About the BAe146

ROLE

Exclusively operated out of RAF Northolt by 32 (The Royal) Squadron, the BAe 146 is primarily tasked in the Command Support Air Transport (CSAT) role.  Two 146 variants are operational, the VIP-configured CC.Mk 2 and the Quick Change (QC) C.Mk 3, which can be rapidly converted between passenger and cargo configurations.

The CC2’s primary role is the transport of senior government ministers and Ministry of Defence (MOD) personnel and, most famously, senior members of the Royal Family, although this work represents by far the minority of 32(TR) Sqn’s tasking.  If required, the 146’s defensive aids suite (DAS) also offers government ministers and high-ranking military leaders protection during visits overseas where a risk to security is perceived.

Outside VIP work, the CC.Mk 2 has an operational role in-theatre, providing essential support to military commanders by moving personnel and smaller freight items.  The type’s presence also enables key face-to-face engagement between commanders and their personnel, coalition partners and host nation leadership representatives.

Purchased as a pair of ex-TNT 146-200QC aircraft in 2012, the C.Mk 3s entered service in 2013 after modifications, including the addition of a DAS, for RAF service.  They have made a considerable contribution to tactical airlift capability, taking on missions that might otherwise have taken larger aircraft off their primary tasking.

CAPABILITY

The BAe 146 is a quiet, rugged, self-sufficient aircraft equipped with comprehensive back-up systems.  This enables it to operate away from base for long periods with little external support.  The CC2 is extremely versatile, with excellent shortfield performance, good ‘hot-and-high’ airfield capability (operating off hot climate/high altitude runways), and has the ability to fly from semi-prepared landing strips.

The C3 retains the 10ft 11in × 6ft 4in (3.33 × 1.93m) rear-fuselage freight door of the civilian QC model, providing for convenient loading of palletised freight.  Alternatively, palletised passenger seats may be rapidly installed.  Thanks to their similarity, crews operate either 146 variant.

On the ground the BAe 146 shows off its high-set wing and rugged short undercarriage.
Height-set wing and rugged undercarriage.
Image by: Cpl Ben Tritta

TYPE HISTORY

Hawker Siddeley announced plans to develop the four-engined HS146 airliner in August 1973.  It was envisaged as an unusual machine from the outset, employing relatively low powered turbofans and offering exceptional field performance over short routes.  With the UK economy declining soon after the announcement, however, work continued only at a trickle, before Hawker Siddeley was absorbed into the nationalised British Aerospace (BAe) in 1977.

On July 10, 1978, BAe announced its decision to proceed with a full 146 programme, rolling out the first BAe 146-100 prototype on May 20, 1981.  Designed for a maximum of 93 passengers, the Series 100 flew for the first time on September 3, 1981 and completed its first revenue service, with Dan-Air, on May 27, 1983.  In June of that year, two leased 146-100s temporarily joined the ranks at RAF Brize Norton.  Designated 146 CC.Mk 1, they evaluated the type as a possible replacement for the Andover turboprops then in service with The Queen’s Flight.

Meanwhile, BAe was busy producing the lengthened 146-200, which sacrificed some of the -100’s airfield capability for additional capacity, and the longer-still 146-300.  Quiet Trader variants of all three models were available, while availability of the Quick Change convertible variants of the 146-200QT and -300QT was announced in 1988.

BAe also offered the Statesman VIP version of all three base models and it was this, applied to the 146-100, that formed the basis of an initial order for two 146 CC.Mk 2 aircraft, the first of them delivered to the RAF in April 1986. A third machine was ordered in 1989, but one of the three was sold in 2002.

During the early 1990s, BAe reinvented the 146 as the Avro RJ series of regional airliners.  These, and the original design, achieved considerable commercial success and remain in widespread service. 

Header image by Cpl Ben Tritta

Based at

Flying with

Specifications

BAe 146 CC.Mk 2:

  • Powerplant: four 6,970lb st (31kN) Honeywell ALF502R-5 turbofans
  • Length: 85ft 11½in (26.19m)
  • Height: 28ft 3in (8.61m)
  • Wingspan: 86ft 5in (26.34m)
  • Wing area: 832sqft (77.29m2)
  • Maximum take-off weight: 84,000lb (38,102kg)
  • Cruising speed at 30,000ft: around 380kt (709km/h)
  • Typical range: 1,400nm (2,593km)
  • Typical cruising altitude: 30,000ft

BAe 146 C.Mk 3 As CC.Mk 2 except:

  • Length: 93ft 10in (28.60m)
  • Typical range: 1,200nm (2,222km)