The BAE 146

v1.0.6 / 01 jan 17 / greg goebel

* Although the British aviation industry was not able challenge Boeing's dominance of the large jetliner market during the last half of the 20th century, Britain was able to achieve to compete in smaller jetliners, most significantly in the tidy "BAE 146" series of four-jet light airliners. This document provides a history and description of the BAE 146 series.

British Aerospace BAE 146-200



* In the early 1960s, the de Havilland aircraft company of Britain was working on the design of a small, twin turboprop, high-wing feederliner designated the "DH.123". De Havilland was then absorbed into the Hawker Siddeley Aviation company, with the concept mutating to a low-wing aircraft with twin turbofans mounted on the rear fuselage, designated the "HS.144". That concept didn't go anywhere either, mostly because of the lack of an adequate powerplant, and in early 1971 the design team decided to adopt a high-wing configuration with four small turbofans, focusing on the new US Avco Lycoming ALF 502 engine. The four-engine design was given the designation of "HS.146", and seemed promising enough to lead to a formal development program start on 29 August 1973, with the British government backing the program.

However, a Mideast war, an oil embargo, an energy crisis, and economic recession forced the government to back out, and the HS.146 project went on the back burner. Hawker Siddeley then became part of British Aerospace, which relaunched the program with restored government backing on 10 July 1978, resurrecting the old HS.146 design with some modest updates. Initial prototype construction began, with the company focusing on two variants, the "BAE 146 Series 100" and the stretched "BAE 146 Series 200", which were to be later followed by the further stretched "BAE 146 Series 300".

BAE 146-100, BAE 146-200, BAE 146-300

The first Series 100 performed its maiden flight on 3 September 1981, with the second following on 25 January 1982, and the third on 2 April 1982. The fourth machine was the first Series 200, and performed its initial flight on 1 August 1982. The BAE 146-100 received its certification on 20 May 1983, with Dan-Air performing the first revenue flight on 27 May 1983. Type certification of the BAE 146-200 followed later in the year.

The Series 300 prototype was rebuilt from the prototype Series 100, and performed its initial flight on 1 May 1987, with certification in September 1987.

Subassemblies for the BAE 146 were built at various British Aerospace plants in the UK, with international partners also contributing elements of the aircraft. Shorts Brothers in Belfast built the underwing nacelles for the ALF 502 turbofans, while Avco Aerostructures in the US built the main wing torsion box, and SAAB Scania in Sweden manufactured the tailplane plus all flight control surfaces. Final assembly was at Hatfield in the UK.



* The BAE 146 Series 100 provides a baseline for description of the family. The Series 100 was a tidy, appealing aircraft, with:

All fuel storage was in integral wing tanks; optional tanks could be fitted in the wing roots to expand fuel capacity. A Garrett AiResearch GTCP 36-100 auxiliary power unit (APU) turbine was fitted in the tail for ground and emergency power. The BAE 146 was specifically designed for short-field operation, with triple slotted flaps permitting short take-offs, and an airbrake on each side of the tail plus heavy-duty brakes reducing landing roll. The engines were very quiet, making the type suitable for operations in dense urban areas.

   BAE 146-100:
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________
   spec                    metric              english
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

   wingspan                26.2 meters         86 feet
   wing area               77.3 sq_meters      832 sq_feet   
   length                  26.2 meters         86 feet
   height                  8.61 meters         28 feet 3 inches

   empty weight            23,290 kilograms    51,340 pounds
   MTO weight              38,100 kilograms    84,000 pounds

   cruise speed            765 KPH             475 MPH / 415 KT
   LR cruise speed         670 KPH             415 MPH / 360 KT
   cruise altitude         8,840 meters        29,000 feet
   range, normal fuel      3,000 kilometers    1,865 MI / 1,620 NMI
   range, max payload      1,630 kilometers    1,010 MI / 880 NMI
   _____________________   _________________   _______________________

The use of four engines on such a relatively small aircraft might seem a bit odd, and there were criticisms of the BAE 146 at the outset for this feature, but detailed analysis of the engines available at the time showed that no twin-engine configuration worked as well. No doubt four engines increased maintenance a bit, but they also meant that engine-out handling would be no serious problem.

Maximum seating for the Series 100 was 94 passengers in a six-across row arrangement, though a more typical seat arrangement was 82 passengers. There were passenger doors on the left side of the fuselage, fore and aft, with matching service doors fore and aft on the right side of the fuselage, plus toilets fore and aft, and a galley in the rear. Cargo storage was under the floor, with a large cargo door forward and a small cargo door to the aft, both on the right side of the fuselage.

