The story of the BAe146 – the final aircraft designed at Hatfield factory

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's BAe146 fuselage at the museum based at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's BAe146 fuselage at the museum based at Salisbury Hall, London Colney. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

de Havilland Aircraft Museum

In Alistair Hodgson’s latest column, the de Havilland Aircraft Museum curator tells the story of the BAe146.

The flight deck of the BAe146. Several of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's aircraft are crewed by bears!Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumThe flight deck of the BAe146. Several of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's aircraft are crewed by bears!Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

This week we take a look at the youngest aircraft in our collection, the British Aerospace BAe146.

Known as the ‘Whisper Jet’, it continued the heritage of jet airliner design at Hatfield from the Comet through to the Trident and the HS125.

With four small turbofan engines and large, low-pressure tyres, the 146 was designed to bring jet airliner operations to small, simple airfields.

The first prototype flew from Hatfield in September 1981 and a total of 221 aircraft were built up until 1992.

The luxurious first-class seating area of the BAe146. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft MuseumThe luxurious first-class seating area of the BAe146. Picture: de Havilland Aircraft Museum

The aircraft sold well to many airlines, and it rode the wave of the 1980s boom in air passenger figures.

British Aerospace even established a second production line at the old Avro factory at Woodford near Manchester, with first deliveries in 1988.

But the recession of the early 1990s hit the airline industry hard and in February 1992 BAe announced the decision to transfer all remaining BAe146 production to Woodford, and to eventually close down the Hatfield site.

Thus, the BAe146 airliner was the last of an illustrious line of aircraft to be designed at the de Havilland factory site.

That’s why its number was 146: this was the continuation of Sir Geoffrey de Havilland’s design numbering system that had started with the Airco DH.1 in the First World War, and had continued through the DH60 (Moth), DH82 (Tiger Moth), DH98 (Mosquito), DH106 (Comet) and DH121 (Trident) to name but a few.

The BAe146 was sadly the last of the line for this great factory.

Our BAe146 is an early Series 100 aircraft built in November 1983, and it saw service with airlines in Brazil, the USA and Canada before ‘coming home’ to fly with Jersey European Airways, which later became Flybe.

Later still it operated in British Airways colours, and after being scrapped the fuselage came to the museum in July 2009.

Since then it has been fully refurbished and kitted out inside, including a special first-class area.

A new undercarriage has also been fitted.

• The de Havilland Aircraft Museum at Salisbury Hall, London Colney, has now reopened to the public after the coronavirus lockdown.

For more visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk


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