BAe 146 - British Aerospace (BAe)
Since the dawn of aviation, Great Britain has been one of the leading countries operating in the field. The country’s aircraft manufacturers were heavily involved in avant-garde projects such as the first jet passenger plane in history – the de Havilland Comet – and took part in the creation of the supersonic passenger liner – the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde. But the severe world economic crisis of the early 1970s badly affected the British aviation industry. The government was forced to nationalise the whole sector to prevent it from disappearing altogether. In 1977, the British Aircraft Corporation, Hawker Siddeley and Scottish Aviation were nationalised and merged into one company – British Aerospace (BAe). This is the story of the last British passenger plane. By the early 1970s, Hawker Siddeley had already begun working on the creation of a small passenger jet designed for short-haul routes – between the big European cities. The project was almost complete when the economic situation no longer justified continuing work on it. Immediately after the privatisation, the new managers saw a big potential in the project and gave the green light to its future development. The aircraft was given the designation ‘BAe 146’. British aviation engineers have always been known for their interesting designs and technological solutions. The BAe 146 was to be no exception.
The initial aim was to create a twin-engined machine, but it turned out that there were no sufficiently powerful jet engines at that time, forcing the constructors to consider mounting four engines on this relatively small plane. A cantilever wing was placed above the body, which is also rather unusual. As it was assumed that the aircraft would service busy routes, it was decided to make its body quite wide for a regional passenger plane, which could either be configured in a high-density six-abreast layout, or a standard five-abreast layout.
The BAe 146-100 conducted its maiden flight on 3 September 1981. The base version was designed to carry 94 persons with a high density layout. Simultaneously with model 100, the stretched model 200 was developed, designed for 112 passengers. The BAe 146-200 had its first outing on 1 April 1982. Commercial operation of the BAe 146 started at the end of 1983. Subsequently an even larger model 300 was created, designed for 128 passengers.
The BAe 146 proved to be a very successful regional jet. The plane has very low noise levels, and is even now known for its relatively quiet operation. The wide and high body allows not only for more passenger seats, but contributes to passenger comfort as well. This is how the BAe 146 became the preferred plane of European regional airline companies.
The renewal of the BAe 146 family began in 1996. New, more powerful and more economical engines were installed, the aerodynamic were improved, the weight was reduced and the interior was completely revamped. Thus the plane continued to be manufactured under the name Avro RJ; RJ70, RJ85 and RJ100 being the new designations of the previous models 100, 200 and 300. Work for even greater modernisation under the designation Avro RJX started in 2000 but in December 2001 BAE Systems (the successor of the BAe concern privatised in 1999) stopped production of the plane.
Thus the BAe 146 became the last British passenger plane. Ironically, with manufactured 387 units, the BAe 146 is the most widely produced passenger jet in the history of the British aviation industry.
Although it has now ceased production, the BAe 146/Avro RJ remains a modern and safe plane, popular among regional airline companies. Of the total 387 produced, some 300 planes are still flying – proof that the machine is highly valued by airline companies throughout the world.