View Full Version : What killed the 146?

9th Oct 2004, 21:49

I always liked the RJ/146. Anytime I flew on one, it always seemed to be smooth, powerful, and comfortable.

What were the main reasons for it not succeeding against the newer competition? With the RJX, we seemed to have a very capable new airliner. Was it more expensive than the opposition? More complex? I'm assuming that there was a penalty cost with four engines, but would that have been a key factor?

Curious, and sad to see the 'Whisperjet' go...

9th Oct 2004, 22:05
What were the main reasons for it not succeeding against the newer competition?

Cost of operation -vs- Canadair and Embraer. Seat mile costs secondary to actual aircraft costs on the operations the US airlines use them on. They just wanted a small cheap jet instead of 30-50 seat turboprops.

Maintenance expense and dispatch unreliability of 4 engines.

Not a good overall reliability record.

Cabin not quite wide enough for 6-across seating in the US market (they are fatter than Europeans - don't laugh, it's true). 5-across seating for the US market lost any seat mile advantage.

Noise and short field issues only relevant at a very few destinations.

US pilot scope clauses (146 mainline, RJs outside).

By end 2001 no orders (apart from British European) for the RJX and no prospects of any meaningful ones.

12th Oct 2004, 18:22
Interesting one, I expect there was a lot of politics about it but that aside, in terms of airframe design, it had four engines which is a bit unnecessary on a regional jet, twice the maintenance cost for enigines, not to mention fuel costs post 9/11. Although it had very good STOL performance it had relatively poor performance in terms of cruise compared to small airbuses and embraer etc. Although I am prepared to stand corrected on that point.

Sept 11 was the final nail in its coffin I fear, with a very thin order book and increased competition from the Embraer 170/190 market to name one plus the A318 and Bombardier aircraft, BAe were making a loss on each aircraft they sold with no prospect of further orders.

A real shame, as it was a proven design which was popular with some airlines and had also got some US interest, albeit small.

12th Oct 2004, 19:19
Ironically, had the RJX remained in production it would probably have done reasonably well. It fills a niche which a number of operators are having difficulty filling.The Embraer 145 series and Bombardier CRJs are fine for daytrip business travel, but their lack of volumetric capacity for baggage make them unsatisfactory in large areas of the world.( eg Asia, Africa, Middle East and use on holiday routes in Europe). The A 318 is very heavy for its capacity and only makes sense for operators of the larger models who want the economies of fleet commonality at the bottom end of their capacity range. The politics seem to be a long standing lack of real enthusiasm in BAe for the civil business , originally exemplified by their failure to fully develop or produce in sufficient quantities, the One-Eleven. 9/11 gave the excuse for a quick exit from the 146/RJX programme and they took it. As further evidence of their lack of interest in the civil side even their continued interest in Airbus seems to be in question.

Capt Claret
12th Oct 2004, 23:51
When discussing the issue of the RJX Project cancellation earlier this year, a LAME told me that Sept 11 was used as a convenient excuse and further suggested that the certification trials that were underway at the time, indicated that the engine/s weren't performing as promised and that consequently the aircraft wasn't going to meet its perfromance guarantees.

I've also heard that, allegedly, the RJX wouldn't have been able to use an aerobridge, as the #2 engine cowling was too far forward! :eek:

13th Oct 2004, 09:07
I believe at the time of cancellation Druk Air had also placed orders for the RJX.

BTW has anybody noticed the uncanny similarity between the new Antonov An-148 and what a twin-engined 146 would have looked like?

I always wondered why BAE never developed a twin version as the developments costs would have been relatively low compared to a totally new design.

13th Oct 2004, 10:22
Yes, Druk had ordered 2 and there were a good number of other possible customers and the number would have risen by now. Reason for non appearance of a 2 engined version looks like BAes under investment , same as led to the killing of the One- Eleven whose sales were latterly killed off by very low production rates in small batches. With a max production rate of 24 per year the 146/RJ suffered in the same way. Potential purchasers want to have an aircraft whose future support is guaranteed by there being large numbers around which keeps spares producers etc interested especially when it goes out of production.
An early problem with the 146 was that BAe didnt push it with large customers but sought wide geographical distribution with in small numbers. Any aircraft needs the big fleet orders to establish its market base.

14th Oct 2004, 02:00
As an observer of the industry and non-flyer, I think that BAe had the problem of being first mover into a new area. I sit to be corrected but the Whisper Jet filled a niche market for Europe and showed the way for mini-jet a/c. Others promtly came along and made more that were cheaper and being later) had more refinements. Also, having been produced for a niche market that required STOL, selling into Australia, Africa and the Americas was always going to be difficult. On the engine side, I understand that the fule flow is similar to a 737-300 but you have higher maintenance and few pax. As I say, correct if wrong.

A comparison might be with Renault who created the modern People Carrier with the Espace. Before that, it was only VW and their Kombi had long since become a narrow market. But now, I don't think that Renault could be considered to be leading the market in the People Carrier design.

For what it's worth, I am always happy to be a 146/RJ and have never been subjected to the a/c oil intake probs that they had at one time.

