Topic: Hercules Place (TDN 18/07/2020)

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Hercules Place 

Hercules Place in Bell Block was named after an aeroplane produced by the De Havilland Aircraft Company. In fact it runs off De Havilland Drive, and both streets, as well as the others in the vicinity, lie on the site of the old New Plymouth airport, hence their names.

The DH.66 Hercules was a three-engined biplane first built in 1926 at Stag Lane Aerodrome north of London. Designed for Imperial Airways when it took over the Cairo-Baghdad airmail service from the Royal Air Force, the Hercules had room for seven passengers plus mail. Imperial eventually ordered seven of the craft, all 17 metres long with a wingspan of 24 metres and a top speed of 208 kmph.

The name “Hercules” was chosen in a competition run by Meccano Magazine – the original Hercules was a Greek hero, son of Zeus and the mortal Alcmene, but also worshipped by the Romans as a god of strength.

West Australian Airways ordered four Hercules, for a new passenger and mail service between Perth and Adelaide, in 1929. The first eastbound service was undertaken by the City of Adelaide and the City of Perth, which both arrived in Perth on 29 May 1929 after flying more than 2300 kilometres in a mere 14 hours. The feat was reported excitedly by the New Zealand press and the planes themselves much admired, particularly their “luxurious chairs… comparative noiselessness and wonderful manoeuvring ability”.

The New Zealand Herald described the interior of the craft as being “divided into two compartments, consisting of a chart-room, accommodating the wireless operator, navigator and engineer, and the passenger saloon, containing seven comfortable armchairs and a special drinking-water tank attached to the roof.”

Although exciting at the time, the Hercules proved to be slow and cumbersome and all 11 aircraft had been either scrapped or destroyed by 1943.

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