* The BAE 146-200 was very similar to the BAE 146-100, but with a fuselage stretch of 2.39 meters (7 feet 8 inches) to a total length of 28.6 meters (93 feet 9 inches). Maximum seating was 112 passengers in rows of six, though more typical accommodations were 85 passengers in rows of five. Underfloor cargo volume was increased by 35%. Empty weight was raised by about 600 kilograms (1,300 pounds) to 23,880 kilograms (52,650 pounds), while MTO weight was raised by about 4,085 kilograms (9,000 pounds) to 42,185 kilograms (93,000 pounds). The Series 200 retained the ALF 502R-5 turbofans and wingspan of the Series 100. Range was similar to that of the Series 100, though short-field performance was degraded somewhat.

BAE 146-200QT cargo carrier

A "BAE 146-200QT Quiet Trader" variant with a rear cargo loading door on the left side of the aircraft and cargo handling provisions was also built. The -200QT had a total cargo capacity of 11,825 kilograms (26,075 pounds). There had actually been a "BAE 146-100QT" as well, but only one was built.

A "combi" version, capable of being adjusted between various proportions of passenger or freight carriage, was built as well as the "BAE 146-200QC Quick Change". Maximum payload was 10,040 kilograms (22,130 pounds). A VIP transport variant of the -200 was promoted as the "Statesman", with three obtained by the Royal Air Force Queen's Flight as the "BAE 146 CC2". They were once painted with bright red trim, but that later seen as making them too much of a target for terrorist attack, and from 2004 they were painted more like civil airliners. They were also fitted with a defensive countermeasures system at one point, though details are not clear.

* The BAE 146-300 was a further stretched derivative of the BAE 146-100, with the fuselage extended by 4.79 meters (15 feet 8 inches) to 30.99 meters (101 feet 8 inches). Empty weight was raised by about 1,590 kilograms (3,500 pounds) from the Series 100 to 24,880 kilograms (54,850 pounds), while MTO weight was raised by about 6,125 kilograms (13,500 pounds) to 44,225 kilograms (97,500 pounds). Maximum seating was 128 passengers in rows of six, or more reasonably 100 in rows of five. Of course a freighter version, the "BAE 146-300QT", was built along with the standard jetliner configuration.

* The last of the original series BAE 146 jetliners was produced in 1993. Total BAE 146 production (including prototypes) amounted to 222 machines:



* The original BAE 146 family was replaced in production by the "Avro Regional Jet (RJ)" series, which featured AlliedSignal (now Honeywell) LF-507 engines with full authority digital engine control (FADEC), greater fuel efficiency (though not greater thrust), and substantially improved reliability; an updated "Spaceliner" cabin interior; and modernized digital electronics. Modifications to reduce weight and drag were introduced in 1996.

There was little change in external appearance and it is difficult to tell an Avro RJ apart from its BAE 146 equivalent. The "Avro" name was given because the RJs were built at the old Avro plant -- the rationale for the name change appears to have been due to some obscure corporate maneuvering, but whatever the petty details, in the end the Avro RJ jetliners were still BAE Systems products. Three RJ models were introduced:

   RJ70:   Updated BAE 146-100
   RJ85:   Updated BAE 146-200
   RJ100:  Updated BAE 146-300

The RJ family was publicly announced in 1990, with the prototype for the first of the new series, an RJ85 machine, performing its initial flight on 23 March 1992. A total of 170 Avro RJ machines was built up to end of production in 2002, including 12 RJ70, 87 RJ85, and 71 RJ100 jetliners. It doesn't appear that any of them were built in QT freighter or QC combi configuration.

* That was not quite the end of the BAE 146 story, since BAE Systems wanted to produce a further updated, extended range "RJX" series of aircraft, using the new Honeywell AS977 turbofan. The AS977 was to improve thrust by 5%, fuel economy by 15%, overall engine operating costs by 20% and provide lower noise levels and emissions. The RJX series would have up to 17% longer range and lower empty weight.

The RJX program was formally launched in 2000, with an "RJX85" machine performing its initial flight on 28 April 2001, and an "RJX100" following on 23 September 2001. A second RJX100 was flown, but the fact that the first one flew less than two weeks after the infamous terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 had a major impact on the program. An economic downturn was in progress at the time, and public nerves over flying resulted in severe pressure on airlines. The RJX program was axed on 27 November 2001. That ended production of the BAE 146 family at 394 aircraft.

Most of the machines remain in service. BAE Systems has introduced a cockpit upgrade to provide modern flat-panel displays and some new avionics to the first-generation BAE 146 machines, though it hardly amounts to a full "glass cockpit" upgrade. In 2007, BAE introduced a program for conversions to BAE 146QT freighter configuration; it does not appear that avionics updates are included in that exercise. The first Quiet Trader refurbished in the program was obtained by Amerer Air of Austria in 2008, and was a conversion of a Series 200 machine.

