Re: What happened to the BA146?

From:         Stefano Pagiola <spagiola@worldbank.org>
Organization: worldbank
Date:         23 May 96 10:05:37 
References:   1 2
Followups:    1 2
Next article
View raw article
  or MIME structure

tlong@mail.vcnet.com (Tim Long) wrote:
>I seem to remember around 1982 or so, PSA (later merged into USAir)
>started flying the BA146. Lots of bragging about being the quietest
>commercial jet aircraft flying at the time.I know they're still marketed
>as the Avro RJ 100 or some such, but why so few of them? They would only
>be 14 years old or so; you would expect them to still be flying/common.
>What caused them to not become popular? Reliability? Cost of maintaining 4
>engines?

The BAe 146 is still marketed as the Avro RJ series.  (The RJ100 is one
of 3 versions on offer, with a longer fuselage as on the 146-300.) They
are indeed exceptionally quiet.  Ultra-noise sensitive Orange County allows
them unlimited access.  Their combination of quietness and short-field
performance gives them access to many small, noise-sensitive airports near
city centers (until recently, they were the only jet allowed into London
City airport; others include Belfast, Florence; on the sheer performance
side, they are the only jet allowed into Aspen airport).  When configured
with 5-abreast seating, they are also very comfortable, since the fuselage
is actually wider than on a DC-9/MD-80.

Why so few?  Well, define "few".  Over 280 have been built so far.  That's
nothing to the 737's 2,800, but its more than the One-Eleven and Caravelle.
More than the Fokker 100 (but not more than the combined F28/F100 total).
They continue to be in production, with large recent orders from Swissair
(10 RJ100s for operation by subsidiary Crossair, supplementing 4 smaller
RJ85s), Lufthansa (15 RJ85s), and SABENA (23 RJ85s for operation by
subsidiary DAT).

Early-build aircraft did have quite a few problems which made them less
than spectacular from a maintenance perspective.  Many were bought or
leased by small airlines with insufficient resources; when these airlines
went under, a glut of used aircraft was created.  Also, BAe was not the
most efficient manufacturer in the 1980s; indeed, the 146 was built on
two different production lines, at Hatfield and Woodford.  These problems
have now been resolved.  Swissair and Lufthansa would not have ordered
them if they had still been unreliable (remember Swissair already operated
Fokker 100s at the time, while Lufthansa was strongly encouraged to buy
Fokker 100s since Fokker at the time was owned by a German company).  BAe
has also improved its cost of manufacturing quite substantially, shutting
the Hatfield line and making other improvements (something Fokker proved
unable to do).  They have also capped production at (if memory serves) 18
annually; this helps explain why "so few".  BAe has also been very
successful in remarketing the idle 146s.  None are idle at this time,
except for the remaining USAir aircraft (see below) and 5 Thai
International aircraft.

As for PSA:
PSA started operating BAe 146s in 1984, not 1982.  They operated 24 -200s
as well as several -100s on short-term lease.  One crashed after a
disgruntled employee killed the pilots.  USAir took them over when they
bought PSA, but several were sold.  USAir eventually parked the remaining
18 aircraft in the desert after it abandoned the California routes it
acquired from PSA.  They have been there since (with USAir making payments
on the leases all the time).  Recently, some have been returned to service
(Jet Aspen leased several, as did Debonair, World Airways, and Titan in
the UK).

Stefano