Avro Lancaster vs Handley Page Halifax

Discussion in 'Aviation' started by michaelmaltby, Feb 28, 2009.

  1. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    This is my first thread so please forgive (and re-direct) if the topic has been covered before.

    Many Canadian aircrew flew and died in HP Halifaxes over Germany. A recent History Television documentary *Last Flight* claims that the Halifax was seriously inferior to the Lanc ... a death trap. Attributes the casulty rate to the lack of exhaust flame guards on the Merlins, and lack of performance beyond 18,000' . When I compare formal specs the Lanc and Halifax don't seem much different except for range - for some reason the Lanc has a vastly superior range to the Halifax.

    Do any memebers of this forum have experience and/or insight on the truth of the real performance of the Halifax?

    Historically - aircraft sometimes get maligned when the true fault is with training or application. Think *Widowmaker* B-26 Maurader, *Irondog* P-39 Airacobra or Curtis *the beast* Helldiver.

    I'd welcome input on the Lancaster-Halifax comparison.

    Chairs,

    Michael Maltby
    Toronto
     
  2. johnbr

    johnbr Well-Known Member

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    I would like to now to.
     
  3. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    G'day Michael.

    From what I’ve read it was the early Merlin Halifax that gave the most trouble. Here’s a few problems which I managed to find…

    -Essentially underpowered.
    -Severe aerodynamic problems.
    -Severe rudder overbalance, possibly the cause of unexplained Service accidents and operational losses.
    -Excessive take-off distances at loaded weights. “Soggy” to unstick. Take-off at 60,000lb meant a 50% longer run, even on concrete, compared to 55,000lb.
    -Poor climbing performance at loaded weights. Boscombe Down’s L7425 was unable to reach 20,000ft at 58,000lb. Performance figures were “disappointing for mid-41.”
    -The 4,000lb bomb meant flying with partially closed bomb doors.
    -Operational causality rate of 5.5% that was then considered by Bomber Command statisticians as “unsustainable.”
    -Landing gear problems.
    -Reduction gear problems resulting in 95 failures in a six month period. Over 75% occurred on the No.1 engine (port outer).

    Most of these problems were eventually solved with time and the Hercules powered versions 22% greater power “removed the crippling limitations on altitude and speed, and made the Halifax a tractable and totally respected aircraft.”

    In the words of Francis K. Mason…

     
  4. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for that, Graeme:

    Why the difference in performance - altitude and range - between Merlin Halibags and Merlin Lancs? And why no flame surpression on Merlin exhaust stacks on Halibags and surpression on Lancs? The aerodynamics and landing gear weaknesses I fully understand - the price of a platform in evolution - but the Merlin problems I don't. There were if I'm not mistaken Merlins rated and developed for different altitudes were there not? I wonder if the same Merlins were being used for Lancs, Mosquitos and Halifaxes?

    The History TV show I referenced previously - Last Flight - is essentially the story of a middle aged Canadian going to Berlin to locate the spot where his Dad went down - January 1944 - in a MK V Halifax - supposed equipped with Merlins (not radials). And were the Hailfax aircraft losses REALLY that different from Lancs on similar missions? Was the lack of exhaust flame surpression really just the logic of grieving widows - no disrespect intended.
    Much to learn and the men with answers are passing on daily.

    Halifxes have not been preserved in museums the way Lancasters have been - it's almost as if they were culled immediately post hostilities the way B-26 Mauraders were. One RCAF Halifax was retrieved from a deep lake in Norway a few years back and is being restored at CFB Trenton (east of Toronto) There was still coffee in a crew thermos when they pulled the airframe up and out - but no survivors. Those that got out alive died of hypothermia

    Again, thanks for your insights and knowledge.

    MM
     
  5. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Can't answer that one Michael, nor could Volkert or Chadwick (identical engines being Merlin XX)...

    [​IMG]

    Regards the Mk V version, which was a Dowty equipped Series II, they did experiment with various shrouds and anti-glow paint to minimise exhaust visibility but I don't know if all aircraft were fitted. This is an unducted fishtail saxophone exhaust with anti-glow paint (Halifax II DG221).

    [​IMG]

    Sounds like an interesting documentary Michael, I hope to see it one day and thanks for the informative posts.
     
  6. merlin

    merlin Member

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    Sorry, I don't have a reference; but I recall reading that the difference in aerodynamics relates to the longer engine nacelles on the Lanacaster comparewd with the Lancaster - probably to do with the prop wash over the wings.

    Found it:-
    "Some of the Merlin Halifax's problems were caused by the way the engines were installed by Handley Page. Avro had designed the twin-Vulture instalation for the manchester, but when the Merlin Lancaster alternative was agreed in August 1940, Avro wisely accepted the advice of Rolls-Royce and installed the Merlins well forward and below the leading edge of the wing. The nacelles for the Merlins on the Halifax were shorter, and sited higher bringing the propellers very close to the leading edge of the wings. The high thrust line disturbed the airflow over the wing, causing loss of lift, whilst the proximity of the propellers to the wing's leading edge interfered with the efficiency of the propeller blades, causing heavy vibration, and reduction gear failures.
    Plenty of Hercules would be available stirling bomber production stopped, so Hecules VI, and later Hercules XVI engines were fitted on Halifax IIIs and VIs, installed with a lower thrust line in longer nacelles. The subsequent re-design of the Hercules supercharger and re-timing of the engine raised the ceiling, and maximum and cruising speeds of the later Halifax VIs significantly, and some crews found that they easily outclimbed Lancasters."

