1930: The First Flight of a Record-Setting British Airliner

November 14, 1930

The first flight of the prototype of the H.P.42 biplane airliners took place in the skies above Radlett Aerodrome, an airfield located in Hertfordshire County in southern England. This four-engine, 40-passenger plane, which was designed and manufactured by the British aviation company Handley Page, would achieve renown for several years as one of the world’s largest airliners in regular use. “BIGGEST PASSENGER PLANES,” announced the headline for a Western Daily Press article reporting on that inaugural flight.

Along with likewise highlighting the large size of this prototype, the Daily Mail emphasized a couple of the plane’s other notable features. “The wings are out of sight of passengers as a precaution against air sickness,” noted the newspaper. “The speed of the engines is remarkable considering the load.”

The pilot for the first flight of the H.P.42 was Thomas Harold England. This prototype was eventually named Hannibal in honor of the ancient Carthaginian general and statesman who is widely considered to be of the greatest military commanders in history.

The H.P.42 was built for use by Imperial Airways. A certificate of airworthiness was granted to this plane in May 1931. The following month, the first flight of the H.P.42 with fare-paying passengers on board took place between London and Paris. Throughout the remainder of that decade, these planes were an integral and even iconic part of Imperial Airways’ fleet. (The above photo of an H.P.42 aircraft was taken sometime between 1934 and 1939 at Lydda Airport, now called Ben Gurion Airport, in present-day Israel.)

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the H.P.42 airliner, please check out  https://www.gracesguide.co.uk/Handley_Page:_H.P.42

A video of this plane is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d4WZUAnOomk

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