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Why The Decline Of British Airliner Industry?  
User currently offlineYVRLTN From Canada, joined Oct 2006, 2560 posts, RR: 0
Posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 8 hours ago) and read 9731 times:

While this question is inextricably linked to military aviation and government / political decisions & ideologies, I would like it to stay in this forum so we can particularly look at what caused the decline of the British airliner manufacturing industry.

Up to and soon after WW2 Britain was a leading light in aircraft manufacture and there were dozens of companies producing all sorts of different aircraft, many of which could easily be adapted to civilian uses if they were not adapted the other way around in the first place for the war effort.

Obviously a lot of this advance in technology and prowess was spurred by the war. Afterwards I know a lot of "talent" emigrated to the USA to work on various military & space projects, particularly as the Cold War heated up. The war too obviously spurred on the US aircraft manufacturing industry, particularly companies like Douglas, Boeing, Lockheed & Consolidated with their transports, bombers & reconaissance aircraft.

The immediate post-war years were then times of great austerity and of many surplus pilots & aircraft, so civil aviation for the next 10 years or so was largely plied by ex war time machines. The need then became apparant for all new airliners to replace these old aircraft which the emergence of intercontinental flying and the rise in IT packages in Europe.

There were still numerous British success stories during this time and many manufacturers.

DH is probably the most famous, with the Comet kicking off the airliner jet age. In retrospect, it was largely flawed compared to the 707 & DC8 of course, but DH were still the cutting edge of airliner technology. The older Rapides were a staple of both pre and post war flying, then there was the Dove & Heron and they started the heritage of the very successful 125 bizjet and 146 post Hawker Siddeley merger days - more on that later...

Then theres Vickers, their Viscount for example was considered a successful aircraft for selling 444 examples, just 2-3 orders of A320neo's today of course, but a very important airliner in its time. I guess the Vanguard & military projects killed them.

Then theres BAC, their 1-11 was moderately successful, despite being ultimately inferior to the 737 & DC9. What could have been if it was stretched & re-engined? And what to say about Concorde when it comes to pioneering technology?

Avro made arguably the best bomber of the war until the B29 came along (theres a clue maybe?!) which could have served as a basis for airliners, of course the Lancastrian was a converted bomber. They of course came up with the 748, which again was moderately successful under the hands of HS.

Handley Page likewise, they had the pre-war airliner marker tied up for Imperial Airways and had a reasonable bomber in the shape of the Halifax, again which served along with the York extensively in Britain post war. They had the Herald which never took off compared to the F27 and the original Jetstream.

Shorts, depsite the average Stirling bomber, seemed to fix on flying boats with the Sunderland and other civilian versions. They had a brief revival with the Skyvan which progressed to the moderately successful 330/360.

Time does not permit to speak of Airspeed, Miles, Percival, Armstrong Whitworth and no doubt others.

So merger merger merger bancruptcy bancruptcy bancruptcy and lots of politics later, we wind up with with British Aerospace and Shorts into the 1980's.

The 1-11 gets sold off to Romania despite the introduction of new engine technology - was there no chance to challenge the 737 & DC9? Boeing came up with the classic family and MDD the MD80 family. Why could BAe not have done the same with the 111? Or was the hat thrown 100% into the Airbus ring for large airliners and the A320 was going to be the sole challenger from Europe?

Then there was the 146. That had moderate success despite it 4 engines - which by the way were pretty advanced for their time if somewhat temperamental in their early days (basic GTF's I understand). It was then moderately successful again when relaunched as the ARJ. As we know the RJX was cancelled despite interest / MOU's.

The Jetstream 31 was a successful development of the original Astazou powered HP137. But that market has come and gone, the stretched 41 wasnt too successful.

The HS748 developed into the Super 748 then stretched to the ATP with very limited success against the Dash 8 and ATR. With the recent turboprop resurgence, could something have been made of this frame? Its a very rugged & tough frame, hence 748's still flying in Arctic Canada. Obviously the Jetstream 61 renaming didnt even get off the ground.

