Fifty years after it was built, derelict Handley Page Herald 209 G-CEXP looks to have found a saviour in the shape of the recently formed UK Heritage Aviation Trust (UKHAT). The trust, which became a registered charity during January, has launched a Herald Skyward campaign with plans to dismantle the former Channel Express machine at its current location in the old fire compound at Gatwick Airport and move it to St Athan, South Wales, for restoration to ground running condition.
The machine’s maiden flight was from Radlett on 5 April 1968, and it was originally operated by Arkia Airlines in Israel as 4X-AHO. It went to Express Air Freight as G-BFRJ in April 1978, passing to Field Aviation in June 1980. The next operator was Aliguilia in Italy, where it flew as I-ZERC, before it went to Channel Air Express in 1987. On 31 July 1994 both of the Rolls-Royce Dart engines overheated and caught fire while the aircraft was taxying to the threshold of runway 26L at Gatwick Airport, and although there was no damage to the airframe ’CEXP was written off. It subsequently went on show at Skyview on top of Gatwick’s South Terminal, until that attraction closed down, whereupon the Herald went to the Gatwick Airport Fire Service for use in non-destructive exercises.
Only three other Heralds survive: G-APWA is on show at the Museum of Berkshire Aviation at Woodley, G-ASKK is displayed at the City of Norwich Aviation Museum at Norwich Airport, and the restoration of G-APWJ was recently completed by a team from the Duxford Aviation Society.