With Air France ordering Caravelle short-haul jetliners in 1956, BEA had little choice but to order a fleet of six (upgraded to seven) de Havilland Comet 4Bs in April 1958. The stretched 99-passenger variant entered BEA service in November 1959, initially as a stopgap until the Trident could take over. This BEA Comet 4B is seen being loaded in July 1960.
In October 1963 the fifth production Trident, G-ARPE, undertook the type’s first overseas sales tour, which covered Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Pakistan and Syria. John Cunningham was at the controls for the tour, accompanied by BEA Captains A.S. Johnson and W.R. Mitchell. “Papa Echo” is seen here at Tokyo-Narita in Japan, where de Havilland was keen to garner orders from Japanese airline All Nippon. None materialised, unfortunately. Note the open No 2 engine access doors.
A magnificent publicity photograph of the third Trident 1, G-ARPC, which appeared alongside the first two examples at the SBAC show at Farnborough in September 1962, a mere two weeks after its first flight on August 25. Despite the innovative jetliner’s sleek lines and excellent performance, its development suffered from political interference from the outset.
The first Trident, G-ARPA, made its maiden flight on January 9, 1962, in the hands of John Cunningham, before undertaking a thorough trials programme. “Papa Alpha” is seen here roaring away on one such test flight. A stellar performer in the air, the type acquired the nickname “groundgripper” owing to its reluctance to get airborne.
With its elegant, aerodynamically efficient contours and powerful Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines - as used in contemporary fighters such as the Blackburn Buccaneer and McDonnell Douglas F-4K Phantom - the Trident boasted superb performance in the cruise, often sustaining speeds of up to 600-610 m.p.h. (965-980 km/h).
Flying the flag for Britain - tenth production Trident 1 G-ARPJ lifts its nose as it departs Hatfield. “Papa Juliet” was delivered to BEA in May 1964 and served with the airline until March 1975. In the next article in this series, the author takes a look at the equally troubled procurement of the Vickers VC10 for BOAC.
An artist’s impression of the D.H.121 as initially proposed to BEA in the spring of 1957, incorporating a straight-through intake for the No 2 engine and a low-set tailplane. By 1958 the design had been revised to include a T-tail and an S-shaped duct feeding air to the No 2 engine buried in the tail.
An artist’s impression of the Bristol 200, designed by project office staff at Filton to BEA’s specification for a subsonic short-range jetliner. Similar in configuration to the D.H.121, with three rear-mounted engines and a high-T-tail, the unbuilt Bristol 200 had a span of 91ft (27-75m), and was to accommodate 79-99 passengers.
Another contender for the BEA specification was Avro, which proposed an unusual design in which the No 2 engine would sit atop the rear fuselage between the fins of the V-tail.