Then there was the brief AI(R) experiment with ATR.

Finally the 125 bizjet, a huge success story and sold off to Raytheon, where it is still manufactured and developed as the Hawker family, the name even taking over the existing Beechjet model.

BAe then let all this slide to concentrate on missiles and weapons and make wings for Airbus.

Shorts I guess came to a dead end with the unpressurized 360 and sold out to Bombardier and ended up making Embraer's under license for the RAF and components for CRJ's and now the C Series.

One unsung success story is the Britten-Norman Islander, still in production I believe and is second only to the A320 family in most produced airframes in Europe since WW2!  Wow!

Airbus is of course the big gorilla in the room as it were, but how and why did such a rich, varied, innovative wealth of civilian airliner prowess end up as a wing manufacturer for Airbus??!

Apologies for the long winded post - thanks for reading and appreciate any thoughts & particularly history.


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39 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
 
User currently offlinedstc47 From Ireland, joined Sep 1999, 1492 posts, RR: 3
Reply 1, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 9594 times:

One rarely cited reason is the Concorde - which became such a money wasting project that that other civil projects could not be funded. True whether you like Concorde or not, it became a sink hole for scarce funds. British Aerospace simply got out of innovation and new designs, only keeping some of the previous schemes of the component companies, the Avro 146 in particular, concentrating on Airbus wings and military projects.

Not only is British commercial aviation building sadly so dead you will never see another all British commercial aircraft, but British general aviation construction is dead also. Only Balloons and to a limited extent, helicopters, remain.


User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8044 posts, RR: 5
Reply 2, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 23 hours ago) and read 9266 times:

I think what killed the British airliner industry was they were building planes too specific to BOAC and BEA requirements that relatively few airlines outside of the UK wanted. In contrast in the 1950's and 1960's, everybody wanted at least a Boeing jet airliner, and Boeing sold a lot of 707's, 727's and by the late 1960's 737's. The 727 was quite popular in Europe in the 1960's and 1970's, and almost every major European airline flew them until the arrival of the A320 in the late 1980's.

User currently offlinerfields5421 From United States of America, joined Jul 2007, 7607 posts, RR: 32
Reply 3, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 22 hours ago) and read 9120 times:

As jetliners became the standard and the development costs grew, it took a larger and larger economy to support the R&D.

The US barely has an economy to support one major aircraft builder anymore. Several countries in Europe had to band together to reach a sustainable level for another.

It remains to be seen if Canada, Brazil or Russia has the economy to support the level of development for large aircraft, though the first two have carved out a solid niche market in smaller jets.

Military specialized aircraft developers are very dependent upon government programs for survival.

The United Kingdom was one of the worlds leading economies before WWII, it never really recovered from the war, and the loss of the empire.


User currently offlineLX138 From United Kingdom, joined Jul 2009, 404 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 21 hours ago) and read 9017 times:

An interesting discussion. But according to the report below, the UK Aerospace sector is the second largest in the world (I assume they refer to component supplies). It also says up to 25% of the 787 is made in the UK.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-15453020

Regarding the design and entire manufacture of British aircraft - of course there are many different things that have evolved over time - but I hope others will agree that most is based on this one reason:

Most of the UK manufacturers eventually became what is now BAE Systems. BAE is one of the worlds largest aviation and military contractors. But it was the military strategy they decided to focus on around a decade ago onwards and hence civil manufacturing stopped - that was mainly down to lucrative contracts available in the defence sector. So whilst de Havilland, Vickers and Hawker are not around in name, they are still very much part of what has evolved to become BAE Systems.

It's worth noting that final main assembly of Airbus wings takes place in the UK too, so as a contributor to Airbus, this is still a significant sector.



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User currently offlineMacsog6 From United States of America, joined Jan 2010, 539 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 20 hours ago) and read 8889 times:
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This may sound simplistic, but I think two things damaged the British airframe business beyond repair. The first was square windows. I am, of course, talking about the design flaw in the Comet I. This definitely shook the world's opinion of British engineering which was held in pretty high esteem after the war. During the time this was issue being resolved, Boeing and Douglas were able to launch their designs which, having come later and benefiting from German data, were more advanced aircraft. The catering to BOAC and BEA (recall the Trident) also did not help.

