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The Handley-Page O/400

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G'day all! - I was rather fascinated when I accidentally came across this great little photo of a Handley-Page O/400 being towed by a tiny little Clayton crawler tractor in 1918.

 

1424196556_Handley-Pagebiplane.thumb.jpg.7a748fbd30362a1f15238ad34ae1c138.jpg

 

(Credit - U.K. National Archives - "Series: British Photographs of World War I, 1914 - 1918" at catalog.archives.org)

 

I reflected on the fact that in 1918, both of these machines would have engendered awe in all who watched them perform.

The crawler tractor was a complete novelty in 1918, when horses still ruled for power and pulling, and in a period when even wheeltractors were very primitive.

 

The Handley Page O/400 was also a totally-awe-inspiring piece of work, a monster in the era, and an exceptional pioneer as regards large aircraft - let alone large military aircraft. It was the largest aircraft ever built in WW1.

It was also some feat to design an aircraft of this size, in that era, with folding wings. To add to the awe, it was capable of carrying 2000lbs of bombs (8 x 250-pounders) - nearly a tonne, a staggering weight to lift into the air in 1916, when it was first put into service.

What is even more amazing is the work done by some very brave people, to solve a major design problem in the Handley Page, whereby the tail developed severe oscillations in flight, threatening to destroy the aircraft.

 

Kudos has to go to Frederick Lanchester from the National Physics Laboratory, who was called in to try and solve the intractable tail-wagging problem.

It was initially thought that resonance in the fuselage was the problem, but Lanchester proved otherwise by risking his neck as an observer to witness the problem first-hand at 80mph.

 

Lanchester observed that the tail was twisting by 15° to either side in flight, and deduced that the cause was asymmetric movement of the right and left halves of the elevators, which were not rigidly linked, but connected by long control cables.

He recommended that the halves of the elevators be connected, the elevator balances removed, and further bracing added between the lower longerons and the lower tailplane spar, measures which were wholly successful in eliminating the problem.

 

Rolls Royce provided the power plants for the Type O, in the form of the first V12 aircraft engine they had ever built. The engine was built to a military order.

The engine was based on the 6 cyl Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car engine, simply by marrying two sixes together on a common crankshaft, lengthening the stroke, and increasing the engine RPM.

The engine initially produced 225HP, but was later uprated to 360HP, with further increased RPM. A total of 4681 of these RR Eagle engines were built, with production only ceasing in 1928.

 

The even more amazing thing about the Type O is that 657 Type O/400's were built, and they flew for many years after WW1, still performing as transport and VIP aircraft up until the late 1920's.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handley_Page_Type_O

 

https://www.militaryfactory.com/aircraft/detail.asp?aircraft_id=454

 

Despite not a single one of these aircraft surviving anywhere, some film footage of them has actually survived (complete with WW1-style stirring music!)

 

Edited by Guest
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Fascinating. I didn’t know they were used on the Somme. That photo gives a good appreciation of the size.

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Some of the film footage appears to be post-WW1 civilian use footage, inserted into WW1 footage - as evidenced by the number of civilians climbing aboard, and the footage showing a handbasin for passengers.

 

I would have liked to have found some footage showing the engine starting procedure for the WW1 RR Eagle engine.

It must have been some kind of remote tool or extended starting arrangement, because I can see no way anyone could pull directly on the props at the height they are mounted at.

 

I have also been quite surprised at the number and variety of large bombers built during WW1.

We tend to to think of aviation in WW1 being largely dogfights between Sopwiths and Fokkers - but large bombers became prominent in air warfare, particularly in 1917 and 1918.

 

The Germans had larger bombers than the Handley Page - in the form of the Freidrichshafen and the Gotha - and the Italians had larger bombers again! - in the Caudron and the Caproni models.

But the Italian models appear to have been too late in development to have played any major part in the War.

 

https://www.historyhit.com/18-key-bomber-aircraft-from-world-war-one/

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