Dinger's Aviation Pages

The Delta 9 "Flight 777" - An Alternate History

1st June 1943, Lisbon airport. B.O.A.C / K.L.M. flight 777 is starting to load passengers for the morning 7.30 flight to the U.K. Leslie Howard chats to his business manager Alfred Chenhalls. Slightly weary after attending the Portuguese premiere of Howard's film The First of the Few the previous night, they muse over this strange new "Delta 9" trimotor aircraft that has turned up to fly them back to England, in place of the expected DC-3. Howard remarks that it looks like something out of one of their mutual friend H.G. Wells' stories. The flight is delayed for 5 minutes when Howard remembers he has left a parcel at the customs desk. The increased capacity of the Delta 9 means it can take all the waiting passengers, rather than have to leave some behind, which would have been the case if it had been the expected DC-3 making the flight. Once onboard, the passengers are a little anxious about the lack of windows, but once airborne they are entertained by a demonstration of the camera obscura device built into tables that allows a 360-degree panoramic view outside the aircraft. Howard, in particular, is most impressed by this new device. Onboard the flight Howard finds himself sitting next to Wilfred Israel. Chided by Israel over his character only rescuing an elite professor from Nazi Germany in the film Pimpernel Smith they strike up a friendship, one that inspires them to set up the great charity "Pimpernel" to try to save children from the Holocaust and help refugees after the war.

Leslie Howard with Alfred Chenhalls (on the right, looking very Churchillian with his cigar) pictured at a night club in Lisbon.

Some of the children on board, playing with the camera obscura device, notice some aircraft tailing them. Their parents alert the steward who in turn alerts the pilot who piles on the power and takes the Delta 9 even higher. The eight German Ju88 long-range fighter aircraft struggling to intercept this strange new trimotor are left trailing well behind. Flight 777 arrives at Whitchurch in England ahead of schedule. So impressed is Howard by the Delta airliner that he features one in his 1944 film "We'll All Be Back" (a sequel to "Pimpernel Smith" ) where it is central to the plot of flying refugees out of occupied Europe.

In 1950, while crossing the Atlantic in order to attend the Oscars ceremony, in a Delta 10 Airliner, (the turboprop powered successor to the Delta 9) Howard finds himself sitting next to
Mr Percival-Nesbit Willoughby, chairman of the Willoughby Aircraft Corporation. Attempting to sustain a conversation about flying with the famous film star, Willoughby starts to tell the story of how he almost died during the testing of the Delta 8 but had remembered the vital mechanical stops had not been put back in position just before taking off for a test flight. Looking around Willoughby realises that Howard has fallen asleep. Relieved at no longer having to try to make conversation Willougby comforts himself that it is the smooth comfort of his Delta airliner that has lulled Howard to slumber....