The other factor was Concorde. As was mentioned above, it sucked up so much capital that no other project could secure funding. There were some good designs, but the decisions taken were that a giant step had to be made. and that step caused a stumble.

Britain still has a robust aircraft industry, just not as an airframer.



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User currently offlineViscount724 From Switzerland, joined Oct 2006, 26021 posts, RR: 22
Reply 6, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 16 hours ago) and read 8651 times:

Quoting YVRLTN (Thread starter):
but how and why did such a rich, varied, innovative wealth of civilian airliner prowess end up as a wing manufacturer for Airbus??!

Horrible British labour relations in the 1970/80s (and earlier) with frequent strikes and other disruptions made British industry uncompetitive. They've never entirely recovered from that period. Look at the British car industry as another example.

Quoting RayChuang (Reply 2):
I think what killed the British airliner industry was they were building planes too specific to BOAC and BEA requirements that relatively few airlines outside of the UK wanted.

And in some cases, even the British carriers didn't want some of the aircraft designed to meet their requirements. Look at the VC-10 debacle, where BOAC wanted to cancel many of the Super VC-10s they had ordered and replace them with 707-320B/C's, but the British government forced them to accept many of the Super VC-10s. How does it look to other potential customers when even the launch customer wants to switch to a foreign product?

The British aircraft industry also wasted too much of their limited resources on totally unprofitable efforts like the Saunders-Roe Princess flying boat, Bristol Brabazon, Avro Tudor, Handley-Page Hermes, Bristol Britannia Vickers Vanguard, Handley-Page Herald, and the list goes on. The Britannia was a good example of inefficiency. Although only 85 were built, they were assembled in two different locations. The main Bristol plant at Filton didn't have enough capacity so 30 were built by Shorts in Belfast.

There were also too many small independent aircraft manufacturers that should have merged at an earlier stage.

Fortunately there were a few British success stories like the Viscount, Hawker-Siddeley 748 and (to a lesser extent) BAC 1-11 (but why were only 244 1-11s sold compared to 976 DC-9s (not counting MD-80s)?

The BAe146/Avro RJ also turned out to be a good product with almost 400 sold.

[Edited 2011-10-29 15:37:43]

User currently offlinezippyjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 5561 posts, RR: 13
Reply 7, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 11 hours ago) and read 7545 times:

Quoting YVRLTN (Thread starter):
DH is probably the most famous, with the Comet kicking off the airliner jet age. In retrospect, it was largely flawed compared to the 707 & DC8 of course, but DH were still the cutting edge of airliner technology.

Sadly what did the Comet in were those fatal crashes. This ground the Comet program to a screaching halt. It turned out that the window shape caused the metal fatigue which in turn caused these tragedies. By the time the Comet 4 rolled out, the airlines including BOAC already went with the 707. Also the DC 8, and to a lesser extent the Convairs 880 and 990 and the Caravelle were coming to market and were embraced by the flying public and flight crews alike. Interstingly, a lot of airlines ordered Comets when they first came out. The safety plagued unlucky Capital Airlines had an order for them but, their penchant for crashes and financial misfortune nixed their Comet orders. The great Pan Am even had orders and were planning on Comet service. I believe even National Airlines (Airline of the Stars) had orders.

On an up note: Mentioning the successful Viscount, Vickers even experimented mounting two Tay Jet Engines replacing the four Dart Propeller turbo props. However this was only a prototype and never made into production.

http://www.airteamimages.com/pics/98/98765_big.jpg



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User currently offlineYVRLTN From Canada, joined Oct 2006, 2560 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7324 times:

Thanks for the many intersting replies addressing different aspects.

