Thursday, January 19, 2017

The Handley Page Heyford

The Heyford was a interwar British biplane bomber of the 1930s. The Heyford was built to meet Air Ministry specification B.19/27 for a heavy night bomber to replace the Vickers Virginia, which required a twin-engined aircraft capable of carrying 1,546 lb of bombs and flying 920 miles at 115 mph. 

The aircraft was of mixed construction having fabric-covered, two-bay metal-frame wings, while the fuselage had an aluminium monocoque forward section with a fabric-covered frame to the rear, It had a crew of four, consisting of a pilot, a bomb aimer/navigator/gunner, a radio operator and a dorsal/ventral gunner.
Although it had a short service life, it equipped several squadrons of the RAF as one of the most important British bombers of the mid-1930s, and was the last biplane heavy bomber to serve with the RAF. The aircraft was named for and first deployed at RAF Upper Heyford, near Bicester in Oxfordshire. It first flew in June 1930, and 124 of three main marks were delivered from June 1933 up until July 1936, serving with 11 squadrons. They were powered by two rolls royce kestrels, well-liked in service, easy to maintain, sturdy and agile.

At the time of the Munich crisis in 1938, the RAF still had six squadrons of Heyfords in Bomber Command; they were brought to readiness with full bomb-loads and armament during the crisis, but never dropped a bomb or fired a shot in anger in their entire careers.

The last front line Heyford did not leave No.166 Squadron at Leconfield in Yorkshire until 2 September 1939 (the day before Britain declared war on Germany), being replaced by Whitleys. This left 40 still serving mainly as bombing and gunnery trainers until August 1940.

The last two airworthy survivors flew on until April/May 1941 as glider tugs on trials with the Hotspur I assault glider.
Variants were Mk l prototypes, Mk lA with engine support changes, power-driven generator, four-blade propellers, Mk ll powered by 640 hp Kestrel IV engines and Mk lll with Supercharged 695 hp Kestrel VI engines.

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