The Shorts Family: The 360, Skyvan and 330 (left to right) flying in formation at the Farnborough Air Show in 1982. (Photo: wiltshirespotter, CC BY-SA 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

MIAMI – Today in Aviation, the prototype Shorts 330 (G-BSBH) made its maiden flight in 1974, launching commercial operations that same year.

The 330 can trace its history back to the Shorts Skyvan, which first flew in 1963. This “general purpose” aircraft proved popular. Buoyed by its success, the manufacturer looked at designing a bigger and better version that was more refined and appealing to Western airlines.

Shorts 330 of Mississippi Valley Airlines pictured at MSP in 1985 (Photo: Eduard Marmet, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL 1.2, via Wikimedia Commons)

US Market Focus


The US market was of particular interest to Shorts. Airlines at the time were moving to a hub-and-spoke operation. This saw smaller commuter aircraft used to feed passengers to larger jets at airlines major hubs.

Henson Airlines Short 330 at Baltimore September 11, 1983. Photo: Wiki Commons.

Market research carried out predicted demand for approximately 300 aircraft in the regional category in the US alone between 1972 and 1981.

Skyvan Upgrade


Rather than develop a clean-sheet design, the 330 bore many similarities to the Skyvan. The boxy fuselage became a key selling point of the type. The ‘wide-body’ style cabin comfortably accommodated 30 passengers and was designed by Walter Dorwin Teague Associates of New York, in collaboration with Boeing. The interior was made to feel like a modern airliner with air-conditioning, overhead lockers, toilet and galley area.

Two weeks after its maiden flight, G-BSBH attended the Farnborough Air Show, gaining much attention from potential customers. The first order came from Canadian regional operator Time Air, who launched flights with the type on August 24, 1974.

G-BSBH pictured at the Farnborough Air Show in 1974. (Photo: Steve Fitzgerald (GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html or GFDL 1.2 http://www.gnu.org/licenses/old-licenses/fdl-1.2.html), via Wikimedia Commons)

As planned 52% of 330s built went in to serve in the US.