Quoting dstc47 (Reply 1):
but British general aviation construction is dead also

This is an area which I feel is a real loss. A Cessna 172 type aircraft is not hard to design, yet today every GA field globally is filled with Cessna's & Piper's with tens of thousands built. Until the mid 50's, the DH Tiger Moth owned the trainer & personal aircraft market. Companies like Percival and Miles also made great touring aircraft which were used to set many records and so on. Why was this area abandoned? Why no Tiger Moth replacement?

Quoting RayChuang (Reply 2):
building planes too specific to BOAC and BEA requirements

This is a point I neglected to mention, specifically the Trident and VC10. The Trident was a dog vs the 727 thanks to BEA. The VC10 is a legend, but I supposed an analogy would be if the current 77L only existed on its own, it needed the accompanying family. The planned VC7 and others of course never had the funding to go anywhere. I think in the case of Vickers, they sank a lot of money into the Valiant for the RAF nuclear bomber contest and lost.

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 3):
The United Kingdom was one of the worlds leading economies before WWII, it never really recovered from the war, and the loss of the empire.

Interesting post, something I had never really thought about. Thank you. Ironic that the German economy is in better shape...

Quoting LX138 (Reply 4):
the UK Aerospace sector is the second largest in the world (I assume they refer to component supplies). It also says up to 25% of the 787 is made in the UK.

That is also a surprise.

Quoting LX138 (Reply 4):
It's worth noting that final main assembly of Airbus wings takes place in the UK too, so as a contributor to Airbus, this is still a significant sector.

I suppose the summary of the discussion is that it is far more profitable to contribute to a very successful Airbus and as a parts supplier than maintain a dedicated industry.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 6):
Horrible British labour relations in the 1970/80s (and earlier) with frequent strikes and other disruptions made British industry uncompetitive. They've never entirely recovered from that period. Look at the British car industry as another example

That is an analogy I was thinking of, what an embarassment Britain became within 30 years.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 6):
The British aircraft industry also wasted too much of their limited resources on totally unprofitable efforts like the Saunders-Roe Princess flying boat, Bristol Brabazon, Avro Tudor, Handley-Page Hermes, Bristol Britannia Vickers Vanguard, Handley-Page Herald, and the list goes on. The Britannia was a good example of inefficiency. Although only 85 were built, they were assembled in two different locations. The main Bristol plant at Filton didn't have enough capacity so 30 were built by Shorts in Belfast

So government interference was a big factor - Brabazon Committee - and management incompetence, looking for prowess rather than making money or doing things on the cheap with a short sighted outlook. Boeing and Douglas risked the house, read the market and fortune rewarded the brave.

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 6):
BAC 1-11 (but why were only 244 1-11s sold compared to 976 DC-9s (not counting MD-80s)?

The 1-11 was a good aircraft once the T-tail stall related issues were resolved. It broke into the US market. I think it should have been stretched and it needed another engine than the Spey. Cant beat the JT8? Get on board with the winner, sure Pratt wouldnt have said no... There were plans to re-engine them with the Tay by Dee Howard in the early 90's. Somthing like this during its production life could have turned into something competitive. I guess the A320 was the better bet...

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 7):
a lot of airlines ordered Comets when they first came out.

Likewise Concorde. Back then, it was the race to own the latest and greatest. Unfortunately it wasnt much later to find out the 707 then DC8 were greater.

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 7):
Vickers even experimented mounting two Tay Jet Engines replacing the four Dart Propeller turbo props

Didnt the Tay not come out until the mid 80's for use on the GLF4 & F100? Thought it was the Nene.



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User currently offlinemaxpower1954 From United States of America, joined Sep 2008, 1159 posts, RR: 7
Reply 9, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7299 times:

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 7):
I believe even National Airlines (Airline of the Stars) had orders.

Actually National was very interested in the Avro C-102 Jetliner, and was fully intent on ordering them if it went into production. Which, of course it didn't. I don't believe NAL ever had any interest in the Comet.

