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Handley Page Heyford

Heavy Night-Bomber / Crew Trainer Aircraft

Handley Page Heyford

Heavy Night-Bomber / Crew Trainer Aircraft


The Handley Page Heyford Heavy Night-Bomber served no less than twelve Royal Air Force squadrons during her time aloft - but was given up as a frontline bomber before World War 2.
National Flag Graphic
ORIGIN: United Kingdom
YEAR: 1934
STATUS: Retired, Out-of-Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Handley Page Aircraft - UK
OPERATORS: United Kingdom

Unless otherwise noted the presented statistics below pertain to the Handley Page Heyford IA model. Common measurements, and their respective conversions, are shown when possible.
LENGTH: 58.07 feet (17.7 meters)
WIDTH: 75.13 feet (22.9 meters)
HEIGHT: 17.55 feet (5.35 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 9,215 pounds (4,180 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 16,932 pounds (7,680 kilograms)
ENGINE: 2 x Rolls-Royce Kestrel II-S V12 liquid-cooled inline piston engines developing 525 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 143 miles-per-hour (230 kilometers-per-hour; 124 knots)
RANGE: 920 miles (1,480 kilometers; 799 nautical miles)
CEILING: 20,997 feet (6,400 meters; 3.98 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 655 feet-per-minute (200 meters-per-minute)

1 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Gun in nose position.
1 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Gun in dorsal position.
1 x 7.7mm Lewis Machine Gun in ventral position.

Up to 2,500 lb of bombs carried.
Graphical image of an aircraft conventional drop bomb munition

Series Model Variants
• Heyford - Base Series Name
• Heyford Mk.I - Initial production block; fitted with Rolls-Royce Kestrel III engines of 575 horsepower; fifteen examples.
• Heyford Mk.IA - Revised variant with four-bladed propeller units; twenty-three examples.
• Heyford Mk.II - Fitted with Kestrel IV series engines of 640 horsepower; sixteen completed.
• Heyford Mk.III - Fitted with Kestrel VI engines of 695 horsepower; 70 completed.


Detailing the development and operational history of the Handley Page Heyford Heavy Night-Bomber / Crew Trainer Aircraft.  Entry last updated on 1/29/2019. Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©
In 1927 the British Air Ministry introduced Specification B.19/27 calling for a new twin-engined heavy night-bomber capable of speeds of 115 miles per hour with a 1,546lb war load out to 920 miles. The type was expected to replace the aging stock of Vickers Virginia and Handley Page Hinaidi biplane bombers then in service. While the Fairey Hendon was eventually selected as the winner, delays in that program forced the Air Ministry to also select the Handley Page Heyford. Submissions were also had from regular industry players in Avro, Bristol and Vickers.

Handley Page engineers fleshed out the "HP.38" which continued use of a biplane wing planform forming a two-bay arrangement with parallel struts. The fuselage incorporated aluminum in its construction and the internal structure of the wings were also of metal while being covered over in fabric. The HP.38 appeared somewhat unconventional for a biplane bomber as the fuselage was attached to the upper wing section. This forced designers to fit the bomb bay into the center section of the lower wing assembly. As a benefit, the fuselage was now cleared of the space-consuming bomb bay with more room for crew spaces and defensive machine gun positions - guns were fitted to a dorsal, nose and ventral position (7.7mm types). The tail unit incorporated a twin rudder configuration and the undercarriage was fixed and of a "tail dragger" arrangement which saw the main legs faired over (spatted). The operating crew numbered four and consisted of the pilot, the bombardier-navigator (who also doubled as a machine gunner), a dedicated radioman, and a machine gunner to manage both the dorsal and ventral emplacements. The bomb load was listed at 2,500lb of conventional drop stores.

With delays being encountered in the Hendon product by Fairey (the prototype had crashed) and the Handley Page offering proving sound in evaluations with the RAF, the HP.38 was pushed through under the revised designation of "HP.50". The "Heyford" name was derived from the bomber's first posting - this at RAF Upper Heyford (Oxfordshire) as part of No.99 Squadron RAF in November 1933. Production netted 125 bombers from the period spanning 1933 until 1936 with service introduction in 1934.

