Mr Walter George Raymond 'Hinch' Hinchliffe

   1916

   in 1927

b. 10, or 11 Jun 1893, or 1894

WWI fighter pilot (7 victories, the last of which cost him his left eye); he then became a well-known pilot for Daimler Air Express, which formed part of Imperial Airways in April 1924.

On 18 December 1924 he flew G-EBBX, a D.H.34  single-engine airliner, from Croydon to Amsterdam but, after setting off on the return journey, the engine oil pressure started fluctuating alarmingly and he turned back; the engine was overhauled, and he tried again, with the same result. Again, the engine was overhauled and tested thoroughly and they finally got back to Croydon on Christmas Eve, although the engine was still running rather roughly.

The next person to fly the aeroplane was David Stewart; the aeroplane took off from Croydon later the same day and crashed within a few minutes, killing him and his 7 passengers. It was the first fatal crash suffered by Imperial Airways, and it led to the first Public Enquiry into a civil aircraft accident in the UK.

Hinch carried on as one of Imperial Airways' senior pilots; two years later, for example, he flew Geoffrey and Mrs de Havilland, plus another man and four other women, to India, to inaugurate Imperial Airways' Egypt-India Empire service. 

September 1925: "AIR PILOT'S RECORDS. COVERED HALF A MILLION MILES. Two world's records for length of time spent in the air and distance flown were created by Mr W. R. Hinchcliffe, the Imperial Airways pilot, who, when he arrived at the London Air Station, piloting a Napier D.H. express from Amsterdam, on Saturday completed 6000 hours' flying.

Mr Hinchcliffe has been flying continually for more than nine years, and, taking an average speed for the numerous different types of airplanes he has flown, has covered more than half a million miles by air. In flying this distance he has spent the equivalent of 250 entire days, or more than eight months, in the air."

October 1926: "AEROPLANE BLOWN BACKWARDS CAUGHT BY STRONG WIND AND CARRIED FOR MILE. Captain W. G. R Hiinchliffe, the Imperial Airways pilot, had the unique experience of travelling backwards through the air yesterday while testing one of the big Rolls-Royce air liners at Croydon Aerodrome. Ascending to a height of 2000 feet, he encountered a head wind so strong that his machine was blown steadily backwards for a distance of over a mile."

He came 4th in the King's Cup in July 1927.

 

 Then in August 1927 he was asked by wealthy American businessman Charles A Levine to try an east-west trans-Atlantic flight in the Bellanca monoplane NX237 'Miss Columbia'.

  Clarence Chamberlin had set the world long-distance record flying from New York to (near) Berlin in this aeroplane, with Levine as passenger; indeed, they had missed being the very first 'long' trans-Atlantic flight by only a few days.

However, this idea was abandoned after Leslie Hamilton, Lt-Col Minchin and Princess Lowenstein-Wertheim disappeared in their Fokker FVIIa G-EBTQ when they tried the same thing. Instead, they decided to try to break the long-distance record by flying to India, but only got as far as Vienna when oil pressure fluctuation (again!) and bad weather forced them to land.

There is some footage of the preparations at Cranwell for this flight, (and of the Fokker 'St Raphael' in which Hamilton, Minchin and Princess L-W lost their lives) here:  https://www.britishpathe.com/video/old-flying-stories/query/Levine

So (Hinch having already agreed a month's leave from Imperial Airways) they then took a leisurely flight round Italy, including an audience with the Pope on 3 October; the Pope gave Mr Levine the apostolic benediction, "blessing his future enterprises". The next day, however, intending to drop a present for Signor Mussolini's new baby boy, they had to make a forced landing in a vineyard, doing serious damage to the aeroplane but luckily not themselves.

The Bellanca was repaired but later destroyed in a hangar fire; another one, painted to look like it, was in the Virginia Aviation Museum.

'Hinch' disappeared with Elsie Mackay in 1928 trying to cross the Atlantic from east to west.

Elsie's parents, Lord and Lady Inchcape, generously put Elsie's £521,101 13s 4d in trust for the nation for about 50 years, after which time they hoped it "should be used to reduce the National Debt". They also gave Capt Hinchliffe's widow Emilie (sometimes known as Eileen) £10,000, his estate being a rather more modest £32.

 

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