The De Havilland DH-114 Heron I flew over 30 years ago was very complex for such a basic airplane. The landing gear, flaps and even brakes were pneumatically operated, reportedly for weight savings but it was fickle and difficult to maintain. When we got rid of them for DC-3s the difference in reliability was dramatic. My fellow pilots that have flown both the BAC-1-11 and DC-9 essentially have told me the same thing - the 1-11 systems were complicated and prone to issues, compared to the stone-simple cable and pulley DC-9. In airline operations, dispatch reliabilty is one of the most important parameters, after operating economics.

I have a great respect for the British - but sometimes English engineering makes me scratch my head. I have a friend with a 1960 Austin Healey and he is constantly battling some gremlin, mostly electrical (thank you, Lucas). My 1963 Studebaker on the other hand is like a DC-8...stone-simple, rugged and easy to maintain. Sorry to go off on a tangent...I hope I haven't offended my U.K. friends!


User currently offlineMasseyBrown From United States of America, joined Dec 2002, 5604 posts, RR: 7
Reply 10, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7279 times:

I think the Britannia should be considered a success despite its lack of sales. The plane certainly performed well once the early engine problems were solved. It outlasted its DC-7C and L-1649 competitors.

If the UK/Commonwealth civil and military markets had been more robust in the late 40's and 50's, things might have been different.

[Edited 2011-10-29 21:05:29]


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User currently offlineYVRLTN From Canada, joined Oct 2006, 2560 posts, RR: 0
Reply 11, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7194 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 9):
I have a great respect for the British - but sometimes English engineering makes me scratch my head. I have a friend with a 1960 Austin Healey and he is constantly battling some gremlin, mostly electrical (thank you, Lucas). My 1963 Studebaker on the other hand is like a DC-8...stone-simple, rugged and easy to maintain. Sorry to go off on a tangent...I hope I haven't offended my U.K. friends!

Valid point - Im British and not at all offended   The Lotus is actually an acronym - Lots Of trouble Usually Serious   Up to WW2 anyway, British products were always regarded as top quality - Rolls Royce et al. I guess they had a tendency to over engineer and failing to keep it simple as technology moved on had side effects. If aircraft are known to be a mx nightmare = costs & schedule disruption and annoyed pax, then its understandable why airlines would steer clear of them. Thanks for that perspective.



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User currently offlinemilesrich From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 2012 posts, RR: 6
Reply 12, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 10 hours ago) and read 7192 times:

The UK's Airliner Industry suffered for the following reasons, all of which have contained in the various posts but here is a summary.

1. The industry was at a disadvantage after WWII vis a vis the US, because of the terrible cost of war that the UK suffered.
2. Rather than building airplanes that appealed to many customers, they built airliners specified by the a Government Comittee (The Barbizon Committee) and two state owned airlines, BOAC and BEA.
3. They did come up with two revolutionary aircraft, one of which was very successful, the Viscount, and one that wasn't, the Comet. The Comet's problems were really no one's fault, the technology and knowledge to build large pressurized aircraft flying at high altitudes just wasn't there. The Comet's fatal flaw helped Boeing and Douglas immensely.
4. Too many development delays with aircraft that might have been successful, especially the Britannia, and then the lack of manufacturing space and skill to build them in sufficient quantities.


User currently offlinezippyjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 5561 posts, RR: 13
Reply 13, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 7056 times:

Quoting YVRLTN (Reply 8):
Didnt the Tay not come out until the mid 80's for use on the GLF4 & F100? Thought it was the Nene.

According to a Wikipedia article on the Viscount:

"The second prototype Viscount was named the Type 663 and was built as a testbed. This aircraft fitted with two Rolls-Royce Tay (turbojet) engines and first flew in RAF Markings as VX217 at Wisley on 15 March 1950.[8] It was demonstrated at the Farnborough SBAC Show in September and was later used in the development of powered controls for the Valiant bomber.[5] Subsequently, Boulton Paul Ltd used it as a test bed for electronic control systems[9] until scrapping in 1960 at Seighford airfield, Staffordshire."

