’PJ dropped its nose and wheels, to be wrecked beyond repair. The three W.8bs all had longer lives, the only casualty being G-EBBG, which was destroyed in a precautionary landing in very rough weather near Abbeville on 15 February, 1928, after nearly four years’ service with Imperial Airways. G-EBBH was honourably retired three years later and G-EBBI lasted till October 1932, having, in its ten years’ service, flown half a million miles in 5,473 hours. All three were repainted in the Instone-style royal blue and silver livery adopted by Imperial Airways on its formation in April 1924, but reverted to a silver lined with dark blue scheme in 1927 when the livery was changed again. After ’BH had been withdrawn from use in 1931, ’BI was leased to Aviation Tours Ltd for joy-riding and display work, in the course of which it visited Croydon several times in 1932.
W/400 (Two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII)
Span 85 ft (26 m); length 63 ft (19-2 m); wing area 1,650 sq ft (153 m2). Maximum weight 9,770 lb (4,430 kg). Speed 94 mph (151 km/h). Crew two.
W.8 (Two Napier Lion IB)
Span 75 ft (22-9 m); length 60 ft 3 in (18-4 m); wing area 1,456 sq ft (135 m2). Empty weight 8,000 lb (3,630 kg); maximum weight 12,250 lb (5,610 kg). Speed 115 mph (185 km/h); range 500 miles (805 km); ceiling 18,000 ft (5,560 m). Crew two. Passengers twelve (later fourteen).
W.8b (Two Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII)
Span 75 ft (22-9 m); length 60 ft 1 in (18-35 m); wing area 1,456 sq ft (135 m2). Empty weight 7,700 lb (3,490 kg); maximum weight 12,000 lb (5,450 kg). Speed 104 mph (167 km/h); range 500 miles (805 km); ceiling 10,600 ft (3,280 m). Crew two. Passengers 12-14. The figures for the W.8c (two Rolls-Royce Eagle IX) were the same as for the W.8b except that it had accommodation for sixteen passengers and had a maximum weight of 13,000 lb (5,900 kg).
J.Stroud The World's Airliners (Putnam)
Handley Page’s first purely civil transport was the twin-engined W.8, completed in 1919. It was a biplane with single fin and rudder and four- wheel main undercarriage, powered by two 450 hp Napier Lion engines and having accommodation for fifteen passengers. The W.8 saw some service on Handley Page Transport’s London-Paris route, and led to a series of aircraft of similar layout, the W.8b, W.8e, W.8f, W.9 and W.10.
The W.8b, with two 360 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle engines and seats for fourteen passengers, entered service with Handley Page Transport in May 1922. Four were built in the United Kingdom, three being used by Handley Page Transport and Imperial Airways and one being sold to Belgium where another four were constructed for the Belgian airline Sabena.
Flight, December 18, 1919
THE PARIS AERO SHOW 1919
PRELIMINARY REPORT ON BRITISH SECTION
The main feature on this stand will be one of the new Handley-Page biplanes, type W 8, one of which flew to Paris in 2 hours 10 mins. recently, after a brief test flight of only 20 mins. duration. The W 8 is much smaller than either the O 400 or the V 1500, having an overall length of 60 ft. and a span of 75 ft. It is thus quite a "baby"! Fitted with two Napier Lion engines of 450 h.p. each, the machine is capable of a maximum speed of 112 m.p.h. With the engines throttled down to 350 h.p. each the cruising speed is about 90 m.p.h., while the landing speed is as low as 45 m.p.h. The machine is thus capable of alighting in and starting from comparatively small fields.
The engines are mounted comparatively high up in the gap between the planes, and drive two tractor air screws. Effective silencers are fitted so that it is quite possible for the passengers to converse in an ordinary voice during flight. Sufficient fuel is carried for a flight of 6 1/2 hours' duration, or somewhat over 500 miles, and it is claimed that the machine is capable of flying on one engine entirely, should the other fail.
The passenger cabin is extremely roomy and comfortable, and provides seating accommodation for from 15 to 20 passengers. The seats are well upholstered in velvet, and have on the back pockets in which the passenger sitting behind can keep maps, books, papers, etc. Each passenger is provided with a porthole covered with Triplex glass, while at intervals windows are placed in the floor, giving the passengers a view straight down. The cabin is entered through doors in the sides, and there is also a trapdoor in the floor for the loading and unloading of freight when the machine is to be used for the carrying of goods. In that case the seats are removed and the cargo space available is no less than 470 cub. ft. The lifting capacity is then about two tons. As will be seen from the accompanying illustrations, the Handley-Page W 8 is of very pleasing appearance, and should soon become a favourite with travellers who appreciate speed and comfort.