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ON THIS DAY

04 Apr 13. A group of intrepid Scots successfully repeated the maiden flight over the world’s highest mountain yesterday – 80 years to the day after the historic first journey. Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, Marquis of Clydesdale, and Flight Lieutenant David McIntyre battled treacherous conditions to conquer Mount Everest on 3 April, 1933. A ferocious downdraft caused their modified Westland Wallace biplanes to plummet 1,000 feet in a second, and lack of oxygen almost killed one of their photographers. But the photographs from the flight and a second unauthorised mission were to provide the maps used by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay to climb Everest 20 years later.
Yesterday, Lord Clydesdale’s grandson Charles Douglas-Hamilton boarded a flight around the world’s highest peak to mark the anniversary of the epic flight. “I felt that a family member had to represent my grandfather and the family on this day”, he said.
The 1933 flight, in two flimsy biplanes named after William Wallace, nearly came to grief because of the treacherous ice plume that sits at the top of the mountain, and which gives Everest its characteristic menacing look. Yesterday’s flight was made in a rugged, twin-engined BAE Systems Jetstream. This aircraft was chosen because it was manufactured at Prestwick in Ayrshire, in the Scottish Aviation Ltd factory established by Hamilton and McIntyre on their return from Everest. Unlike the first Everest flight, the 2013 party flew in comparative comfort inside a pressurised cabin, shielded from the minus 40C temperature the original pilots had to endure in open cockpits. The Jetstream took off from Kathmandu Airport at about 7am. Take-off was delayed until an earlier scout plane radioed back that the weather was clearing over Everest, following a storm the previous night. On the 1933 trip, Hamilton and McIntyre each carried a camera man – one of whom nearly died from oxygen starvation. This time, the crew carried a dozen local and international journalists and TV cameramen. They included some from China, which shares one side of Everest. As well as Charles Douglas-Hamilton, and myself from The Scotsman (media sponsor of the 2013 return expedition), our main crew members included Angela Wrapson from the Prestwick World Festival of Flight, whose idea the commemorative flight was.
BATTLESPACE Comment: Angus, the late Duke of Hamilton, a long-time supporter of BATTLESPACE and director of HMT vehicles, designer of the Supacat HMT, would be very proud of this moment. Many years ago he showed me a photograph taken from his father’s aeroplane as it crossed Everest.

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