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It is difficult to believe that a country which gave the world such classic airliners as the Handley Page HP 42, the Shorts ‘C’ Class flying boat, the first jetliner, the DH Comet, and the elegant Vickers VC.10 would no longer design and produce air transport aircraft. Difficult to believe, but sadly, true. For example, Britain’s last ‘indigenous’ fighter aircraft was the superb English Electric Lightning (RAF service in 1959), and it looks like the British Aerospace 146 (and the later Avro RJ version) will be the last British-designed air transport aircraft.

Here, on the apron at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford Airfield, representing the last flowering of a long line of British airliners, is Titan Airlines BAE 146-200QC (originally built as G-BPBT). This aircraft was previously owned by Ansett New Zealand, a subsidiary of the Australian airline, Ansett, (registered as ZK-NZC), but when that airline went bankrupt it was sold to Titan where it now operates exclusively as a freighter (the QC can be used for passengers or freight). The London Stansted-based 146 is one of 387 examples of this high-winged, medium-capacity airliner which was produced from 1983 to 2001.

Powered by four Textron Lycoming (later Honeywell) ALF502R-5 turbofans of 6970 lbs st each, the QC version can carry nine standard LD3 containers, and it is remarkably quiet. This ’low noise footprint’ along with a bifurcated speed brake, and a sophisticated spoiler system, allows all versions of the BAE 146 to be utilized at noise-sensitive airports such as London City. Since the ALF502 engines are not designed for reverse thrust, the aircraft is fitted with a carbon-disc wheel braking system instead of the usual stainless steel one, as well as an aerodynamic braking and ‘lift-dumping’ system. The RAF ordered three BAE 146 aircraft, as the BAE 146 CC.2, for the Queen’s Flight. On 1st April 1995 (the anniversary of the formation of the RAF), the Queen’s Flight was merged with No. 32 Squadron to form No. 32 (The Royal) Squadron, (sometimes written as XXXII(TR) Squadron), which is based at RAF Northolt. Their 146s are fitted out with 19 seat VVIP interiors, and carry a crew of six.

In the 1990s, attempts were made to upgrade the basic design. Production was switched from Hatfield to the former Avro factory at Woodford (near Manchester), and this gave rise to a name change – Avro RJ (for Regional Jet). A last effort to revive the programme was made with a change of engines; the ALF502 turbofans, having suffered reliability problems throughout the aircraft’s life (including leakage of toxic fumes), were swapped for Honeywell AS977 engines offering lower fuel-burn, and reduced maintenance costs. The resulting aircraft was designated Avro RJX, but, despite 14 firm orders and several options, the programme was terminated by BAE Systems (as the company had become) in December 2001.

Even though the 146 is no longer in production, there is still a healthy market for second-hand examples of the jet; indeed, BAE Systems have in place a system of sales and lease options for potential users of the airliner. This also includes a heavy marketing campaign for a militarised transport/freighter, the BAE 146M.  Indeed, BAE Systems have been joined in support of the BAE 146 by Chevron Technical Services, at Cotswold Airport, Kemble, who have become an EASA Part 145 A1 maintenance organisation, conducting heavy base maintenance on BAE146/RJ series aircraft.

Given the original BAE estimated sales of around 1,500, the actual sales of 387, and the fact that the second generation aircraft was cancelled, it would seem that the ‘Tonka Toy’ or ‘Baby Jumbo’ as it is sometimes known, has failed to live up to expectations. I would hate to think that the UK no longer has the will or the expertise to build a commercial aircraft.

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Comment Preferences

  •  There seems to be a kind of psychology (5+ / 0-)

    associated with such aircraft.  Tax structures have also contributed to the problem.   Back when the US government decided that giving tax breaks to companies for buying luxury cars and corporate aircraft would end.  As I recall, any car that cost more than $12,000 was considered a luxury car and all cost in excess of that would be taxable.  Same with airplanes.  The braniacs making those decisions forgot the immutable Law of Unintended Consequences.  Beechcraft had to shut down the production line on Beechjets as orders were cancelled by the dozen.  15,000 Beech employees were laid off.  Same at Cessna and other companies making cabin class corporate aircraft.  But, the public could sleep better at night knowing those rich corporations could not get away with tax breaks for buying American made stuff.  

