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The last two BAC1-11’s about two retire. (article courtesy of Air-Britain Facebook page)

A looming farewell to the world’s last two flying BAC One-Elevens — this just in from TAH author Tom Singfield:

I’ve just received the news we’ve all been dreading for sometime now, the retirement announcement of Northrop Grumman’s pair of BAC 1-11s, N162W & N164W, the world’s last two airworthy 1-11s! All we need now is a final and very fitting “formation” flight from NG!!!

Below is a copy of their statement:

In the beginning, there was the BAC 1-11. Manufactured by the British Aircraft Corp., it was the second short-haul passenger jet to enter service as the aviation industry moved from propeller-driven to jet-powered aircraft. The plane was introduced in 1965 and used by several major airlines before production ceased in 1989. In all, 244 BAC 1-11s were built, mostly by the British and a few by a Romanian aircraft manufacturer.
Today, there are only two flying. Both are based at Northrop Grumman’s BWI Flight Test facility. But not for long. The two aircraft will be eased out of service because of age starting this year, to be replaced by two CRJ 700s, which are manufactured by Bombardier Aerospace of Canada. It will be the end of an era. “The BAC 1-11 is a very good airplane, built like airplanes should be built,” says Michael Serafin, chief of aircraft airworthiness and Federal Aviation Administration liaison for Flight Test. The first planes were designed and built in the early 1960s after the deHavilland Comet jetliner suffered three mid-air breakups that were later traced to structural deficiencies. The goal was to make the BAC 1-11 as sturdy as possible. The designers succeeded. “It’s a really strong and robust aircraft,” says Paul Schulz, chief of engineering for Flight Test. “It can take very high inertial loads. It’s a very forgiving airplane.” The planes gradually fell out of favour with the airlines because their engines exceeded federal noise standards. Northrop Grumman has obtained an exemption from those standards to keep them flying, says Schulz. While they’re no longer suitable for moving passengers, they’re perfect, it turns out, for testing a variety of Northrop Grumman products. In fact, the BAC 1-11s played a crucial role in a number of major programs. The company acquired its first BAC 1-11 in 1984, followed by a second five years later. They are still in use. A third plane also joined the fleet — it had served as one of former President George W. Bush’s campaign planes — but was retired to an aircraft graveyard in the Mojave Desert and is now one of two BAC 1-11s there used for spare parts. The aircraft — which can carry up to 1,750 pounds of radar equipment — are true workhorses for Flight Test, which has eight planes in its fleet. The BAC 1-11s have been used to test systems for the U.S. Air Force’s Advanced Tactical Fighter; the multirole electronically scanned array (MESA) radar antenna for the Wedgetail aircraft; sensors and radars for the F-22 and F-35 fighters and the B-1B bomber; early versions of Actively Electronic Scanned Array (AESA) radar; and all systems for F-16 fighters sold to the United Arab Emirates. They’ve also served as test beds for LITENING targeting pods, along with a variety of navigation, electronic warfare, targeting and infrared countermeasures (IRCM) systems. “It’s been a real marvel from our point of view,” says Rich Batdorf, who flew the planes as a test pilot for Northrop Grumman. Because they can test systems under real conditions, the BAC 1-11s and other test aircraft are credited with helping to get products to market, and into the hands of the military, more quickly. “Something that may take three years to design, build and test, we can do in a year,” notes Mark Falica, manager of aircraft maintenance. “We can get products to the field much quicker and as a result, we’re saving lives.” Unfortunately, age is catching up to the BAC 1-11s, both of which were built in 1966 and marked 50 years of service last August. As they get older, parts wear out. With planes built that long ago, and no longer in production, those parts can be hard to find. And a total overhaul is out of the question. That can cost $3 million. “Economically, it gets more difficult every year to keep them flying,” Schulz explains. So, Flight Test relies on the two spare planes it has in the Mojave desert. It also has two representatives under contract in the United Kingdom who keep an eye out for parts. And occasionally, a part can be manufactured at Mission Systems at BWI. But time is running out. “You never know when something critical is going to go wrong and you can’t get the right part,” Falica says. “These planes can require a lot of maintenance time.” Enter the CRJ 700, originally designed as a passenger aircraft. The company has bought two; one is at BWI and nearly ready to begin testing products, while the other is being modified in Melbourne, Fla., for test flight use. It should be ready in the first quarter of next year. Plans are in the works for the purchase of a third. In the meantime, the two BAC 1-11s (registration numbers N162W and N164W) are moving toward retirement. Sixty-two will leave service this year, with 64 to follow in 2019 or 2020. And so, the BAC 1-11, a pioneer in passenger jet travel, will become part of history.

(N162W is ex G-AXCP, N164W is ex G-AXCK – both were Dan-Air London)

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