View Full Version : What might have happened...

21st Jun 2002, 11:24
Have you ever thought what might have happened if the Comet hadn't crashed? The UK aviation industry would be larger than any other country's, and we wouldn't have to put up with the Americans claiming they have done and invented everything :mad: (apologies to any Yanks reading this!).

I just find it really annoying, as our aviation industry is tiny compared to, for example, the 1950's. We had names such as de Havilland, Avro, etc., and now look how many we have- just one, BAE Systems. And they don't even make planes any more, now that they have stopped production of RJ 85/100/115's.

All we do is make components- R-R up here in Derby make the engines, BAE make wings.

21st Jun 2002, 12:51
We'd still no doubt have had consolidation, much like the French have; it just wouldn't have been so drastic. My guess is there would have been a Military company (BAC) a Commercial Aircraft manufacturer (Hawker Siddeley), plus of course Westlands, and a goodly number of smaller outfits (perhaps five or six) knocking out Executive jets, commuter aircraft, lightplanes, etc...

...in my previous job I was involved in spare parts trading, and we had our first visit from the local Customs and Excise officer to check that we were sticking to import/export regulations. She was quite surprised at all the aircraft bits we had that had come from the USA; and asked why we didn't buy them in Britain. It would make life easier, after all.

"Don't they build aircraft here any more?"

"Not since 1965!!"

Even our BAC 1-11 stock was full of Collins/Honeywell avionics!

Shaggy Sheep Driver
21st Jun 2002, 12:57
I'm not so sure it's that simple, Wobbles. The Brits have made some super aeroplanes - Viscount, 1-11, VC10, Comet4, Trident. None of these have really grabbed world markets, except maybe the Vicount, but the 1-11 has seen reasonable success. The problem seems to have been that the UK industry has never had the wherewithall to go for world markets - they produced designs for the home airlines.

So the Trident 1 beat the 727 into production, but was far too small even for BEA, who specified it. By the time DH produced the Trident 111 the 727 had taken the market.

The VC10 was produced for 'hot and high' routes for BOAC in Africa, so had excellent short field performance. But it paid for that in being less efficient in the cruise with that big wing - and anyway the world's airfields were all extended to accept the 747 and short field performance was no longer needed.

The Brittania could have been a pre-jet world success if we could have produced enough of them quickly enough. But our industry wasn't geared up for that. They were produced in a trickle, initially all for BOAC, and by the time there was spare capacity to sell abroad the jets had come and no one wanted big turboprops.

But these days production of a new airliner is a much greater undertaking than it was in the days when we had an aircraft industry. The future is with Airbus, in which we participate, and mega US companies such as Boeing. A DH, HP, Vickers, or Avro couldn't begin to compete in todays airline market - and we know from experience what happened when the government saw this and tried to make them all work together!

If the Comet 1 hadn't crashed we'd have sold more Comets. Not much else would have been different IMHO.


21st Jun 2002, 18:05
Is Fokker still in the airframe business, or parts only business?

21st Jun 2002, 22:28
If the Comet 1 hadn't crashed we'd have sold more Comets. Not much else would have been different
To support that, and if you Englishmen can stand being compared to us froggies (flameproof frogsuit on), just look at what happened to Caravelle : no crash, someting like 270 build, how many DC9's built ? more than 1000 afaik.
The last 100% (or so) French airliner, Dassault Mercure (10 built in the early 70 's), could not compete against the 737

The post-war US market was by far bigger (and still is, even though by a smaller amount) that any individual european country, and I guess that their production capabilities were in better shape than on this side of the pond.

It's only when Europeans started building together (and aiming for a bigger market) that they were able to compete again (Note to our US friends : don't waste any electrons flaming me about government subsidies, this post is not intended to start a new Boeing vs Airbus fight)

Lu Zuckerman
22nd Jun 2002, 00:01
I donít want to start another revolution between the colonies and the mother country but;

The following is based on personal observations. I believe that the reason the UK was not competitive in the aerospace race was that they did not keep up with the technology to both design and build commercial aircraft and in some cases, military aircraft. In the 1980s I worked for a German firm as a Reliability consultant on the A310 and the A320 wing design. My job took me to the UK on many occasions visiting Lucas Aerospace and BAE at Hatfield. On my first visit to Hatfield I stopped at the Guard gate and was told that the individual I wished to see was in the new building. The new building was in fact over 25 years old and it was built next to a building that most likely had survived the Blitz in 1939 to 1942. The only thing that kept the rain from entering the gap between the two buildings was a rubber gasket that was in the advanced stages of deterioration.

When I entered the engineering spaces I was shocked. The drafting (draughting) tables were over sixty years old and there was not a computer station to be seen. It should be noted that the rest of the Airbus design in France was all on CATIA (which the French invented). They did not have a single drafting machine (pantograph) and there were vertical pigeonholes that contained drawings that were over forty years old. I imagined that if you dug deep enough you could find the original plans for the Sopwith Camel.

I was taken down to the production floor, which was very poorly lighted, and they were putting the finishing touches on an HS-146. The machine shop that supported the production area for the A310 wing was also poorly lighted and the machines mostly dated back before WWII.

I am not being critical of British design capability however their ability to put a design into the field was limited by the antiquated facilities they had to work with. (At least in the time frame in question).

There is also the question of BAE and possibly other firms not actively supporting the design once the CAA, DGCA and the LBA had certified it. When the BAE safety engineering department was informed of a critical design problem in the wing of the A310 and the A300-600, I was told, that they were sympathetic to my problem but, they could not take action, even though they were the designers and certifying design authority for the wing.


22nd Jun 2002, 20:30
Fokker unfortunately folded in 1995. They are still building aircraft parts, amongst which Gulfstream tailsections. Several attempts to restart the Fokker F70/F100 lines have all failed and the last attempt at restarting the F50 has not been heard of for a long while.

There are several companies heavily engaged in the aviation industry scattered throughout the country but nothing bigger than a Cirrus or Eaglet is being built in the Netherlands.

Jet Dragon
24th Jun 2002, 02:33
Lu Z

I would agree with your comments re the antiquity of the BAe Hatfield site in the 80's - I was based at Chester (another wartime facility), but compared to us, "Hatters" was positively antique.

Having said, the Airbus wing facilities at Chester were brand new , including the huge flat-bed routers that were installed to machine the wing-skins.

Hatfield only produced components for the A310/A300 wings - the wingbox assembly took place at Chester (and still does).

With regard to other posts re British commercial aviation, I am sad that no mention has been made of the DH/HS/BAe 125 executive jet which was produced in great numbers (circa 800 in the UK) before the yanks (after many years of trying) finally got their hands on it in the mid 90's.



Iron City
27th Jun 2002, 17:15
"and if "if's" and "and's" were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers"

sorry "alternate future" fans

27th Jun 2002, 21:59

Glad to see the 125 getting a mention. The most successful British civil jet aircraft ever produced. Now in the early days wasn't there a suggestion to give it a name.......... now let me see if I can remember, wasn't it Jet Dragon? ;)

I. M. Esperto
28th Jun 2002, 17:18
GB turned Socialist. That will kill any nation.

Jet Dragon
28th Jun 2002, 22:52
Certainly was Spekesoftly - sheesh now there's a coincidence eh:D

Guess I'm revealing a bit of my aviation heritage