    The result was a spike in the market for used corporate aircraft.  

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 04:13:39 PM PST

    •  Sadly, it was a series of Government-forced..... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      KenBee, Otteray Scribe, billmosby, ER Doc

      rationalizations and mergers in the UK, which wrecked the industry from end to end!

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 04:20:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  There has been a series of articles (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

        subtitled "An Industry of Prototypes" in International Airpower Review (I think) over the past several years that has covered aspects of this subject and the related one of defense rationalizations going back into the 50s.

        I think the same thing has happened in the U.S., except as a result of corporate mergers and buyouts. I suppose when you are producing 300 million dollar fighters, you're doing good if the manufacturers don't have to actually take turns producing succeeding years' batches to keep busy.

        Moderation in most things.

        by billmosby on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:52:53 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I am holding my breath regarding the arms (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, billmosby, BlackSheep1

        industry.  In the wake of the recent shootings, the anti-firearm lobby is in full battle cry (pun intended), and I hate to think what the fallout from that will be.  I went to a couple of local gun shops recently to pick up a couple of things, and the places were crowded.  The long gun racks were stripped bare and the only thing left in the counters were really cheap pistols and handguns only affordable by the independently wealthy.  I almost never got waited on, and when a clerk got around to me, I was informed they were out of almost all supplies and I had to come home empty handed.  

        The biggest lie of all: "I am from the government and I am here to help you."

        The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

        by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:16:33 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  FWIW, here in Washington State (0+ / 0-)

      NO sales taxes are levied on aircraft selling for more than $3 million that are intended for Interstate commerce.  So we taxpayers subsidize Boeing's customers to the tune of about $8 million per airplane.

      “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

      by markdd on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 07:11:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  In an interesting twist, a few of the second hand (10+ / 0-)

    BAe146's are beginning to fill the skies of the Western United States, serving as aerial retardant aircraft as the companies that provide these contract aircraft look to find replacements for the aging fleet of multi-engine prop-driven airliners and warplanes that have been in use for decades:


    This is Tanker 40, an aerial retardant conversion of the BAe146 flown by Neptune Aviation Service...  

    "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

    by Jack K on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 04:43:09 PM PST

  •  Air Wisconsin (5+ / 0-)

    (mouseover identifier to decode)

    or "Air Willy" as we called them had a fleet of them. They were the only ones I ever worked, but they had them about the whole time I was at ZAU (1973-1997). ORD was the only destination where I worked them, mostly coming out of MSN, but with an occasional one from ATW, EAU, or LSE.

    I'm sure Air Willy served GRB, too, but that route would have taken them in over a fix in another area where I didn't work so I never saw them. Obviously, they would have served MKE, as well, but they ran TEC (tower enroute control) between MKE and ORD, so we never saw that route pair in the center.

    From an ATC standpoint, they were not a problem, as they would stay right up with the bigger jets at 300 KIAS or less. In the terminal environment, the threshold for compatibility was 250 KIAS, which the BA-46 (as they were indicated on our strips and in our flight plans) could easily do. Only a handful of props could, notably the Convair 580, the Embraer Brasilia (E120), and C-130s. There are others—we didn't see them at ZAU, and that's another story.

    I thought they would probably be neat for pilots—four engines, but at a size and weight (and user) that could be handled by lower time, less experienced, regional carrier-type pilots, fantasizing myself in that category.

    Regardless of the lack of reversers, they could get stopped pretty quick if you needed a quick runway exit. In the air, they were, as above, pretty much a regular jet, but don't leave them in front of a wide body for very long on departure…

  •  That will be a massive improvement (5+ / 0-)

    over the P2V Neptunes that have been falling out of the sky recently.

    Somebody had a camera and caught a sequence of six images of Tanker 123 right after the wing folded up and started down. This is one of them. The NTSB report on the crash is chilling.

