The arrival of ZH763 at Newquay Cornwall Airport for preservation in the Classic Air Force hangar, sees the BAC 1-11’s time in UK skies draw to a close, a little under 50 years after it first flew. As well as featuring the aircraft’s arrival earlier today, we delve in to the GAR archives to look back at a few BAC 1-11 operators from times gone by.
At approximately 12.30 today, BAC 1-11 ZH763 touched down for the last time, a landing which signalled the end of the aircraft’s service life in the UK. Just a handful of 1-11s still operate in the United States and should see her achieve a half century of flight, but this was a significant moment for a very British type.
Designed as a short-haul jet airliner, the BAC 1-11 is one of the most iconic British jetliners ever built. Designed to replace the Vickers Viscount turboprop on short-range routes, it first flew on 20 August 1963 and by the time the last example had rolled off the production line nearly 250 had been built. The type served with classic airlines such as BEA, Court Line, Laker Airways and British Eagle and also scored export successes with US carriers such as Braniff and Mohawk.
British Airways retired its last BAC 1-11 in 1998 but a small fleet survived in use with the British military and QinetiQ as trials platforms. The airframe delivered today was built for British Airways as G-BGKE (see image below!) and later joined the MoD’s Defence Research Agency in 1991. It gained the military registration ZH763 and served at Thurleigh, Farnborough and Boscombe Down – the home of British military aircraft evaluation and test flying since 1939 – as a flying laboratory, primarily for radar trials.
“We are honoured and delighted that QinetiQ has chosen the Classic Air Force as the permanent home for Britain’s last 1-11” commented CEO Group Captain Davie Paton OBE RAF (Retd). “This jet is one of the most iconic of all British jetliners and fits our ‘Best of British’ ethos perfectly.”
It is always sad to see a type go out of service, especially one with such a pedigree, but thankfully ZH763 will be very well looked after at her new home. We know that many of you have fond memories of the BAC 1-11 and hope that the rest of the images here go some way in reminding us all of the important part she played in aviation history. Let’s also hope the remaining airframes continue to fly in the USA for a little while yet.
Thanks to Stephen Bridgewater at Classic Air Force for his help in preparing this article and also the delivery / handover imagery.