Force History – Vignettes

First Flight Over Everest

In 1933, two 602 (City of Glasgow) Squadron pilots, Commanding Officer Squadron Leader Douglas Douglas-Hamilton (Lord Clydesdale) and his number two, Flight Lieutenant David MacIntyre; became the first men to fly over Mount Everest .(29,035feet), the highest mountain in the world, The objective was to survey and map the mountain range, which has until then had remained largely uncharted. Rival French and German teams were also being prepared for a similar mission so the expedition was a source of national pride, especially for the two Scottish pilots from 602. The expedition was sponsored by the philanthropist, Lady Houston.


Above: Squadron Leader Douglas Douglas-Hamilton and Flight Lieutenant David MacIntyre

The planes used for the expedition were the new Westland Wallace and the Houston Westland. Both had open cockpits and were fitted with a 550 horsepower Bristol Slll engine; they had a flying time of 4 hours to save on fuel, the planes were stripped of brakes and the pilots flew without parachutes.

On 3 April 1933, the aircraft, crewed by Squadron Leader Douglas-Hamilton and Colonel LVS Blacker in one and Flight Lieutenant MacIntyre and Mr SR Bonnet in the other, took off from Lalbalu aerodrome, near Purnea, India After a first attempt during which the cameraman lost his air supply at 34,000 feet and was rendered unconscious, the second flight provided the pictures and film required to record the vital data which would expand human knowledge of this famous mountain range. The flight took three hours, covered a return distance of 320 miles reaching nearly 30,000 feet clearing the mountain by a reported 100 feet. Close range photographs of Mt Everest proved the achievement.