History of the 146

Early design studies | The HS 146 | The BAe 146 | 146 Developments | The Avro RJ | The Avro RJX

With the formation of British Aerospace (BAe) with the nationalisation and merger of British Aircraft Corporation (BAC), Hawker Siddeley Aviation (HSA/HS) and Scottish Aviation, the 146 was revived.  The only civil aircraft work then being undertaken was the Concorde project, the production of wings for the Airbus and the development of commuter aircraft at Shorts in Northern Ireland, so a new civil project was a welcome boost.  BAC One-Eleven production had been declining since the late 1960s with various developments to that aircraft not being proceeded with.

The 146 brought work to many sites as its manufacture and assembly was dispersed to a number of places inside and outside the UK.  Textron Aerostructures (part of the same company supplying the engines) manufactured the wings in the USA, SAAB-Scania of Sweden would build the tailplane and all moving surfaces such as ailerons, rudder, spoilers and elevators, Shorts of Belfast were to build the engine pods whilst the remainder of the aircraft was built at various BAe plants.  Prestwick (formerly Scottish Aviation) would build the engine pylons, Hamble (formerly Folland Aircraft) would build the flap rails.  The centre fuselage was built at Filton (formerly Bristol and presently part of Airbus), the rear fuselage were manufactured at Manchester (formerly Avro) with the fin and flaps being made at Brough (formerly Blackburn).  Hatfield was responsible for the overall design, production of the nose and flightdeck, final assembly and flight testing.

The 146's maiden flight from Hatfield - Photo: British Aerospace

Marketing of the 146 was an interesting and new experience in some respects.  Most previous UK civil airliner projects had begun with a large order from the national airlines (BEA / BOAC who later merged to form British Airways), but with the 146, its intended use was on short, sometimes tricky routes throughout the world, making use of its STOL capabilities and ability to land on rough strips.  Although the reality was more a case of it being used for short haul work, most customers tended to purchase only one or two at a time and many were export orders, something Hatfield team had been good at winning with the Trident and 125 aircraft.

The launch customer for the aircraft was Air Wisconsin for four series 200 aircraft plus four more on option.  The first series 200 aircraft was the eighth 146 airframe built.  Painted in their colours and registered as G-WISC, it first flew on August 1st, 1982.  This was an indication of things to come, as contrary to marketing predictions, it was the 200 series that would prove to be most popular, not the 100 series as previously believed.  Whereas the original plan had been to replace the DC3, and later the Viscount and Fokker 27, in that time, passenger numbers had grown and airlines were looking for larger aircraft.

The BAe 146-200

The certification of the 146s was gained both in the UK and in the United States during the first half of 1983.  Following further sales tours, leases and sales of 146 aircraft were progressively achieved in a number of markets, globally.  Two aircraft went to the Royal Air Force as BAE 146 C.1s for evaluation at Brize Norton for possible replacement of the Queen's Flight Andovers.  The RAF was suitably impressed and an order for two BAe 146 C.C.2s (BAe 146-100) was placed with deliveries achieved in 1986.   A number of orders and leases were achieved, notably in the Americas, Asia and Australasia before the type became more popular in the UK and then Europe in from the late 1980s onwards.

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