Pictures of these prototypes are all in black and white, I wonder what the performance was with the two jet engines. How fast could it go?

http://www.aviastar.org/air/england/vickers_tayviscount.php
Has further information.  Smile

[Edited 2011-10-29 21:48:11]


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User currently offlinefrmrCapCadet From United States of America, joined May 2008, 1744 posts, RR: 1
Reply 14, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 7006 times:

Quoting rfields5421 (Reply 3):
As jetliners became the standard and the development costs grew, it took a larger and larger economy to support the R&D.

The US barely has an economy to support one major aircraft builder anymore. Several countries in Europe had to band together to reach a sustainable level for another.

From the above posts I think the the "glass is half full" are the more likely. Great Britain is not all that huge an economy compared to the giants, but it still is a giant in aviation.



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User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15839 posts, RR: 27
Reply 15, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 9 hours ago) and read 6944 times:

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 13):
Pictures of these prototypes are all in black and white, I wonder what the performance was with the two jet engines. How fast could it go?

Probably not so hot. Generally slapping jets on an aircraft designed as a prop is a poor idea, as it creates a mismatch in the design points of the wing and engines. Just ask Dornier, who went from having a decently fast prop to an extraordinarily slow jet.



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User currently offlineDocGATTACA From Singapore, joined May 2011, 47 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 6814 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 9):
I have a great respect for the British - but sometimes English engineering makes me scratch my head. I have a friend with a 1960 Austin Healey and he is constantly battling some gremlin, mostly electrical (thank you, Lucas). My 1963 Studebaker on the other hand is like a DC-8...stone-simple, rugged and easy to maintain. Sorry to go off on a tangent...I hope I haven't offended my U.K. friends!

There's a reason Joseph Lucas was known as the Prince of Darkness.

As a Brit, no offense taken.


User currently offlinezippyjet From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 5561 posts, RR: 13
Reply 17, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 6786 times:

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 15):
Probably not so hot. Generally slapping jets on an aircraft designed as a prop is a poor idea

Sure enough after I posted my question I found an article where it said the Viscount with the two Tay jet engines was actually faster than the Comet which was designed and built as a pure jet.



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User currently offlineBMI727 From United States of America, joined Feb 2009, 15839 posts, RR: 27
Reply 18, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 8 hours ago) and read 6762 times:

Quoting DocGATTACA (Reply 16):
There's a reason Joseph Lucas was known as the Prince of Darkness.

A guy looking at an old Land Rover asked the salesman why the switch panel wasn't backlit. The salesman replied that "It doesn't need it. All the switches do nothing."

And Brits drink their beer warm because Lucas made the refrigerators.

Supposedly they even patented the short circuit.

Quoting zippyjet (Reply 17):
Sure enough after I posted my question I found an article where it said the Viscount with the two Tay jet engines was actually faster than the Comet which was designed and built as a pure jet.

I doubt it was especially efficient doing it though.



Why do Aerospace Engineering students have to turn things in on time?
User currently offlineRayChuang From United States of America, joined Jun 2000, 8044 posts, RR: 5
Reply 19, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 7 hours ago) and read 6724 times:

In my humble opinion, I think a big waste of time and resources was the HS. 121 Trident, a plane too tied to BEA requirements and also suffered from somewhat underpowered Rolls-Royce Spey engines fitted to that plane. Meanwhile, the Boeing 727 offered more powerful Pratt & Whitney JT8D engines, which meant the original 727-100 model could be "stretched" to the 727-200 model that could seat as many as 189 passengers without the complication of the fourth "booster" engine that the Trident 3B required.

Can you imagine what would have happened if BEA's plan in the 1960's to buy 727's and 737's had gone through. BEA would probably have a large 727/737 fleet when it merged with BOAC in the 1970s.


User currently offlineastuteman From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 10253 posts, RR: 97
Reply 20, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 6663 times:
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Quoting milesrich (Reply 12):
The industry was at a disadvantage after WWII vis a vis the US, because of the terrible cost of war that the UK suffered.

  

Quoting Viscount724 (Reply 6):
Horrible British labour relations in the 1970/80s (and earlier) with frequent strikes and other disruptions made British industry uncompetitive. They've never entirely recovered from that period.

