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HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 5:16 am

Not to sound gloatful, but I have long concidered myself a very knowledgable person in regard to many different aircraft, airlines, etc. But I just realised I know very little about the Hawker-Siddeley Trident. All I know is it looks typically British in every regard to British aircraft. What was the intended market for the Trident? As with every British aircraft, I am sure it was designed for BEA/BA. Was it succesful? Why a Trident when the 727 was readily available? Was it heavier, lighter, faster, cheaper, quiter, etc? Did it have a long career? When was the last flight? Any answeres to these and more questions would be appreciated!  Smile/happy/getting dizzy However my biggest question is what is up with that sideways retracting nose-gear design!?

I'd love to here any memories or experiences (crew/passenger alike) on the jet as well!

320 717 722 732 733 735 737 738 739 744 752 753 763 772 773 788 DC9 DC10 MD80 B1900 S340 E120 E145 E170 E175 CRJ CR7
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 6:50 am

The nose gear: Well, there was no other space to put the darned wheel  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

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The 727/Trident debate can rage on for a long time. IMHO the Trident was just another example of government interference in requirements when the market would have done a better job, eg the 727.

Did you know later versions of the Trident had 4 engines? It was above the middle engine and shared the same air intake. This was, of course, to improve takeoff performance. And what an inelegant solution at that...

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Thank you Trident for your British quirkiness:

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"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:07 am

The Trident's carreer wasn't terribly successful in terms of aircraft built, just 113. However, a very notable fact was that the Trident performed the first automatic landing by a commercial airliner.

In terms of noise, well it was very, very, loud! In fact, I can only ever remember Concorde being a noisier commercial airliner.

The aircraft's first flight was in 1962. Most were sold to BEA (later BA) but CAAC of China also bought a sizeable number. A few other carriers such as Channel Airways, PIA, Kuwait Airways and Cyprus Airways purchased small numbers. The type was retired from BA's fleet on 31st December 1985, the final Trident 3B's in the fleet being little more than 10 years old. I believe the Trident continued flying for CAAC for a few more years and I think it was early in the 1990's when they flew their final (and the type's final) flights.

[Edited 2004-11-10 23:12:13]
Like a fine wine, one gets better with age.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:21 am

Typical of an American to think the 727 came first - it didn't. The Trident came first and then, in typically British fashion, we allowed Boeing to take a good old look at it and to address its deficiencies in their own version
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:38 am

The Trident was a fine plane, but...

But Britain had no engine to fit. And it was politically incorrect to fit a non-British engine on it. So it was stuck with the too small (and very noisy) RR Spey.

I only flew once on the Trident, CPH-LHR in 1981. The first thing I noticed was that it used the whole runway for take-off at CPH. I was used to a DC-9 rolling 5,000 feet less before rotation.

Five minutes later I discovered the reason. Then the F/A handed me The Times with a smile. I read the inch high headline on the front cover: "Yesterday again: Engine exploded on BA Trident". And the text: "Again ysterday an engine exploded on a British Airways flight during take off from Heathrow....". (I guess that pilots also read papers).

I went home on a SAS DC-9.

I have no reason to believe that the RR Spey was less safe than competing engine types. But sure it had hard times hauling around a well loaded Trident.
Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 7:55 am

Why a Trident when the 727 was readily available?

Believe or not the Trident was first.

BEA issued a requirement for a jet when it saw the market the Caravelle was attracting. De Havilland filled this requirement with the DH121 Tri-jet and the RR Medway.

BEA then got cold feet and said the a/c was too big (it was 727 size) so DH/Hawker Siddeley cut it down to Trident 1 size. Now the Trident didn't need as big an engine as the Medway so the development of that engine was scrapped and the readly available Spey was put in, which was fine for the Trident 1.

When BEA took delivery of the Trident they found it was too small!!!!! So they wanted a bigger version. And so the Trident streches started. Unfortunatly it now needed the Medway engine. As that was gone all RR could do was water inject the Spey and give it another 2500 Lbs of thrust. The rest is history, HS were then playing catch up with an under powered a/c, nicknamed the Gripper because of the way it gripped the ground

During the development stage of the 121 there was talk of a joint venture with Boeing and to that end DH invited a team over from Boeing and showed them everything. When Boeing reciprocated the DH team saw very little.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 8:07 am

The fourth engine on the Trident 3 was a small pure jet turbine which had been developed as a "lifter" for a vertical take-off fighter project. Several such small engines mounted vertically would be needed on that fighter. The single engine Harrier design made it superflous.

Thrust was only half of a RR Spey, and on the Trident it was shut down during cruise.
Always keep your number of landings equal to your number of take-offs
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 8:46 am

You asked for memories and personal experiences: my first flight was on a Trident (probably 1) DUB-LHR in August 1972, which was just two months after the first fatal Trident crash. That was a BEA aicraft flying from LHR-BXL on a Sunday afternoon, and, if I remember correctly, the captain had a heart-attack shortly after take-off and slumped over the control column. I think the first officer was very young and inexperienced and was unable to recover the aircraft from a stall and it plunged to the ground, just missing the town of Staines near Heathrow. Of course I knew nothing about planes then and I was terrified of my first flight, knowing that it was a Trident. Needless to say the flight didn't crash and I went on to fly on all the variants of the Trident over the next ten years or more. I can't tell you much about their performance, but I'm sure I remember the emergency exit rows: the seats to the front of the exit were turned round and the passengers were facing the rear of the aircraft, which was unusual, and interesting. The Trident gave many years' service to BEA/BA without the plane itself causing any fatalaties, though there was a mid-air collision between a Trident 3 and an Inex-Adria over Split in 1976 if my memory is correct. There was a fascinating book printed in the mid 70s about the Staines crash, I think it was called "Papa India -- the Trident Tragedy", though I'm sure it wasn't published in the States.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 8:48 am

