Early Days of Aviation
Handley Page HP-42

From Tom Phillips

Interesting piece on the early days in aviation - interesting reading.

Remember when you got dressed up to fly and they gave out those little 4 packs of smokes?

Flying the airlines in the thirties was a lot more fun than it is now. It was more leisurely and had more class. Certain elitist and anti-British people have no time for these period "rich types". People like these, the risk takers (especially with their own money) were the backbone of the UK. They flew from the first airline operations across the Channel in 1919. 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, (down to the quality of the washing on the backyard clothes lines) every interesting feature passing below. At 95 to 100 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 about four hours a day, 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.

Old fashioned and good mannered ideas and behavior, like dressing up to have evening drinks on the balcony and certainly not ever being in a hurry - one can only salivate at how pleasurable that would be.

In a modern jet, one can get from A to B quickly, even with stop-over. But nowadays there is nothing to be seen on the ground from 35,000 feet, the modern airline food is at best, basic unless you are in first class. Passengers are so jam-packed in that one tends to feel like an immigrant in steerage as the Clipper Ship (ca 1844) creaks and strains along. We will not get on to the subject of terminals.