The Handley Page Hastings was designed towards the end of the Second World War to fulfill the requirement for a long-range transport aircraft for the R.A.F. At the time it was built, it was the largest aircraft ever designed for the R.A.F. First flying in 1947, the Hastings was rushed into service in order to take part in the Berlin Airlift. It then became the standard R.A.F. long-range strategic transport as well as tactical transport in the 1950s and 1960s. The Hastings was partly supplemented by the Bristol Britannia long-range transport in 1959 and its tactical role was taken over by the Lockheed C-130 Hercules in 1968--both of these being types which Biggles never flew.
The Hastings and BigglesEdit
Being the standard R.A.F. long-range transport at the time Biggles was in the Special Air Police, it was natural for Biggles to borrow one whenever he needed the extra range the Hastings could provide.
In No Rest for Biggles, the Hastings features heavily in the plot. A Hastings C4 V.I.P. transport carrying a V.I.P. had gone missing in Africa. Biggles believes the crew and passengers have been kidnapped rather than killed, and so he flies another Hastings C4 over the same route posing as yet another V.I.P. flight to act as bait. His aircraft is forced to land and he and Ginger are captured.
Later, when he has managed to help the captured crew and passengers of the first Hastings to escape, they are flown to safety in Biggles' Hastings. Von Stalhein, who arrives the the jungle airstrip to confront Biggles later flies off in the first Hastings to fetch a group of mercenaries. At the end of the affair, Von Stalhein escapes in this Hastings which is later found abandoned in French Sudan (Mali).
The Hastings Biggles borrowed for this mission was the Hastings C4 V.I.P. transport, a version of the standard Hastings C2 with more fuel. Only four of these were built. With one already missing, no wonder Air Commodore Raymond remarks that the R.A.F. would be reluctant to lend him a second.
In Mission Oriental, part of the Biggles Presses On anthology, Biggles uses a Hastings again, and a C4 V.I.P. version at that. Biggles was probably entitled to it, seeing as his efforts resulted in the retrieval of Tony Wragg's aircraft. This time, he used it for an "extraction" mission, to rescue two royal personages from an isolated sultanate in Malaya. To do this, he had to put the large Hastings down on a beach. He might have used a smaller aircraft, but perhaps he was thinking of the comfort of the passengers.
- Crew: 5 (pilot, co-pilot, radio-operator, navigator and flight engineer)
- Length: 81 ft 8 in (24.89 m)
- Wingspan: 113 ft 0 in (34.44 m)
- Empty weight: 48,472 lb (21,987 kg) (equipped, freighter)
- Max takeoff weight: 80,000 lb (36,287 kg)
- Engines: 4 × Bristol Hercules 106 14-cyliner two-row air-cooled radial engines, 1,675 hp each
Maximum speed: 348 mph (560 km/h) at 22,200 ft (6,800 m) Cruise speed: 291 mph (253 km/h) at 15,200 ft (4,600 m) Range: 4,250 mi (3,6906,840 km) with maximum fuel and small 7,400 lb (3,400 kg) payload) or 1,690 miles (2,720 km) with maximum payload Service ceiling: 26,500 ft (8,077 m) Payload: 50 troops or 35 paratroops or 32 stretchers and 29 sitting wounded, 20,311 lb (9,213 kg) maximum payload.