MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the prototype British Aerospace BAe 146 took to the skies for the first time from Hatfield, Hertfordshire in 1981.

First launched in August 1973 as the Hawker Siddeley (HS) 146, it was designed to fill the gap between turboprops such as the HS 748 and Fokker F27, and small jets such as the BAC One-Eleven and Boeing 737.

However, the project was quickly shelved following the 1973 oil crisis and subsequent economic downturn. HS was absorbed into the nationalized BAe in 1977 and the project was resurrected.

Avro RJ85 belonging to Swiss (LX) rotates at London City Airport (LCY). Swiss retired its last example on August 15, 2017, after 27 years of 146/RJ operations. (Photo: BAe Systems)

Entry into Service


The 146 was marketed as a low-maintenance, low operating cost, feeder jet-airliner, designed for regional and short-haul markets. Líneas Aéreas Privadas Argentinas (MJ) placed the first order for the type in June 1981. It entered revenue service with Dan Air on May 27, 1983, with a flight between London Gatwick (LGW) and Berne (BRN). Highlighting the type’s short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities, the flight was the first commercial jet service into the small airport serving the Swiss capital.

Dan Air was the launch customer of the BAe 146, ordering two -100 series in 1982. (Photo: Eduard Marmet, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons)

Variants


Three variants of the 146 were built: -100, -200, and -300. In 1992 BAe announced an upgrade to the aircraft, now referred to as the Avro ‘Regional Jet’ (RJ). Models included the RJ70, RJ85, and RJ100. Changes included new turbofan engines and an upgraded flight deck and avionics.

A further upgrade dubbed the Avro RJX was announced in 2000. But the project never got off the ground and was canceled in November 2001. Production of the RJ once referred to as “The world’s quietest jetliner,” ended in late 2003. In total 387 BAe 146/Avro RJs were built.


Featured image: The Bae 146/Avro RJ revolutionized operations at London City Airport and for many years was the only jet allowed to fly to and from the facility. (Photo: BAe Systems)