Handley Page HPR-7 Dart Herald 201
Twin-Turboprop High-Wing Tri-Gear Regional Airliner, UK

Archive Photos 1

Handley Page HPR-7 Dart Herald 201 (G-APWJ) on display (c.1994) at the Imperial War Museum Duxford, Cambridgeshire, England

Overview 2

The Handley Page Dart Herald was a 1950s British turboprop passenger aircraft.

Design and Development 2

In the mid 1950s the Handley Page Aircraft Company developed a new fast short-range regional airliner, intended to replace the venerable Douglas DC-3, particularly in third-world countries. The design, originally known as the HPR-3 Herald, emanated from the drawing office at Handley Page (Reading) Limited - the former Miles Aircraft factory site, which had developed an earlier airliner design, the Miles Marathon. The Herald was an extensive re-development of the original concept of the Marathon, notable for its high mounted wing. The HP Reading division succeeded in producing a modern design with excellent flight and performance characteristics. However, the company made a serious misjudgment which was, in the end, to cost the company dearly, and like some other classic British aircraft of the time, the Herald missed its chance.

After extensive consultation with DC-3 operators, it was decided to power the new airliner with piston engines, rather than turboprops, which were considered risky by the small airlines at which the HPR.3 was aimed. Handley Page preferred a four-engined design, which led to the new 870 hp (650 kW) Alvis Leonides Major 14-cylinder radial engine, driving three-bladed propellers being chosen for the HPR.3. At almost the same time, the Dutch company Fokker made the opposite choice for its competitor for the same market, choosing to power the F27 Friendship with two Rolls-Royce Darts.

The HPR.3 could carry up to 44 passengers in its pressurized cabin, which could be quickly converted to allow the carrying of freight, with the aircraft’s high wing, nosewheel undercarriage and large doors at the front and rear of the cabin making the loading of cargo relatively simple. Large flaps were fitted to give good short take-off and landing characteristics. It was designed to cruise at a speed of 224 mph (360 km/h), had a range of 1,640 mi (2,640 km), could land and take-off in a distance of less than 500 yards (460 m) and had an initial rate of climb of over 1,800 ft/min.

At first, it seemed that Handley Page had made the right choices with the HPR.3, which was named Herald in August 1954, this being a name easily translatable into French and Spanish. Extensive work by the sales team had produced considerable interest from potential customers, and Handley Page had twenty-nine orders for the Herald (from Queensland Airlines, Australian National Airways, and Lloyd Aéreo Colombiano) by the time the first prototype made its maiden flight from Radlett on 25 August 1955, three months ahead of the first flight of the Friendship. Break-even was expected after the sale of 75 aircraft and Handley Page expected total sales of up to 300 Heralds, with first deliveries expected to British independent airline Air Kruise in 1958.

By now, however, the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engine had shown proven success in the Vickers Viscount. Queensland Airlines and Australian National Airways canceled their orders for Heralds in favor of turboprop-powered Friendships, while the Lloyd Aéreo Colombiano contract was stopped due to currency problems and Air Kruise’s interest was ended when it was taken over by British Aviation Services. Before the second prototype had been completed, Handley Page was faced with the fact that it had no orders for the Herald, and that the market had changed and wanted turboprops.

There had already been a very substantial investment in the Herald project, such that the management held a meeting to discuss continuation. Handley Page decided to press ahead with the Herald project, in an effort to recover the investment; announcing a new uprated version powered by the Rolls-Royce Dart. The revised aircraft, now designated the HPR.7 Dart Herald, was powered by 1,910 shp Dart 527 engines driving 12 ft 6 in (3.81 m) variable pitch four-blade Dowty Rotol props, and the fuselage was lengthened by 20 in (51 cm), while other improvements included increased fuel capacity. The first prototype was converted to Dart Herald standard, making its maiden flight on 11 March 1958, with the first production aircraft flying on 30 October 1959. The initial Series 100 version of the Dart Herald was certified in April 1958. Basic price in 1960 was around £185,000.

Operational History 2

The first order for the Dart Herald was in June 1959 from British European Airways for a lease of three aircraft for use on its Scottish Highlands and Islands routes. The Herald, had by this time, lost its initial lead over the Friendship, which had entered service over six months previously, and to stimulate demand, Handley Page launched in 1960 a further improved version, the Series 200, which was lengthened by 42 in (107 cm), with corresponding increased weights, allowing up to 56 passengers to be carried, and attracted an order for six aircraft from Jersey Airlines.