As VC-10 pointed out, it was a brainstorm by BEA that did for Trident, not government.
That is until BEA wanted a bigger aircraft so asked for approval to buy B727-200's, rightly HM government took the view that Trident, built to BEA specs, should be supplied, if that meant the HS proposal for the Trident 3, BEA, who had wrecked the aircrafts export prospects, would just have to lump it.
But, Trident was a fast workhorse for BEA with the autoland system being a notable civil aviation first, CAAC ordered Trident as at this time, prior to Nixon's rapprochement with the Communist state in 1972, they could not buy US aircraft.
So CAAC orders, 33 Trident 2, 3 Trident 3, in various batches kept the type rolling off he line at Hatfield until 1978.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 9:05 am

Just as a sidenote to Braybuddy's info on the Staines Trident crash, BA skipped the registration G-EUPI for its Airbus A319 aircraft so that the serial Papa India wasn't reused, being that of the crashed Trident.
Let's Go British Caledonian!
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 9:21 am

This was a plane we heard very little about here in the states,We had the caravelles over here then they went into cargo config for a while,but i remember the first time i saw a vc-10, we had no idea what it was... so the word double dc-9 stuck with us for years until we found out what it
i can see for 80 miles
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 9:51 am

My heart always sank every time I did standby staff travel trips LHR-AMS/BRU/CDG/CPH and saw a Trident at the gate- awful things to ride in.
The Trident 2's were worse: several rows had backwards facing seats (row 1 on a Trident 3 also faced backwards). Always hoped for a 732, 757, or L10 (if flying LHR-CDG).
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:29 am

My ma used to be a stewardess with BEA/BA initially on the Tridents of all series and she has always spoken with pride of their speed. Apparently their used to be a BA and a TWA flight in the 70s down to Athens from LHR with the BA flight being operated by a Trident and even though it took off after the TWA flight it always used to arrive beforehand as it was apparently the fastest non supersonic jet produced. Just what Ive heard on the matter.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 11:10 am

With the way that nose gear is positioned it looks like this thing would tip over or the gear would snap... I wonder if the crews had problems following a taxiway
i can see for 80 miles
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 2:23 pm

Capital146 I agree concerning the noise issue. While staying at the Excelsior Hotel next to Heathrow, without even looking out my hotel window I could always tell when a Trident either took off or rolled out on landing. The noise was incredible! But that's the one thing I loved about that aircraft.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 2:25 pm

Did you know later versions of the Trident had 4 engines?

Well, I thought it was more of a thrusting APU than an actual engine.

I know little about it tho.

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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 2:35 pm

I've actually flown the Trident (a CAAC plane back in 1989). The plane had excellent performance but gawd it was definitely noisy.

The biggest problem with the Trident was that the plane was too tailored to BEA requirements, the same problem that plagued the Vickers Vanguard turboprop airliner. Meanwhile, Boeing's 727 had vastly more seating capacity, lower fuel burn and could be produced in far larger numbers. That's why European airlines chose to buy the 727 in large numbers in the 1960's and 1970's until the Airbus A320 Family became available during the 1980's.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 3:57 pm

The sideways retracting nose gear on the HS.121 Trident was designed so as to provide more space for the electric equipment bay.
The Trident has a triplex autopilot to enable automatic approach/landings in CATIII conditions.
The autopilots were designed by Smiths, who also provided autopilots for the Fokker F.27 and Vickers Viscount, among others.
When Lockheed was designing the TriStar, they hired many of the old Smiths team to design the quadriplex autopilot eventually fitted.
Thus, the TriStar was the first wide-body jet transport certificated to CATIIIB/C

Smiths...FAR ahead of any other autopilot the time.
They absolutely got it right...others had to only follow, second best.
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Thu Nov 11, 2004 10:08 pm

I fly 727s for a living so I salute Hawker Siddely(sic) for pioneering the concept of 3 aft mounted engines. Way back in 1980 I did a semester abroad in London, i lived for 3 months in a walk up flat in Maidavale,and would spend many a late afternoon on the roof with a few tubes of lager watching the LHR inbounds,which included the beautiful Trident, sand some of the last Viscounts,great fun ! i also flew a little square tail C150 out of Denham, God that was great,upon liftoff we would morph into a Hurricane MkII,and refight the Battle against imaginary Heinkels. I would love to go back!
the rumble of round engines is like music to me,likewise the thunder of thr JT8D
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:26 am

I believe that they coined the name "Gripper" in reference to the Trident using so much runway to take off...
I would give anything to see a Trident in operation.
I have watched an Unhuskitted BAC 111-400, N5LC, take off back in 1979 from my hometown airport.....Crikey that thing was loud....Lost of smoke too!!!
I can just imagine the sweet crackling roar a Trident would make, especially the Series three with the extra RR Booster engine running.....
Clearly I grew up in the wrong decade.....Is there any video footage of any Trident around????
Something that isnt masked over with music????
IS there ANY video or film of operations at say Heathrow or Gatwick in the 60s and 70s???
On a BA flight from Paris to London I took in 2002 I was chatting with one of the flight attendants and she told me she used to work on the Tridents....I told her I wished it was a Trident we wereon instead of a 757. She kind of agreed with me, told me it was a wondeful plane.
Oh well....

Cheers, Access-Air
Remember, Wherever you go, there you are!!!!
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RE: HS Trident - A Mysterious Lady

Fri Nov 12, 2004 4:42 am

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 to LHR 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 to ATH to FCO 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 before us.

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

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