"I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don't let anybody tell you any different." Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

14th Oct 2004, 04:38
Hi all
As an engineer that spent four years working on them, i have to say that they were a right pain to work on, but then considering they were designed by the generation who brought you the bombers of WWII, that wasn't surprising. They were designed in 1961 and entered service 20 or so years later, hardly the best way to gain a hold on the market. They were ahead of their time, but those bloody engines and the awful electrics just stalled the 146 from the start. As for a twin-engined model, we received a BAe promo pack, once, that featured an artist's impression of a -200 powered by two JT-8s, which looked just like the Japanese Air Force's C-1 freighter. Maybe Antonov have been sold old BAe drawings and a joblot of old -8s!!!

14th Oct 2004, 08:24
Four oil leaks connected by an electrical fault!:E

Sorry couldn't resist!

14th Oct 2004, 18:27
BAe had a design on the drawing board in the early 90s for a variant of the 146 with new wing and twin CFM56 (I think) engines. It was canned due to BAe management belief at that time that more profit could be made by buying up the likes of Rover etc rather than spending money on developing new a/c.

14th Oct 2004, 23:33
Also, Airbus got a bit twitchy with what they saw as increased competition for thr mini-Bus.

15th Oct 2004, 11:08
The 146 is good at what its designed for, i.e. taking up to 40 tonnes out of 1300m runways. Unfortunately for it, this is not exactly a requirement of most operators. You ask it to do anything else that a 737/320 could do and its sunk.

Why? approx 2.1 tonnes per hour fuel burn mainly, taking into consideration only 90 pax and only travelling about 400NM in that hour. On sectors up to about 500 miles the slowness is not really noticeable but above that it gets fairly obvious.
Plus, as the thing can not always get above the weather, it can be fairly uncomfortable for pax. Often the 146 is bouncing around in the tops at 280, unable to get higher (non-RVSM approved), while the competition cruises along in smoothness a few thousand feet above.
Plus the freight capacity is rubbish and the cabin is narrow so to make it anyway economical with 6 across its not comfortable.

On the positive side: the leases are now dirt cheap, hence their continued existence in service. And they can get into LCY. And thats it really.
Well ok, they aren't as unreliable any more, though thats due to better knowledge rather than any innate good design.

The introduction of RVSM from FL200 and the new transponder requirements will probably kill them off altogether as the mods are apparently not worth it.

15th Oct 2004, 12:04

Is that fact or merely your speculation?

15th Oct 2004, 13:49
Which were the short-field airports that led to the design of this capability into the aircraft ? Not London City, that didn't exist when the 146 was designed and didn't get used or even thought about for 146 ops until years after opening.

I also seem to remember it was so quiet that it got under some noise limitations in California and allowed unlimited operations unlike anything else, hence the PSA and Air California sales. What happened to these restrictions, why did they become unimportant ?

15th Oct 2004, 15:20

I helped to build the first 60 odd, if you think maintenance was a problem, you should have been around to piece them together. Front end from Hatfield, centre section from Filton and rear end from Chadderton...godelpus.

Phileas Fogg
15th Oct 2004, 15:33
The 146 was, in most cases, exempt from night jet curfews.

One doesn't design a STOL aeroplane for a specific airport.

Sure, DHC produce(d) such aeroplanes but have a look thru the Jeppesens of Canada sometime, they were producing for the Canadian market whereas most are short fields, gravel strips, ice or water!

Ivan Taclue
17th Oct 2004, 15:55
The original design emanated from Handley Page and subsequently became the HS146 in the early/mid 70's before (in 1978) the go-ahead was given for the BAe 146-100.
Its original design parameters were shortfield/unpaved/hot-high operations, such as at Lae, Paro, Dutch Harbor and Santos Dumont. As such it was aimed at replacing the older generations of DC3s / F27s / HS748s and a few Viscounts.

A big thing was made of the fact that the 4 ALF502s together had less rotating parts than 2 JT8's. Unfortunately this did not convince any engineering gurus, who were also aware that historically British aircraft were built like brick s**thouses with built-in quirks.

Obviously certain mission specifics gave it some market penetration (i.e. less than 800 NM, small runway, low noise profile). Nevertheless sales were slow until, to the big surprise of BAe North American carriers like PSA, AirCal, Air Wisconsin started to take an interest in the mid 80's. Also the purchase by TNT of the 146QT was a major boost. In other markets aircraft like 737/200 and -300 and DC9-50 and 80's and later the F100 had better seat-mile economics.

Lack of development in the late 80's, particularly the engine, eventually caused its demise. The RJ series, although more advanced, had negative impact due to the above. As a result numbers built would always be small. Pure economics set in, ultimately resulting in the demise of the Hatfield factory and the concentration of departments at Woodford.

No doubt the RJX would have pacified most of its critics, but alas...........A crying shame!!!!!

Golf Charlie Charlie
17th Oct 2004, 16:26
The original design emanated from Handley Page

Handley Page or Hawker Siddeley ?

Also, did the HS681 military transport (C-17 look-alike), cancelled in the 1960s with the TSR-2, lead on to the 146 concept in any way, or was the 146 a separate concept altogether ?

What were the major enhancements and improvements in the RJX over the RJ series ? Thanks.

18th Oct 2004, 11:10
I also think the fact the land Hatfield airfield was on, was worth more to the company who purchased it than it was to BAe.

I went past the airfield last Monday, the old front gatehouse, flight test hanger and design building was all that was left. Great shame.