There was a recent posting about airliners that had failed to find more than one operator and the Trident was mentioned to which I replied as follows:
The original DH121 was envisaged as a 150+ aircraft but due to a downturn in the air travel market, BEA requested that the aircraft's dimensions be reduced to a 60-80 seater with a restricted range (LHR to Rome would be about its limit) and Rolls Royce Spey engines as opposed to the planned Medways. The first Trident 1C entered service with BEA in 1964. The aircraft performed well and was reliable but BEA soon realised that they had made a mistake with the specification and that they should have gone for the original DH121 plan. Hawker Siddeley responded first with the Trident 1E variant, primarily for the export market, and the 2E for BEA featuring up rated engines, larger wing span and greater capacity and range. Having bent over backwards to meet BEA's requirements, Hawker Siddeley lost out to the Boeing 727, which bore many resemblances to the original DH121 plans. By the time the larger Tridents were available, Boeing had cornered the market.
The Trident was a fabulous aircraft and definitely my favourite. However, because they used the Speys as opposed to the Medway engines, it was relatively under powered. Many BEA pilots joked that the Trident only got airborne because of the earth's curvature! The final Trident model, the Trident 3, had an auxiliary small engine mounted in its tail to give it sufficient power for take off – it was strange seeing 4 engines mounted on the tail in different locations.
The Trident was sold to BEA in large numbers. Other airlines that became Trident customers were Channel Airways, Northeast (which merged with BEA), Cyprus Airways, PIA, Kuwait Airways, Ceylon Airways and Iraqi Airways and, of course, the CAAC ordered a large number of Tridents. A total of 113 Tridents were built.
My first experience on the Trident was returning from IST
in September 66. We had flown out on a PanAm 707 and, partly due to the fact that my uncle was station manager for BEA at Istanbul, decided to return instead on the BEA Trident service that flew IST
and then on LHR
– three nice short hops, three landings and three take offs!. The difference between the Trident and 707 was remarkable and this is when my interest in aviation really took off.
The cabin of the Trident 1C was small, seating was six abreast in economy and the first 5 rows were rear facing. It was a strange experience to be sitting this way on take off – you could really feel your seatbelt holding you as the Trident climbed. (It is said that if an aircraft crashes, you stand less chance of injury if seated in a rear facing seat. I am told that all aircraft of the RAF have rear facing passenger seats as a safety measure). Forward of the middle doors were two separate cabins – the first was interchangeable between 6 abreast and 4 abreast seating which was used for economy or first class depending on demand. The section before the flight deck was first class – three rows.
Inside the Trident was remarkably quiet in flight but the landings – wow! If reverse thrust was engaged the Speys roared. On my first experience I thought they had blown up!
I remember on one flight that a PIA 707 left FCO
twenty minutes before the Trident. There was an assortment of aircraft waiting for their take off runs but our Trident went to the front of the queue and before turning the Speys were accelerated to full power and we did a remarkable take off – long run, great noise – just like a fighter waiting to get airborne. We arrived at LHR
20 minutes ahead of schedule and nearly half an hour before the PIA 707 that left FCO
The last passenger service by a BEA Trident was when Trident 3 G-AWZJ left LHR
on 6 December 1985 for Oslo – a route then operated by a 737. I remember that a Norwegian passenger asked when he boarded "This isn't the regular airplane for Oslo?" "No," replied the stewardess as she directed him to his seat. "This is a Trident, a lovely old aeroplane which sadly will not be with us much longer." She was right in every respect. By the end of that month all the Trident 3s would be withdrawn, giving way to the airlines B737s and B757s.
As stated previously, the Trident was developed and in service before the 727. Not only did the Trident pioneer 'autoland' (this proved to be a valuable asset to BEA and BA
on its European network during the fog bound winters of the 1960s, 70s and early 80s) but it was the first commercial aircraft with three engines mounted on the rear fuselage, with the 'S' shaped intake duct for the third engine, and T-tail
Whilst in operation with BEA/BA there were only two hull losses – G-ARPI (Papa India) at Staines and G-AWZT (Zulu Tango) which was involved in a mid-air collision with an Inex Adria DC-9 near Zagreb. Papa India's crash was caused by a pilot (it was not know whether this was the Captain or the First Officer) inadvertently retracting the 'droop'. Zulu Tango was due to improper ATC operation that put the DC-9 directly in front of Zulu Tango at FL330.
For more information on the Trident visit http://www.zulukilo.org.uk
MOL on SRB's latest attack at BA: "It's like a little Chihuahua barking at a dying Labrador. Nobody cares."