Imperial Airways 1931 to 1939

What flying was like over 100 years ago.
No in flight-movies, no wi-fi connection and worst of all no pretty stewardesses, how did they make a go of this? The aircraft looks like the tail is going to fall off with the slightest bit of turbulence.

Flying Aboard The Handley Page HP-42.

Imperial Airways 1931 to 1939 

If people had serious money in the 1930s and traveled internationally, they may well have flown on one of these large (130 foot wingspan) Handley Page bi-plane aircraft, which were the mainstay of British Imperial Airways at the time.

They carried 26 passengers in first class only, in three different compartments.  The first class saloon, the bar and cocktail area, and the smoking section.

These machines were ubiquitous, extremely safe (no passenger in a HP-42 was ever killed in 10 years of international and domestic operations from 1930 until 1940), very comfortable in seating, leg room and service, hot meals were served on bone china with silver cutlery, free liquor flowed, overnights were in the very best hotels. There was no rush, no waiting in lines and everyone was well dressed.

Flying along at a few thousand feet, one could see every interesting feature passing below.

At 95 to 110 mph. one also had time to look at the passing panorama. It took four days to a week (depending on headwinds and weather) to fly from London to Cape Town, South Africa by only flying a few hours a day, and staying at the best hotels in Europe, Cairo, Khartoum and the Victoria Falls.

All stops to India also made for an interesting choice of destinations.

 The Handley Page HP-42 “Helena” of Imperial Airways. 1932.

HP-42 “Hanno” at Samakh, Lake Tiberias in Palestine, 1931. Bi-plane aircraft, such as Tiger Moths, can land anywhere; wherever there is a stretch of grass.

 A 1930 flying magazine’s view of the new HP-42 airliner. The Bristol Jupiter engines were initially 450 hp and later bumped up to 550 hp.

The crew. The Captain, almost certainly, would have flown in the First World War (love his cigar).

Khartoum , Sudan Boarding for the flight south. Only one more overnight and then they will be taking in the sights of Lake Victoria.

There was only one class; First Class. This is the forward saloon. Note the gentleman’s pith helmet in the rack. Airspeed indicator and altitude displays – as in modern jets – are on the bulkhead.

Cabin of a Handley Page HP-42. 1931. British Imperial Airways.

The cockpit of a Handley Page HP-42 airliner. London, 1931. No powered controls here.

HP-42 airliner ready for a night flight. London’s Croydon aerodrome, 1931.