This is probably the single biggest reason, and also contributed to an inability to invest in capital.
Government after government had to pour money into UK industry just to pay the wages.
Disaster.
And what capital investment there was was invariably made along "political" lines, rather than being aligned to the core manufacturing value streams...

I'll also add in there that back then we never "got" (as in understood) the manufacturing philosophies that make modern products such high quality, such as lean, TQM etc

Quoting BMI727 (Reply 18):
And Brits drink their beer warm because Lucas made the refrigerators.

Brits drink their beer warm because it tastes good enough not to have to wash all the flavour out by freezing the damned stuff, unlike that "foreign" muck  

Rgds


User currently offlineVHSMM From Australia, joined Jul 2008, 133 posts, RR: 0
Reply 21, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 6631 times:

Here is my tuppence ha'penny.

Poor senior management with no vision, at least when if comes to large jets.

Perhaps because they paid the price of being an innovator with the Comet and became timid after that. Instead of planning for the future of jet travel they made a decision to be a bit-player. eg instead of developing a large passenger airline to rival the 707/DC8, they decided to focus on the "hot & hight" niche market with the VC-10, then wondered why none of the major foreign airlines bought them. Same with the BAe146 family. Technically advanced but commercially poor.

This isn't to say they didn't have successes Vickers Viscount for example, but sadly they were the exception rather than the rule. Government policy re mergers didn't help either.



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User currently offlinejoelyboy911 From New Zealand, joined Oct 2009, 244 posts, RR: 0
Reply 22, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 6 hours ago) and read 6617 times:

I agree with most of what's been said here, including that the UK is still significant in aerospace manufactureing.

I'm wondering - given the UK has a significant role in Airbus - could we ever see an Airbus assembly line in Britain? They are opening lines for certain families in America and China, on top of the existing ones in France, Germany and Spain, but especially given the increased demands for A320 family, could they open a final assembly point somewhere there? From what I've read they wanted to have final assembly responsibility from the start of the 320 project, but never got it.

I don't know if there are any facilities (the plants used on former BAe constructions?) that could be turned to this use, nor if the present (or any) government is willing to back it anymore, but Airbus seems the most likely way to see airliners being built (final assembly) in Britain for the forseeable future.

Perhaps though, Britain's role is limited to what it is now. But don't forget that Rolls-Royce is one of the biggest manufacturers of aircraft engines, and they power a large percentage of the worlds widebodies, including being the most popular engine option on the A330 (of late), and the only engine on the A340-500 & 600. They will power all A350s, and a good portion of A380s. And that's just on Airbus.

Assembling the airframe is just a small part of building a plane. So the UK is in no way irrelevant to modern airliner production.



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User currently offlineshankly From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2000, 1547 posts, RR: 1
Reply 23, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 6399 times:

Quoting maxpower1954 (Reply 9):
I have a great respect for the British - but sometimes English engineering makes me scratch my head. I have a friend with a 1960 Austin Healey and he is constantly battling some gremlin, mostly electrical (thank you, Lucas). My 1963 Studebaker on the other hand is like a DC-8...stone-simple, rugged and easy to maintain. Sorry to go off on a tangent...I hope I haven't offended my U.K. friends!

Thats a wonderfully astute observation maxpower and rather nicely sums up the approach to British engineering of the 1950's - 1970's where the key target was pushing innovation or creating niche products (VC-10, 146 and Trident) at the expense of mass production and simple reliability

Us Brits were also rather gracious in sharing our innovation and problems

The early RR jet technology was in effect gifted to our US cousins....probably a fair swap given the debt we owe to the US for her support in WW2, but non the less the huge advance we had over the rest of the world was lost in an instant

A little aircraft factory near Reading belonging to Miles had cracked the aerodynamic control issues allowing supersonic flight. The fact that history records the Bell X-1 as the holder of this feat and not the Miles M.52 is a painful fact for some of us Brits.

