When this Handley Page Herald first took to the sky more than half a century ago, she was the very latest development of a notable line of aircraft. Now, she lies moulding in a field near the western end of Gatwick Airport. She's scruffy and neglected, but those classic lines remain intact. That massive tail is still held high, and she's still supported by her own undercarriage. With some care and attention, she could regain her film star looks.
We'd seen her several times, languishing by the taxiway, and always felt a pang of sadness that an important part of British aviation history was slowly turning to oxide. And the Herald was important. So important to our aviation industry that, when it was launched in the mid-fifties, the Duke of Edinburgh took the pilot's seat to showcase her on her world sales tour. Yet today, only four examples remain in existence. And one of them was dissolving before our eyes.
We resolved to do something positive about saving her and made enquiries which led to our speaking with the Gatwick Fire Service. They were delighted that someone cared enough about the old girl to take on the task of restoring her. In a few months' time, she'll be ours, thanks to their generosity and enthusiasm to save this precious airframe.
We're working hard to find a new home for her. The ideal would be an accessible museum setting, but right now we're exploring every possibility. Until we can get her from airside at Gatwick it's a practical impossibility even to spruce her up with a mop and bucket, so we're eager to hear from anyone who can point us towards a safe, secure corner of a field as a temporary home. Then we can get seriously to work on restoring her. Initially, she'll be a museum piece. Our intention is to restore her inside and out so that visitors can explore what air travel felt like in the middle of the last century. But we're hoping strongly to be able to recommission her engines with the aim of bringing her to a taxiable state.
The chances of her returning to the sky are, frankly, pretty slim. But it's not an impossibility. The only real barrier is money - some classic aircraft flying today have been rebuilt from little more than a rudder bar and a couple of instruments. So let's dream a little. Let's try for the sky. Sure, we might not succeed, but the closer we get to that aim, the more perfect will be our restoration of a rare and irreplaceable airliner.
Our motto is Try for the Sky. Does that mean we intend to fly XP again?
In a word, yes. And is that possible? In three words, we don't know.
Our commitment to G-CEXP is that we'll do our absolute best to restore her completely. We're realistic enough to recognise that the ultimate goal may be beyond us, but our motto will always be Try for the sky. Whatever happens, the end result will be a beautiful machine, preserved for posterity. But we owe it to her to try for the ultimate. And, who knows? Sometimes, dreams come true.
XP will be one of four preserved Heralds. Here are some links to visit her sisters:
Flown by HRH Prince Philip to South AmericaMuseum of Berkshire Aviation
The tenth Herald 201 off the production lineDuxford Aviation Society
On display at City of Norwich Aviation MuseumCity of Norwich Aviation Museum
|Type:||Handley Page Dart Herald|
|Manufacturer:||Handley Page (Reading) Ltd|
|Purpose:||47-56 seat, medium-haul airliner|
|Powerplant:||2 x Rolls-Royce Dart Mk527 turboprop, 1,425kw (1,910hp) each|
|First flight:||25 August 1955|
|Length:||23m (75ft 6in)||Wingspan:||29m (94ft 10in)|
|Height:||7.3m (24ft 0in)||Wing area:||82.3m² (886ft²)|
|Empty weight:||11,345kg (24,960lb)||Max take-off weight:||18,818kg (43,700lb)|
|Cruise Speed:||435km/h (275mph, 235kn)||Max Speed:||495km/h (309mph, 267kn)||Range:||2,632km (1,635mi, 1,422nmi)||Initial rate of climb:||580m/min (1,900ft/min)|