In the post-World War 2 period (1946-onward), the British military required a new, all-modern long-range transport. Handley Page Aircraft Company responded to Specification C.3/44 with the "Hastings" (H.P.67), a four-engined hauler which went on to see 151 total production units made from 1947 until 1952. These were delivered to the fighting forces of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF). The RAF used the Hastings to succeed an aging fleet of Avro York transports with the last Hasting serving into 1977.
The four-engined configuration had two engines installed to either wing mainplane. Each engine drove a four-bladed propeller in puller fashion. The mainplane was an original design intended for an earlier, yet-ultimately abandoned, Handley Page bomber. All-metal construction was used through the Hastings effort. The wing mainplanes were low-mounted along the fuselage sides and the rear was given a traditional single-finned tail unit. Ground running was through a wholly-retractable "tail dragger" undercarriage.
Internally, the aircraft could carry loads of fifty combat-ready troopers or thirty paratroopers. In place of this could be thirty-two medical litters with attending staff or cargo as needed. The cockpit was set to the extreme forward section of the design in the usual way, aft of a short nosecone. The fuselage was tubular and completed with a large cargo door along port side aft of the mainplanes. The selected powerplants became 4 x Bristol "Hercules" Model 191 air-cooled, radial piston engines. The operating crew numbered five.
Initial Hastings prototypes were available as soon as 1946 with a first-flight recorded on May 7th of that year. Notable issues with control and stalling were apparent, forcing revisions to the design. Initial production models were then taken into service with the RAF in October of 1948, first-batch models to satisfy the already-contracted-for 100 examples - designated "Hastings C.Mk.1".
As soon as available the Hastings line was pressed into action during the "Berlin Airlift" of 1948-1949. The campaign saw the Soviet Union cut-off humanitarian access to the devastated German capital. The Hastings was notable in its contribution, delivery some 55,000 tons of goods to awaiting Berliners on the ground, and managed to record the campaign's final flight in October of 1949. Hastings were then used to deliver British paratroopers during the Suez Crisis.
At least six of the original 100 Hastings C.Mk.1forms were reworked to become weather reconnaissance platforms, operating under the designation of "Hastings Met.Mk.1" (serving with Coastal Command for their time in the air). A further eight Hastings C.Mk.1 production models were revised to the "Hastings T.1" trainer form - this mark (eight built) was used by Bomber Command to train future "V-bomber" jet-powered bomber crews (the aircraft carried a distinguishing ventrally-mounted radome).
The definitive Hastings became "Hastings C.Mk.2" which brought about changes to the tailplane (enlarged and lowered to further strengthen stability) and more internal fuel stores (to extend operational ranges). Engines were changed over to the Hercules 106 series of 1,675 horsepower each. The C.Mk.2 model managed a cruising speed of 290 miles per hour, ranged out to 1,700 miles, and reached a ceiling of 26,500 feet. Forty-three C.Mk.2s were produced and some of the C.Mk.1 stock was rebuilt to the new Mk.2 standard as "C.Mk 1A".
The Hastings C.Mk.4 became a long-range VIP-centered passenger transport model.
Nineteen RAF bomber squadrons operated the Hastings in its various forms. This included Nos. 24, 36, 47, 48, 51, 53, 59, 70, 97, 99, 114, 115, 116, 151, 202, 242, 297, 511 and the Far East Communications Squadron (FECS).
The RNZAF received the Hastings C.Mk.3 (H.P.95) production model. These were based in the C.Mk.2 production standard but instead fitted the Bristol Hercules 737 engines. Just four were acquired. Operating squadrons included Nos. 40 and 41.
Handley Page was also developing a civilian market model of the same Hastings transport, under the "Hermes" name, but its prototype was lost on December 2nd, 1945 (during its maiden flight). Nevertheless, twenty-nine of the type were eventually produced from 1945 to 1951. The series was introduced for service on August 6th, 1950.