Other companies are also interested in updating the BAE 146. Cordner Aviation Group of Germany has promoted a rebuild named the "Surveyor" for the mining industry, capitalizing on the BAE 146's ability to operate from short strips. The update will involve changes to enhance the aircraft's ability to operate off of rough strips, as well as a new interior to reduce weight and permit quick-change to VIP or medical evacuation configurations. Cordner believes that rebuilt BAE 146s offer excellent value for low cost.

A number of BAE 146 / RJ85 machines have been or are being converted to a "water bomber" or "air tanker" configuration for fighting wildfires in the USA, replacing elderly piston-powered converted warbirds that have gone beyond their safe airframe lives. The jetliner conversions can carry 11,370 liters (3,000 US gallons) of retardant and can get to a fire much more quickly than the aircraft they replaced.



* There were few unusual variants of the BAE 146. One of the most distinctive is the "BAE 146-301ARA", where "ARA" stood for "Atmospheric Research Aircraft". It was built from the prototype Series 300 aircraft, itself a rebuild of the first prototype Series 100, and is used by the British Facility for Airborne Atmospheric Measurements. The ARA was handed over in early 2004. It features additional fuel tanks in the cargo hold, Honeywell LF-507 turbofans, limited cockpit improvements, a set of workstations for a typical complement of ten researchers, and a clutter of external sensors mounted on the fuselage and wings.

Other specialized variants didn't get off the ground. BAE flew a demonstrator of a "BAE 146-100STA" fitted with inflight refueling kit for military service, but nobody bought it. Other military versions were considered, including fairly straightforward modifications of cargo / combi variants; a heavily modified cargolifter variant with a rear loading ramp; a search and rescue variant; and an inflight refueling tanker. Nobody bit on any of them, though BAE did update two BAE 146-200QC machines, obtained from TNT Airways of Belgium, for RAF field service in 2012, complementing the two Royal Flight machines. The two refurbished RAF machines were fitted with defensive countermeasures, along with militarized avionics as required.

An "RJ115" variant of the RJ100 was offered, featuring extra emergency exits to permit carriage of up to 128 passengers, and an "Avro Business Jet" variant of the RJ series was promoted as well, but nobody bought them either.

BAE 146 RJ120

One interesting proposed civil variant was the "RJ120", which was stretched to 35.26 meters (115 feet 8 inches) to give a passenger capacity of 125 with single-class 5-abreast seating and up to 139 with single-class 6-abreast seating. It also has a larger, redesigned wing with winglets, and twin engines, such as the CFM56. It was another nonstarter.



* For whatever reasons, I've always liked the BAE 146, finding in a tidy aircraft. I was going through a period of focusing on short aircraft writeups in hopes of freeing up schedule time for longer documents, and when I got some nice pix of the BAE 146 while planespotting at Denver International Airport (DIA), it seemed like an obvious choice to document. The DIA-bound BAE 146-200s were in United colors but as it turned out, they were owned by Air Wisconsin, the aircraft's launch customer, with five machines operated under contract to United. I was lucky to catch them, since United axed the contract in April 2006. I was also lucky to see several BAE 146 air tankers while driving through Missoula, Montana in 2012.

BAE 146 air tanker

I vaguely recall I've flown on a BAE 146 twice. I found it a very cozy ride, one flight involving a memorable take-off from San Francisco after nightfall, with the city lit up in the growing dark. One of the things I noticed while shooting the type on approach at DIA was that it goes from clean and tidy to amusingly cluttered when it's "down and dirty", with flaps extended and the tail airbrake out. I felt a little dense when I learned that it had been specifically designed for short-field operation: I should have been able to figure that out just by looking at it when it was coming in for a landing.

* As concerns copyrights and permissions for this document, all illustrations and images credited to me are public domain. I reserve all rights to my writings. However, if anyone does want to make use of my writings, just contact me, and we can chat about it. I'm lenient in giving permissions, usually on the basis of being properly credited.

* Sources include:

Details were also obtained from the AIRLINERS.NET site, as well as Stefano Pagiola's comprehensive SMILINER site.

* Revision history:

   v1.0.0 / 01 apr 06 
   v1.0.1 / 01 mar 08 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.2 / 01 feb 10 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.3 / 01 jan 12 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.4 / 01 mar 13 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.5 / 01 feb 15 / Review & polish.
   v1.0.6 / 01 jan 17 / Review & polish.