There were four major production variants of this bomber led by "Heyford Mk.I" which fitted 2 x Rolls-Royce Kestrel III series engines of 575 horsepower. Fifteen were built to this standard with the last serving as the prototype for the "Heyford Mk.IA". In this revised form, four-bladed propellers were installed as was a power-driven generator while modifications were made to the engine area. Twenty-three of this mark were completed. The "Heyford Mk.II" brought along use of 2 x Rolls-Royce Kestrel IV engines of 640 horsepower output and production totaled sixteen examples. "Heyford Mk.III" marked the last Heyford product but more or less the definitive form of the series - it fitted 2 x Rolls-Royce Kestrel VI supercharged engines (steam condenser-cooled) of 695 horsepower and some 70 aircraft were built to the standard.

The Heyford eventually stocked twelve RAF squadrons for its time in the air - though its service life was relatively short being an inter-war design and a biplane at that. The aircraft became the last biplane-configured heavy bomber in RAF service as monoplanes quickly became the road forward for modern air services. Nevertheless, the Heyford series was an important contributor (both on paper and in terms of keeping night-bomber crews sharp) in the RAF inventory during the middle portion of the 1930s as Europe geared up for another World War.

The Heyford was not exported and saw no formal combat service before its retirement came in 1939, at which point the design was wholly obsolete - the last forms flew as trainers into 1941. After introduction of Heyford I models in 1933, the Heyford IA took over in August of 1934. The Heyford III mark arrived in late-1936. Their replacement was as soon as 1937, giving way to Armstrong Whitworth Whitley and Vickers Wellesley bombers in turn.

The competing Fairey Hendon managed to enter service in 1936 but only fifteen of the type were completed. These were also pulled in 1939 and led quiet service lives - though they did mark the first all-metal low-wing monoplane bombers in RAF service.


Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.

Image of collection of graph types

Relative Maximum Speed
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
This entry's maximum listed speed (143mph).

Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
City-to-City Ranges
Graph showcases the Handley Page Heyford IA's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Aviation Era
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production (125)
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units

  * Commercial Market High belongs to Cessna 172.

  ** Military Market High belongs to Ilyushin Il-2.

Altitude Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Supported Roles
Ground Attack
Aerial Tanker
A2A=Air-to-Air; UAV=Unmanned; CAS=Close Support; ASW=Anti-Submarine; AEW=Airborne Early Warning; MEDEVAC=Medical Evac; EW=Electronic Warfare; SAR=Search-Rescue
Commitments / Honors
Military lapel ribbon for Operation Allied Force
Military lapel ribbon for the Arab-Israeli War
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Britain
Military lapel ribbon for the Battle of Midway
Military lapel ribbon for the Berlin Airlift
Military lapel ribbon for the Chaco War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War
Military lapel ribbon for the Cuban Missile Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for pioneering aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the Falklands War
Military lapel ribbon for the French-Indochina War
Military lapel ribbon for the Golden Age of Flight
Military lapel ribbon for the 1991 Gulf War
Military lapel ribbon for the Indo-Pak Wars
Military lapel ribbon for the Iran-Iraq War
Military lapel ribbon for the Korean War
Military lapel ribbon for the 1982 Lebanon War
Military lapel ribbon for the Malayan Emergency
Military lapel ribbon representing modern aircraft
Military lapel ribbon for the attack on Pearl Harbor
Military lapel ribbon for the Six Day War
Military lapel ribbon for the Soviet-Afghan War
Military lapel ribbon for the Spanish Civil War
Military lapel ribbon for the Suez Crisis
Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for Warsaw Pact of the Cold War-era
Military lapel ribbon for the WASP (WW2)
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2
Military lapel ribbon for the Yom Kippur War
Military lapel ribbon for experimental x-plane aircraft
* Ribbons not necessarily indicative of actual historical campaign ribbons. Ribbons are clickable to their respective campaigns/operations.

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