Aviation Historian 7
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N.Stroud - Send in the Heavy Mob!
A superb example of the masterful work of the doyen of air-to-air photographers, CHARLES E. BROWN; up close and personal with a Blackburn Beverley in 1955. The big transport was used for the 1955 Fahud Airlift;
A characteristically splendid study of the first three production Beverleys in line astern taken by master aviation photographer Charles E. Brown. Bryan Greensted, chief pilot of the Hunting-Clan team during the 1955 airlift in Oman, later wrote that “they almost made it look elegant, but it was nevertheless like flying a block of flats!”
The Universal taxies into position for take-off at Umm Said. With its shack and somewhat basic control tower, the Qatari airstrip was positively metropolitan in comparison with the primitive facilities at Fahud at the other end of the airlift.
Blackburn Universal G-AOEK at the test well site at Fahud, Oman, in November 1955. Having been unloaded at the primitive airstrip, the massive freighter is towed away from the loading ramp with a tractor.
A view from the cockpit of the Bristol Centaurus engines being run up before departure from Fahud. The second production example, G-AOEK was fitted with Bristol Centaurus 173 sleeve-valve engines, which drove de Havilland hollow-steel-bladed propellers of 16ft 6in (5m) diameter, the largest then in use on a British aircraft. A direct-injection version of the Centaurus was proposed and tested for use on the Beverley, but the idea was never adopted.
The runway conditions at Fahud were considerably worse than those at Umm Said, but the Universal did not require a single tyre change throughout the entire operation in Oman, a testament to the mammoth freighter’s ruggedness.
The Universal thunders down the airstrip at Umm Said with the inevitable ensuing sandstorm. The airlift went a long way to establishing the big freighter not only as a very capable heavy-lifter, but one that could operate from the roughest of rough strips and in hot conditions.
A Pax man diesel engine is prepared for loading aboard the Universal at Umm Said, before its 365-mile (587km) flight across the desert to Fahud. Four Paxman engines, their weights varying from 8 1/4 to 10 tons (8,385 - 10,160kg), were transported during the Umm Said - Fahud Airlift.
The rear half of the draw-works, weighing some 12 tons (12,200kg), is positioned on the makeshift ramp in preparation for its loading into the Universal at Umm Said. The tractor to the right was fitted with a winch, which, in combination with a pulley attached to the floor of the aircraft, was used for drawing the loads into the hold.
With the clam-shell rear doors opened wide, the Universal takes aboard the heaviest load of the airlift, draw-works weighing some 16 1/2 tons (16,765kg), at Umm Said. The makeshift ramp had been fabricated on site from locally available drill pipe; another was constructed and flown to Fahud for unloading.
Back home - the Universal after its return to Heathrow on November 21, 1955. Bryan Greensted is third from left, Ron Hockey is in pale overalls and Blackburn’s Dick Chandler is second from right. Note the Arabic legend, which translates as ‘‘Try Your Strength”, applied to the Universal’s nose after completion of the airlift.
The rear half of the draw-works is manhandled on to the pallets on the floor of the Universal. A November 1955 editorial in The Aeroplane magazine stated: ‘‘That Blackburn and Hunting-Clan have been able to bring off this operation between them is a matter for commendation by all who have the welfare of British aviation at heart”.