The second prototype was converted to Series 200 standard and first flew in that form on 8 April 1961. Jersey Airlines began operations with a leased Series 100 on 16 May 1961, receiving the first of its own Series 200’s in January 1962, while BEA began Herald operations in March 1962.

The Herald attracted much early interest around the world because of its astonishing short field performance and excellent flight characteristics, but Handley Page failed to close many of the deals, as the F-27 and the HS.748 had become rival offerings, both of which proved significantly more popular. A key design feature of the Herald was the high mounted wing but with a noticeable dihedral. In addition, the HeralD’s vertical fin is covered in miniature airfoils, adding further to the HeralD’s excellent stability. Pilots reported the Herald flew like a dream; very stable in the air, yet highly maneuverable even at slow speed. Ground handling was said to be the HeralD’s only vice due to an over large tail fin.

While the Series 200 was more commercially attractive, with no more Series 100 being ordered, sales were still slow. While the Herald was cheap compared to its major competitors, and in the 200 series had a roomy cabin, the Friendship could carry a larger payload and both the Friendship and the Avro 748 had better performance which resulting in superior long-term economics. By 1963, only thirty-five Heralds had been sold compared with over 240 Friendships.

One hope of improving sales was to develop the Herald as a military transport. The Royal Air Force had a requirement for 45 tactical transports to replace piston-engined Vickers Valettas, and Handley Page began work in 1960 on the HP.124 to meet this need. This would have a new rear fuselage with a rear loading ramp under the raised tail. The HP.124 was considered favorite to beat Avro’s 748 derivative, the Avro 780, with the high wing of the Handley Page expected to give easier loading than the more expensive Avro. While short-field testing of the prototype Herald 200 at RAF Martlesham Heath in 1961 showed that off the HeralD’s good handling and ability to operate from unprepared airstrips, other obstacles were more taxing. The Minister of Aviation, Peter Thorneycroft, refused to sign a contract for the HP.124 unless Handley Page would agree to a merger with the British Aircraft Corporation or Hawker Siddeley as part of the governments policy of consolidation of the British aircraft industry. As Hawker Siddeley offered less than half the valuation that Frederick Handley Page placed on the company, the merger did not occur, and the RAF’s order went to the Avro 780, which became the Andover. The Herald Series 400 was a simpler tactical transport with a strengthened cabin floor and side loading doors that could be opened in flight for dropping of supplies or paratroops. Eight were built for the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

By 1965, almost all sales momentum had been lost, and Handley Page proposed the Series 700, powered by 2,320 ehp (1,730 kW) Dart 532’s, with increased fuel and weights and capable of seating up to 60 passengers. The Brazilian airline VASP placed an order for ten Series 700’s, with plans made for production in Brazil, while further orders for the 700 were placed by Swiss airline Globe Air and Taiwanese Far Eastern Air Transport, and production started on the new model. VASP canceled its order, however, when it could not obtain finance from the Brazilian government, and Handley Page stopped work on the 700, scrapping six airframes on the production line.

Production ended in 1968. Only thirty-six examples of the Series 200 production model were eventually built during the six years of production, together with four Series 100’s and eight Series 400’s. The 50th, and last, Herald (a series 200 for Israel’s Arkia) was flown and delivered in August 1968, after which Herald production ceased allowing Handley Page’s attention to be fully focused on the HP.137 Jetstream.

Handley Page went into voluntary liquidation in August 1969, the spiralling cost of developing the Jetstream forcing its closure. Continuing support for the remaining Heralds in service was maintained by the setting up of a new company, Dart Herald (Support) Ltd, part owned by Scottish Aviation.

The HeralD’s last ever passenger flight was operated by British Air Ferries in 1987 doing subcharters for Ryanair on the Waterford-Luton route. A durable and reliable aircraft, capable of being heavily worked, many continued on as freighters, plying the night sky across Britain and the near continent, for several operators including Royal Mail, British Air Ferries, Channel Express, DHL, Elan, Securicor and others; transporting papers, milk, parcels, post, tomatoes, flowers, and other goods round the clock. Some aircraft were in a specially convertible configuration, flying passengers by day and goods all night, but by 1999 the only one remaining in service, was a series 400 (G-BEYF) with Channel Express; it was retired at the end of March that year.

Variants 2

Operators 2

Civil Operators

Military Operators

Specifications (Dart Herald 200) 2

General Characteristics



  1. Shupek, John. Photos, copyright © 2002 Skytamer Images. All Rights Reserved
  2. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Handley Page Dart Herald

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