Douglas-Hamilton's grandson retraces first Everest flight
- 3 April 2013
- From the section Asia
The grandson of one of the first men to fly over Mount Everest has commemorated the historic feat 80 years on.
Charles Douglas-Hamilton flew to the world's highest peak as a passenger in a modern Jetstream 41 Turboprop.
In 1933, his grandfather Douglas and fellow pilot David Fowler MacIntyre had to contend with freezing temperatures and cracked oxygen pipes.
It was a victory for British aviation, and paved the way for important advancements in flight technology.
The first pilots also used the flight to check for traces of the 1922 Everest expedition by Mallory and Irvine. They were hoping to find evidence the climbers had reached the summit - but they saw nothing.
Less than 30 years after the invention of powered flight, British pilots were looking for an aviation record to beat their American rivals - who had already flown over both the North and South Poles.
The summit of Everest provided that challenge.
Two specially-modified Westland-Wallace bi-planes with open cockpits were used for the feat, taking off from an airstrip in northern India to fly into the Himalayas over the 29,000ft (8,848m) summit.
"Flying above 30,000 feet in freezing conditions in an open cockpit in a plane that didn't have any flaps with a maximum speed of 140mph [220km/h] in extremely cold conditions with oxygen equipment which really wasn't very well advanced at that stage - all of these gave significant challenges," Charles Douglas-Hamilton told the BBC ahead of Wednesday's flight.
"A lot of problems were encountered - cracked oxygen pipes, coldness, but the flight continued and everyone survived and it was successful."
At one point, one of the planes was nearly sucked down by strong winds.
"They dropped 2,000 feet in a matter of seconds - and were very, very close to crashing into the east ridge. I believe they flew over the east ridge only clearing it by a matter of feet."
Mr Douglas-Hamilton never met his grandfather - he died before he was born.
"But the family has discussed this at length and we've often had conversations about it. My father wrote a book on the actual flight called Roof of the World: Man's First Flight over Everest. It outlines exactly what was done and how they managed to do this great trip."
Thanks to the inaugural Everest flight, key advancements, such as the introduction of pressurised cabins, were made in aircraft design.
Fittingly, the Nepalese-owned Jetstream planes that flew Charles Douglas-Hamilton to Everest were made in the same Scottish factory founded by the original pilots at Prestwick.
He had hoped to fly over Everest like his grandfather, but in the end weather conditions did not permit.
That remains a dream for the centenary.