    The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

    by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:46:13 PM PST

    •  Actually, I think the aircraft that is shown is .. (6+ / 0-)

      ...a Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateer, a modified PB4Y-2.

      'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

      by shortfinals on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:24:43 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are right. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shortfinals, Jack K, JeffW

        My bad.  The Navy version of the B-24.  However, the most salient point is that all those airplanes are from the same era, and have similar end of service life structural damage.  The crash of Tanker 123 was found to be cracks in the main wing spar that could not be found on inspection without completely disassembling the wings.  Of course, that is not going to happen.  The same company that owned Tanker 123 also owned the airplane in this video.  They filed for bankruptcy and all their assets were sold off at auction.

        The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

        by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:36:35 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Ahhh, yes...the C-130 that simply folded... (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Otteray Scribe, billmosby, Jack K, JeffW

          ....many of these patrol bombers/transports were failing after performing multiple high-Gee pull-outs to avoid terrain, or at the end of their dropping runs. They were just not stressed for this.....

          'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

          by shortfinals on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 06:51:12 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Yup, shortfinals was correct in the aircraft ID... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

          ...the loss of the five crew members on the two Hawkins & Powers aircraft was a punishing blow to the fire fighting community, and it led to a dramatic decline in the number of air tankers available in subsequent years as the Forest Service and BLM tried to figure out how to manage the issuance of contracts for aerial tanker services while assuring air worthiness of contract aircraft that were built - in many cases - before the parents of some of the firefighters depending on this resource had been born...

          I'm an old fart now and don't get anywhere near the leading edge of the fire anymore, but these guys have always been heroes of mine, and I hope aircraft like the BAe146 will herald a newer line of tankers that will keep them safe...


          "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

          by Jack K on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:47:46 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Jack, there is a backstory about those tankers. (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            JeffW, Jack K, shortfinals

            Shortfinals knows the story, but I am not up to telling it here.  Let's just say that I may be one of the luckiest SOBs around.  All because my wife threw a hissy fit.  

            The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. - Sun Tzu

            by Otteray Scribe on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:58:45 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Otteray, there will be time for the backstory for (4+ / 0-)

              whomever wants to tell it...

              All I know is that I grew up in a small Idaho town with a tanker base that flew - at various times - B-17's, A-20's, and TBM's.  Because of my father's job, I had the chance to be around the men who flew these aircraft and I saw them as god-like creatures because of their seemingly casual willingness to fly into circumstances where no sane pilot would dream of going...

              I'm an old fart now with over 38 years in Federal wildland management (mostly in engineering) and I haven't been near the leading edge of the fire for a long time.  There were a couple of times back in my early days when I did do the fire thing, though, where somebody drove DC-6 tankers into places where I would never have imagined such lumbering monsters could even fit to make drops that I continue to believe are largely responsible for me even sitting here tonight.   The loss of Tankers 123 and 130, as well as the loss of an Aero Union P-3 on a pre-season training flight in 2005 that I wrote about at my retired blog (I see that Haloscan comments have finally disappeared for good) , were a powerfully painful loss to the fire fighting community...

              I cannot state it any more clearly than I did in that old blog post or now:  anybody who has ever crawled into the cockpit of an air tanker to fly into places we are told you should never, ever fly into are now, have been, and will always be some of my greatest heroes...

              "In a nation ruled by swine, all pigs are upward mobile..." - Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

              by Jack K on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 09:47:51 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  WE have to move forward.. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Otteray Scribe

            ....and if it means converting more jets, so be it. Climate change means we need GREATER capacity, not less.

            'Per Ardua Ad Astra'

            by shortfinals on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 03:57:55 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  I usually find out that there is a fire (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Otteray Scribe, shortfinals

      near Salt Lake City when I begin to hear those R-3350s droning over.

      Well, not any more, I guess. I used to hear the J-34s (or had they put J-85s on them?) on their return trips,, but not in the last couple of years.

      I got a faint recording of the sound with my iPhone on one of the last flights this fall.

