de Havilland's original
proposal, the DH121, was a larger and more powerful aircraft
than the Trident ended up being. BEA signed a Letter
of Intent in 1957, which gave the go ahead for the development
program to begin.
Trident was BEA's aircraft.
But designing for one airline's needs probably
lost Hawker Siddeley a worldwide winner.
A full family of aircraft with higher capacity
and new upgraded engines was intended. The Government
decided, before production started, to get the Americans
involved in the extended project. A US delegation
including people from Boeing was given full access to
the plans, but nothing came of it.
Soon after, the Boeing 727 emerged and eventually
took the market, with a very similar design to the originally
Before production of the DH121 started, BEA decided
that the design had to be modified. Passenger numbers
had been dropping and although this turned out to be just
a dip in an upward trend, BEA insisted that the aircraft
be scaled down with a capacity of only 79. This
also meant that the proposed engines were now not needed
and Rolls Royce Speys were used instead. With the
design modified, BEA finally made a formal agreement for
24 aircraft in 1959.
truly accepted, the Trident was overlooked
by the majors, in favour of the 727.
Sales were usually small orders from small
In 1960, de Havilland became part of Hawker
Siddeley, in the Government forced mergers which also
saw the creation of BAC. The HS121, as it became
known, was also given the name Trident by the Chairman
of BEA. The Trident first flew in January 1962 and
appeared at the Farnborough Air Show soon after in BEA
BEA, the Trident enjoyed a high profile status.
It was used in most of BEA's advertising and
was promoted as the airline's high tech flagship.
BEA took delivery at the end of 1963 and
after crew training and route proving, it entered service
in March 1964. The early Tridents were found to
be a bit underpowered, particularly lacking in takeoff
performance. BEA crews had joked that it only took
off because of the curvature of the earth. The improved
Trident 1E had more engine power and also had high lift
slats fitted and a bigger capacity. Improvements
proposed by BEA eventually led to the more successful
Trident 2, with the more powerful Spey 512 and a much
better range. The first Trident 2 entered service
When BEA decided it needed to replace its
Vanguard and Comet fleets, several options were explored.
The Trident 3, with a 16ft 5in stretched fuselage and
seating upto 180, was the chosen route. Because
of the lack of development in new engines, the limited
engine power offered by the Spey was not enough and a
small booster had to be fitted in the base of the tail.
This gave either the option of a shorter take off run
or an increase in capacity. The extra engine,
coupled with an overall reduction in fuel capacity, meant
that the Trident 3 had a much shorter range than the Trident
2. The Trident 3 entered service in 1970.
the Trident lost out to the 727 throughout
the world, one major coup for Hawker Siddeley
was the 35 aircraft sold to CAAC of China.
One thing that the Trident did have in its favour was
the ability to land 'blind'. The automatic landing
system, developed with Smiths Industries, was finally
given full CAA approval in 1972. However by this
time the Boeing 727 was established as the market leader
and the choice of most foreign airlines. Even so,
117 Tridents were built in total, with the last coming
off the production line in March 1978. One notable
sale was the 35 aircraft sold to the Chinese national
airline CAAC. The Trident was CAAC's first western
built short haul jet airliner.
BEA and British Airways always kept faith with the
Trident and it became one of BA's longest serving aircraft.
It was a very common sight throughout the whole of the
UK during the 1980s, as it flew the BA 'Shuttle' service,
connecting the major airports. It was finally retired
early in 1986, after clocking up 22 years service.
its later years with BA the Trident was a
success as the airlines domestic workhorse,
flying the 'shuttle' routes, linking the UK
It is not know for certain, but it is believed that the
Trident remained in service with the Chinese Air Force
until the mid 90's.
Many of the retired Tridents were used as fire training
aircraft at airports around Britain and some can still
be seen in various states of disrepair. Unfortunately
no working examples remain.
Examples of all three Trident types are now preserved
(Article by David Maltby)
HS Trident 2E data
or 4 Crew & 97-149 passengers
Engines: 3 Rolls-Royce Spey 512-5W turbofans
Length: 114ft 9in
Gross weight: 143,500lb
Max payload: 26,800lb
Max cruise: 605mph at 27,000ft
Range: 2,430 miles with max payload (with reserves)
HS Trident 3B data
or 4 Crew & 128-179 passengers
Engines: 3 Rolls-Royce Spey 512-5W turbofans
plus 1 Rolls-Royce RB162-86 turbojet 5,250lb
Length: 131ft 2in
Gross weight: 150,000lb
Max payload: 32,396lb
Max cruise: 601mph at 28,300ft
Range: 1,094 miles max payload at 533mph (+ reserves)
Civil Airliner Recognition 1973