The metal fatigue from the Comet and deep stall from the T-tailed 1-11 and Trident were widely shared. The morality behind this is something to be proud of, but the commercial advantage that was lost was never recovered

Lots of focus in this debate on Concorde, but in my mind it was two unbuilt products that curtailed the UK as an airframer

Vickers VC-7 - Would have provided a four engined jet tarnsport with transatlantic range four to five years ahead of the 707, DC-8 and Comet 4.

BAC 3-11 - BAC's widebodied 1-11 was well into the design stage when it was finally chopped by typical unvisionary political leadership. What would this aircraft have done? It would have been the airframe that established Airbus rather than the A300. If this had been the case, we would be seeing A320's rolling off UK production lines rather than those in France and Germany



L1011 - P F M
User currently offlinevc10 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1412 posts, RR: 15
Reply 24, posted (3 years 1 month 4 weeks 3 hours ago) and read 6382 times:

Pre and post WW2 Britain's aircraft industry was almost a cottage industry compared to that of the USA and so even if the UK had a successful design it always had difficulty in producing those aircraft quick enough and in large numbers.

To counter this the British industry always tried to leap ahead of the USA in design, so forcing airlines to buy them, however this normally resulted in a flaw in the design which resulted in late delivery of the design. An example of this was the Bristol Britannia which was delayed by it's engine so much that when it did arrive the pure jets were just about to come on the stage .

The other problem was after WW2 all the countries of Europe were bankrupt and relied to a large degree on American aid. Now the majority of this aid came not in cash but as aid to buy American equipment including aircraft. For most European countries this was for many years the only access thay had to foreign currency and so they bought American aircarft. As the UK was just about bankrupt as well it could not give such generous financial aid, as the USA could, and so the chance of selling our aircraft abroad was difficult for the UK ,even if the design was good


25 VV701 : I have been an aviation enthusiast since the early 50s. That was when I cycled To LHR and sat on the grass next to a tent on the north side of LHR. T
26 koruman : I think that the turning point was the TSR-2 cancellation. Up until then, the UK government was committed to having strong and synergistic military an
27 AirbusA6 : Back in the 70s, Britain was short of cash, and with the cost of Concorde, and rescuing RR after bankruptcy, we pulled out of the Airbus A300 project
28 YVRLTN : Thanks again for all the input. Hmm, so was that a different rendition of the Tay as we know it today, certainly looks different, more long and thin J
29 Burkhard : I want add two comments to the many correct ones above. On the pro side, the value that British Industry creates with the Airbus wings is enourmous, I
30 Post contains images astuteman : They may have done once upon a time, but they don't now... GKN on the other hand......... Rgds
31 Post contains links Baroque : Wiki as ever Rolls-Royce Tay is the name of two different jet engines: Rolls-Royce RB.44 Tay, an afterburning turbojet engine, based on the 1940s Rol
32 Post contains links bennett123 : Koruman I disagree with you on the AWACS Nimrod http://uk.ask.com/wiki/British_Aerospace_Nimrod_AEW3?qsrc=3044 iirc, the MOD sank over £1BN into this
33 LX138 : I've never seen that before - thats insane but so cool! How I'd wish that had gone into production. It looks like it could have been a real pocket ro
34 VV701 : I think that the requirement to work on a cost-plus basis reflected what I said earlier, namely that the end specification differed very significantl
35 r2rho : Indeed, the decline is not unique to the aircraft manufacturing industry, but to industry in general in the UK, which over the past couple decades ha
36 AirbusA6 : To be fair, the manufacturing output of the UK is very similar to that of France, it's just less visible. Europe in the 60s and 70s had a whole series
37 mpsrent : I recall as a young child in the mid 60's my father who flew frequently gave me diecast Air Canada models of the Vickers Viscount and Vanguard aircraf
38 FlyCaledonian : I think BEA was more prone to dictate that an aircraft was tailored to its needs than BOAC. Look at the initial order for 18 1-11-500s, that had a un
39 Post contains links bennett123 : Individual Histories - XR809 / G-AXLR G-AXLR in flight showing the RB211 test engine Photo D. Slaybaugh Construction number 829 was built for the Roya
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