Official Site of Speaker, Historian and Author Sean Munger


Historic Photo: Handley Page H.P.42 biplane airliner, Palestine, 1931.

This beautiful color photo depicts a very unusual airplane: a Handley Page H.P.42, which was a biplane airliner that briefly saw service for Britain’s short-lived Imperial Airways airline during the 1920s and 1930s. This particular plane, named Hanno, was photographed in 1931 at a refueling stop at Samakh, a settlement on Lake Tiberias, in what was then Palestine (now Israel). This is the refueling crew. There’s no way to be sure, but this plane may have been on its way to India.

The H.P.42 was an interesting plane that came along at a peculiar time in aviation history, the point between the wars when biplanes were phasing out in favor of monoplanes. The change occurred in smaller planes, like military fighters, beginning in the 1920s, and as airline services began ramping up at the same time, aircraft designers began delivering mono-winged craft–like the famous Ford Trimotor–to meet demand. Handley Page was still stuck in the past. All fins and tails, the H.P.42 wasn’t exactly modern, but it did have several advantages, including a lot of baggage room and two separate passenger cabins. It was, however, extremely slow, sometimes cruising along at a poky 90 miles an hour. That’s a pretty slow speed to tour the outer reaches of the British Empire.

Needless to say, though they were unique, H.P.42s had no staying power. The outbreak of the Second World War, which played havoc on all the world’s civilian air services, made them obsolete. None were flying after 1940. None of these magnificent planes even exist anymore, although an aviation history group is trying to recreate one.

This photo is in the public domain. The color of this photo may be modern; I do not know for sure.


  1. Jeff Bloomfield

    The British were striving to connect their empire with air routes and aviation. Only a year before this photo their airship program ended in the tragedy of the crash of the R-101 in France on it’s maiden voyage (killing the Secretary of State for Air and several other important government aviation figures). During this period Kingsford – Smith would help set up the firm Qantas for Australian aviation to the entire empire. As for the bi-plane, the monoplane had a few triumphs (most notably Charles Lindbergh’s 1927 Mineola, Long Island to Paris flight in “The Spirit of St. Louis”) but it still had not convinced all the experts.

  2. What an interesting aircraft. The lower gull shaped wing is unexpected…I took a look at some pictures online to get a better view.

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