Kit #AA2087. 1/72 scale. This is
a highly-detailed resin kit of the Handley-Page
HP.115, complete with decals.
In the late 1950s, the United
Kingdom, France, United States and Soviet Union were all developing supersonic
transports. The Bristol Aeroplane Company’s design for a 100-passenger Mach 2
airliner, a thin-planform delta-winged aircraft, the British Aircraft Corporation BAC
Type 223, was largely funded by British government.
Following the economic disaster
of the Bristol Brabazon – an airliner
too big for its time – and the technical failure of the De Haviland Comet – British airliner development, specifically
including the Bristol Britannia,
were so delayed by design studies that Boeing was able to steal a march with
their Model 360, which evolved into the KC-135
Stratotanker and the Boeing 707
airliner. The British government’s
commitment to an SST Mach 2 airliner, headed up by the STAC – The Supersonic Transport Aircraft Committee, was their effort
to regain leadership in the commercial airliner market. Ultimately, this committee decided to merge
their BAC 223 with the French Sud-Aviation Super-Caravelle SST design into what
became the Concorde.
Because the cost for developing such
a revolutionary aircraft was so high – and because the technological risks were
so great – the British government required BAC to proceed with small-scale
delta wing prototype testing. This
requirement led to the development of the BAC 221 for high speed research and
the Handley-Page HP.115, which was used
for low speed tests involving the highly-swept delta wing.
The HP.115 was originally
intended to be a glider towed by Canberra
bomber, but the Handley-Page engineers soon demonstrated that a powered version
would achieve 200 percent more flying time at 95 percent less cost per hour. A
single Bristol Siddeley Viper turbojet
was installed at the base of tail fin, where it would not interfere with
aerodynamic tests of the wing.
The resultant design was an
odd-looking aircraft, with an underslung nose reminiscent of the much later
Nimrod anti-sub patrol plane. With the
engine mounted above the wing, it looked like two very dissimilar aircraft
stapled together, connected by a highly-swept delta wing.
The HP.115 made its first flight
in 1961, and flight tests continued through 1974. Despite its odd origin and
odder appearance, the HP.115 proved to be a very capable aircraft. Neil
Armstrong was intended to be the plane’s first test pilot, but following his
selection as Astronaut, NASA refused him permission to fly the HP.115. However, he did test-fly the aircraft in
1970, following his historic moon mission.
The HP.115 is preserved at the UK
Fleet Air Arm Museum alongside the BAC 221 and Concorde prototype.