A look inside de Havilland Aircraft Museum’s Trident – ‘an aircraft ahead of its time’

PUBLISHED: 18:30 25 May 2020 | UPDATED: 10:39 26 May 2020

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Trident airliner nose section

The de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Trident airliner nose section

de Havilland Aircraft Museum

In our latest Curator’s Corner, Alistair Hodgson, curator of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum, takes a look around the Hertfordshire museum’s Trident.

The flight deck of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Trident showing the pilot and co-pilot’s seatsThe flight deck of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Trident showing the pilot and co-pilot’s seats

Our DH.121 Trident airliner is a child of the ‘Sixties’.

The design was conceived as a replacement for the Comet airliner, which was in worldwide service by the end of the 1950s.

The main client for a replacement was British European Airways (BEA), who wanted a medium-range aircraft to carry up to 100 passengers on short-haul routes.

De Havilland won the contract in partnership with two smaller companies, Fairey Aviation and Hunting Aircraft Ltd.

Part of the passenger cabin of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's TridentPart of the passenger cabin of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Trident

But these other two companies dropped out when de Havilland itself became part of the Hawker Siddeley Group.

The aircraft design was ahead of its time. The three jet engines were grouped at the rear of the aircraft to keep the noise away from the passenger cabin, and sophisticated on-board systems enabled it to land automatically in conditions of low visibility, such as when UK airports were blanketed in fog.

Some Trident pilots have said that they used to look forward to flying in poor weather, so that they could show off the Trident’s blind-landing capabilities.

During its design phase the Trident had been made smaller than originally planned, because BEA were worried that they might not be able to run the aircraft at capacity on all routes.

The flight engineers control panel of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's TridentThe flight engineers control panel of the de Havilland Aircraft Museum's Trident

But an upswing in passenger numbers during the 1960s meant that the Trident met stiff competition from American rivals such as the larger Boeing 727.

Although later versions of the Trident had increased passenger capacity, the total number produced was only 117.

At the de Havilland Aircraft Museum we have the nose section of a Trident 2E, the most common variant.

It’s fitted out with the front passenger cabin and galley, and you can visit the flight deck and see the layout of a typical airliner of this era.

Modern airliners only have a crew of two – pilot and co-pilot – but the Trident also had a flight engineer who looked after the fuel, electrical and hydraulic systems, work that’s done by computers these days.

We’re usually doing some restoration inside the aircraft and you may have the opportunity to chat to the staff while they’re working when the museum reopens.

The museum at Salisbury Hall, just off the B556 at London Colney, is currently closed due to coronavirus.

For more, visit www.dehavillandmuseum.co.uk


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