Mr Handley Page

Mr Handley Page on ‘The Future of Aviation’

From the Whitefriars Journal, vol. V, no. 6, July 1919, pp. 180-83.

March 7th, 1919. Prior—Friar Dr Leslie Burgin. Topic for Discussion:–‘Commercial Aviation in the Future’. Among the Guests were : Mr G. Caradoc Rees, Mr F. J. Piatt, Mr C. Grey, Mr E. L. Burgin, Mr Charles Burgin, Major H. J. Holmes, MC, Mr W. R. Deighton, Lieut. F. H. Wilson, RAF, Sir John Cawston, KCB, Mr W. L. Rind, OBE, Mr Cyril F. J. Hankinson, Mr R. M. Cunningham, Mr Frank Lindley-Jones, Mr Edgar Lindley-Jones, Dr. Kesteven, Mr H. J. Card, Capt. L. de G. Sieveking, DSO, Mr J. S. Ross, CBE, Major W. H. D. Acland, MC, AFC, Mr G. R. Francis, Capt. H. Passmore, Mr F. Cosser, Mr G. Hall, Mr Percy Home, Mr Eskil Sundstrom, Mons. Palmie and Mr E. C. Randolph.

In introducing Mr Handley Page, the Prior remarked that it might be safely said that Mr Handley Page during the war, invented the premier British night-bombing machine. The supremacy which Great Britain acquired in the air marked a very important stage in the war. ‘A man who can put a German underground, living or dead, is an asset to his country,’ added the Prior.

Speaking on ‘Commercial Aviation in the Future’, Mr Handley Page said that when they came to the question of carrying heavy loads by aeroplane, the great thing was to carry those loads at the cheapest possible rate. The taxi-cab aeroplane had yet to come. All the time one was flying, consideration had to be given to the thought that every hour’s flying cost money; therefore, the cheaper one could fly, the better. For that reason, the future of commercial aviation would depend on cheapness for their particular air service.

The machine that was best suited for commercial aviation was the one that would carry the heaviest possible load, at the slightest possible cost, and he always liked to think of a commercial aeroplane as one with the engine in front and the maximum amount of load behind. The heavy night-bomber used during the war was a moderate speed machine, not more than one hundred miles an hour, capable of carrying as much as twenty pounds for every horse-power installed in the machine. If they had a machine flying one hundred and twenty-five miles an hour, the load which could be carried was reduced to about ten or twelve pounds per horse-power.

Many items were involved in the cost of an aeroplane service. There was first the provision of aerodromes, then they had to provide hangars, facilities for collecting goods, places where passengers could book, and other things. There was also the important question of buying the aeroplanes with the engines, spares, etc., in addition to finding and paying the pilots. Petrol and oil had also to be reckoned and allowance made for depreciation of the machines.

At first, the cost for running a low-speed, hundred miles per hour machine, would not be excessive compared with railway travelling to-day, but later when things had settled down, and a lot of unforeseen difficulties had been overcome, a regular service between places would cost very little in excess of the ordinary first-class railway fare. If, on the other hand, they endeavoured to fly faster (125 miles an hour) with the same engine power, they would find that their useful carrying capacity was decreased probably by a quarter or a third and the cost of transporting the individual was increased in proportion. In that case, the individual would not find it worth while to pay the amount except in the case of very important letters or despatches which it would be necessary to send by an aerial express post.

Mr Handley Page favoured the slow-speed machine as against the high-speed machine, believing that it was upon the former that the future of aviation would depend. Both these types, small and large, had flown from here to India, starting from Hendon. The future of aviation would mean very great things to the world at large. At the present time, we are separated from our Colonies by immense distances. Once we can bring these Colonies closer to us, we shall be doing a great service to the Empire. When one thought of being able to reach India in three days, Australia in about six, get down at Johannesburg in about five, it made all these places very much more accessible and it would be an important factor in preserving the peace of the world.

Speaking of immediate aerial development, Mr Handley Page said that directly peace was signed, his firm proposed running a service between London and Paris. They had allied companies in France right down to Marseilles, through Italy, where they will pick up another company which will take passengers as far as Rangoon, which is the farthest point at present. They were also going to start a Chinese commercial aviation service. The China man was frightfully keen. The Handley Page machines at the present time were running other services, and the present American mail long-distance service was run by their machines. He hoped that the civilian flying restrictions would soon be removed.

A very interesting discussion followed. Friar Helm regarded the aeroplane with some apprehension, fearing the effect it might have on the amenities of country life. What he was anxious about was this: when Mr Handley Page’s ideas come into general use, will there be any place in this Old England of ours where one will be able to find that perfect rest and enjoyment of the country that one used to find? ‘It seems to me that the only place where there will be any hope for rest will be some place about a mile from the sea coasts, far away from any of the routes either across the Atlantic or the Channel, where the ground is so extremely rough and hilly that no aerodrome can possibly be built and where the road leads to nowhere.’

Mr F. J. Batt, one of the pioneers of engine building, said that experiments were now being made in order to secure the silent engine. Already, the engine was considerably silenced and in a very short time one might say with confidence that the engine would be practically as silent as the motor engine.

Friar Hamilton Fyfe disagreed with the suggestion that facilities for travelling would make people like one another better. On the contrary, the more nations saw of one another, the more danger there was of war.

Major Acland thought, generally speaking, that the future of aviation was just beginning. It had got to that stage when they might compare it with the ‘wash out’ of the man with the red flag in the early days of motor cars. Drawing a distinction between the pilot and the navigator, the speaker likened the former in commercial aviation to the ordinary taxi-cab driver. The man who will really run the commercial aeroplane will be the navigator.

Mr Caradoc Rees expressed the view that aerial communication with all parts of the world will tend to internationalize the whole world, delimit boundaries and bring us more together.

Friar G. B. Burgin also contributed several anecdotes to the discussion, and moved a vote of thanks to Mr Handley Page, who briefly replied.