Over 70 years ago a BOAC airliner crash-landed, 1,300 miles off course, in the sandy wastes of the Western Sahara. In January 2002, Aeroplane Assistant Editor Tony Harmsworth went to find it
It was a passenger down at the back of BOAC Handley Page Hermes G-ALDN who first noticed that the starlit desert night of May 25-26, 1952, was giving way to dawn, as the sky behind the majestic four-engined airliner began to lighten. The Hermes, named Horus after the Ancient Egyptian falcon god of the sun and sky, was cruising at 12,000ft over the Sahara, en route from Tripoli in Libya to Kano in Nigeria with ten passengers and eight crew. But, gazing down at the endless sea of dunes, the passenger soon realised that the sun was coming up in the wrong place. Surely it should have been rising on the aircraft’s port side, not behind it? Either the ancient god was playing a joke on its namesake, or something had gone seriously awry on the flight deck.