    Source Wilfred Freemans biography, by Anthony Furse p.344.

    Hope this helps.
     
  7. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Merlin thank you for that and for the photo. Your explanation about the relationship between engine positioning and propwash makes sense - also - the initial Manchester experience - no doubt led to a better overall design.

    Graeme - if I can find a link at History to the show *Last Flight* I'll post it. Not a new program - ten years old at least.

    Chairs all.

    MM
     
  8. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    I always believed that the crew of a Halifax stood a better chance of escaping than a Lancaster crew. I truthfully cannot remember where I read this but will try to find it.
    Later Halifax's from the III onwards had quite a respectable performance, if not up to the Lancasters numbers
     
  9. Juha

    Juha Well-Known Member

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    I agree with Glider, I have read the same from a couple books, the source being a wartime study. Reasons given were, IIRC, the very long bombbay of Lanc and the fact that navigator and W/O were situated over it and so had a long way to nearest exit.

    Juha
     
  10. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Was there any role that the Halifax exceeded the Lanc - anybody?

    MM
     
  11. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Halibags saw service as maritime patrol aircraft with Coastal Command (GR series machines), but I think this was mainly because Bomber command refused to release Lancasters for the job... you may make of that what you will :lol:
     
  12. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    Exceptional cargo capabilities with the later pannier versions and economically successful as the post-War Halton.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
  13. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    The Lancaster ( as the Lancastrian ) also saw service as an airliner and freighter with BSAA, Alitalia and Skways, among others ;)
     
  14. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    G'day BombTaxi!

    Appreciate the Lansastrian but my understanding was that it was less economical than the Halton? Jackson points out that the "Kangaroo" service provided by QANTAS lost 1.4 million pounds per year using them but considered their "prestige" value offset the cost. Nor could it carry bulky loads like the pannier Halifax. I'll try and find operating costs for both machines.
     
  15. michaelmaltby

    michaelmaltby Well-Known Member

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    Great stuff - the panier Halifax cargo versions are completely new to me. Air Canada flew Lancastrians at the end of WW2 before getting Canadian made Merlin-powered DC-4's (North Stars).
     
  16. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    I'd be very interested in those figures Graeme. I know that the Lancastrian cannot have been very economical on a UK-South America or Italy-South America service, but I have no specifics myself. Must admit, I know little about the Halton and Halifax conversions, how were bulky items loaded? Through the pannier/bomb bay :?:
     
  17. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    The pannier was lowered and moved around to load items. I’m only guessing but would assume that it was winched back into position. Very similar to the Constellation but in this case the pannier must be attached before any flight could occur because of the bomb bay sized ‘hole’ in the fuselage.

    Pannier at right...

    [​IMG]

    Loading a two ton Liberty ship rudder pin into the freight pannier...

    [​IMG]

    Apologies BombTaxi, but I can’t find the figures I was looking for. I also can’t find any sources backing my belief that the Halifax/Halton was superior to the Lancaster/Lancastrian. Most state that it was the other way round but don’t elaborate why.

    One thing is certain, neither would have been successful airliners based on passenger capacity ranging from 9 to 15. Freight seems to be their forte and they contributed greatly to the Berlin Airlift but the Halifax/Halton disappeared soon after and the Lancastrian around the early 50’s.

    Early seating arrangement for the nine seat Lancaster...

    [​IMG]

    ...the ten seat Halton...

    [​IMG]

    ...and the unusual luggage hold for the Lancastrian...

    [​IMG]

    If we consider the Avro York as one of the better immediate post-War airliners it’s easy to see the difficulties facing Britain compared to other countries. Looking at the operating costs for the York (24 passengers) Stratoliner (44 passengers) and DC-3 (32 passengers) is interesting. All three were still operating around 1960 when these figures were calculated…

    Pence per-seat mile....York (8.09) Stratoliner (4.13) DC-3 (3.16)

    Typical total operating cost….York (220) Stratoliner (200) DC-3 (85)
    (Pounds)

    No wonder the DC-3 was so successful and hard to replace.

    As far as this thread goes is it now a case of whatever the Halifax could do the Lancaster could do as well or better?

    I’ve also read that Sir Arthur Harris thought little of the Halifax.
     
  18. glennasher

    glennasher Member

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    I remember a TV show, on a couple of years ago, about finding the engines of a Lancastrian that went down in South America, in Chile, I think it was. They took a pretty basic report and made an hour long show of it, "Secrets of the Dead" or something like that, on PBS. I was interested, because I didn't know about the Lancastrian at all, so it was all pretty new to me. They'd found some Merlin parts scattered on a glacier in the Andes, and by parts numbers traced it back to a missing airliner flying from Rio de Janeiro to ????? when it went missing.
     
  19. pbfoot

    pbfoot Active Member

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    here you go it was on Nova

    NOVA Online | Vanished!
     
  20. BombTaxi

    BombTaxi Active Member

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    Graeme,

    Thanks for posting those pics, I had seen the last one of the Lancastrian nosecone before, but the others are all new to me 8) The figures on operating costs are also very revealing (and again new to me), you can see at a glance why the world bought from Boeing and Douglas instead of Avro and H-P. Or maybe it was just because the American 'liners didn't have silly seating arrangements.... :lol:
     
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