Aircraft of the Month
HANDLEY PAGE HASTINGS
The Handley Page HP67 Hastings was designed in response to an Air Staff Specification of 1944 which called for a long-range general purpose transport aircraft. The first of two prototypes took to the air at RAF Wittering on 7th May 1946 and shortly thereafter an order for 100 aircraft was placed. The Hastings C1 entered service in with No 47 Squadron in September 1948, its production having been expedited due to the needs of the Berlin Airlift.
Powered by four Bristol Hercules 101 sleeve valve radial engines of 1,675 hp, the Hastings was, at the time, the largest transport ever designed for the RAF. It was operated by a crew of five and could loads ranging from a mix of personnel and freight up to 50 fully equipped paratroops.
The Hastings’ first sortie to Berlin took place on 11th November 1948. Used in the main for airlifting coal, three squadrons totalling 32 aircraft delivered some 55,000 tons of supplies before carrying out the last sortie of the airlift on 6th October 1949. Thereafter, the aircraft was used extensively as both a strategic and tactical transport providing support for British military operations. During the Suez Crisis in 1956, three squadrons dropped paratroops onto El Gamil airfield on 5th November as a prelude to beach landings the following day, and Hastings were used extensively to re-supply British troops on Borneo during the Indonesian Confrontation of the mid-1960s. In addition to the aircraft’s transport role, RAF Coastal Command operated six weather reconnaissance versions through to 1964.
A total of 151 Hastings were built including 4 operated by the Royal New Zealand Air Force. Whilst the aircraft was retired from RAF transport duties in 1968, eight machines converted to train V force crews in the art of navigation bombing continued in service through to 1977. There are no airworthy survivors but three aircraft are on static display at museums in the UK with a fourth at the Allied Museum in Berlin.
Hastings were often seen at RAF Tangmere in support of fighter detachments during the 1950s and 1960s.