      Moderation in most things.

      by billmosby on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 07:23:31 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  There are two in Utah... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Otteray Scribe, ER Doc, shortfinals

    N18FF, or N471NA according to the FAA Registry, out of 15 total registered in the US. Registered owner is Wells Fargo Bank Northwest NA in both cases, so maybe they're in use by other entities, I don't know how that works exactly.

    I saw and photographed one of them (could have been any one of the 15, or one from elsewhere) on the ramp at Salt Lake City airport's bizjet area on June 22, when the eagles were gathering for a Romney fundraiser in Park City. It must have been proud of its 4 engines as its nearest competitors were Falcon tri-jets or smaller. I only got a head on view of it from quite a distance so I don't know the actual registration.

    I believe I have also seen one of them flying near my house in the not too distant past also.

    Moderation in most things.

    by billmosby on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 05:47:13 PM PST

  •  I'm an A&P who's worked at both (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Stansted, UK and Love Field in Dallas, TX. (for those wondering, "A&P" means an FAA Airframe and Powerplant rating - a licensed aircraft mechanic) Don't have any experience on the 146, but always thought it must be a great little hot rod based on the power/weight ratio.

    I do have an interesting story regarding the Queen's flight, however, which I only really thought about after 9/11.

    In 1991, the Queen visited Dallas, TX. At the time I was working as a flight line mechanic for a small charter outfit at Love Field that operated 727s and 737s. I'd heard on the news that the Queen was scheduled to leave Dallas that afternoon. I had a day off but drove down to the airport anyway, just to watch her flight leave. Our company (now defunct) were located on the central part of Love Field, while the Queen's flight was parked across runway 31 at some corporate terminal.

    This is how lax security was prior to 9/11. I was hired only after presenting my A&P license, with no background check that I was aware of, and only a urinalysis for drug screening prior to starting work. I don't have any kind of criminal record or anything. When I got to the field that afternoon, I drove right up to our terminal building, walked through the open front door, through our workshops and out onto the tarmac, only a few hundred feet from the Queen's airplane. Not once did I meet any kind of security at all. There was nobody else on that part of the tarmac but me and a couple of co-workers.

    What if I'd had a rifle? It could easily have been stowed in my tool box, or carried through when no one was looking. Easier still, I could have hijacked a fuel truck (dozens of them around) or some other vehicle, and rammed it into the Queen's airplane after she got in and taxied to the runway.

    I sure hope points of weakness like that have been eliminated nowadays. I haven't worked in the industry since 1994.

    You may not be able to change the world, but at least you can embarrass the guilty.
    - Jessica Mitford

    by Swampfoot on Wed Dec 26, 2012 at 08:52:17 PM PST

  •  A very neat plane! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    These were one of the first scheduled jet aircraft flown out of my hometown (KBLI) in Washington state. PSA flew these out early in the morning when a low noise signature was highly appreciated by the locals, then they switched to DC9's for later flights. This was in the early 80's, so they had only about 8 flights a day in total, but I always thought the 146's were little sports cars, and now I know they really were.

    They were taken out of that service after a few months, as they turned out to be too small vis-a-vis passenger demand, so PSA began flying DC9's all the time. Those DC9's were noisy bas****s, , while the 146's were barely audible.

    I had always thought they would have made an impressive two engine aircraft, especially with newer engines, but alas, such was not to be.

  •  I used to work ZW flights on the 146 (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    out of ORD when I was at Air Wisconsin.  I was always impressed with the way the a/c handled and flew - much steadier than many larger aircraft.

    The only major issues we had were with the old -100s we had picked up from Aspen Airways.  They were always weight-restricted, and just bitch to load in general from a weight and balance point of view.  The load planners hated'em, the ramp rats got tired of pulling bags out of'em to make the numbers work before they got pushed off the gate.  And 86 seats - I don't ever remember either of them ever going out with full cabins.

    I miss flying on them - they were solid, reliable (to a point), and the passengers always enjoyed flying them more than the "Doinkers" or the CRJs.

    "There is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at without result." - Winston Churchill

    by Dingodude on Thu Dec 27, 2012 at 12:42:47 AM PST

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