How A Crane Helped A Former CityJet Avro RJ85 Take 1 Last Flight

In aviation, as in other aspects of life, all good things must come to an end. The relentless passing of time means that every aircraft will, one day, make its final flight. However, one year ago, an ex-CityJet Avro RJ85 got to take to the skies for an additional time under the power of a crane. This allowed it to be transported to a museum for preservation.

CityJet Avro RJ85
This ex-CityJet RJ85 had previously been in storage at Norwich Airport. Photo: Mike Burdett via Flickr

The aircraft in question

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the exact example of the Avro RJ85 that enjoyed a crane ride on its way to preservation. Registered as EI-RJN, data from ATDB.aero shows that it was one of an impressive 32 examples of the four-engine regional aircraft that Irish carrier CityJet flew over the years. However, it actually started its career over in the US.

Indeed, the quadjet was first delivered to Mesaba Airlines in May 1999. It bore the registration N526XJ for over seven years, before joining CityJet in January 2007. The airline used it on its short-haul network for over a decade, and withdrew it in February 2019.

Between October 2018 and February 2019, Aer Lingus operated EI-RJN on a wet lease basis. Data from ch-aviation.com shows that, by the end of its career, the aircraft had accumulated 34,157 flight hours across 30,613 cycles, averaging 67 minutes each time.

CityJet Avro RJ85
CityJet owned EI-RJN for the last 12 years of its two-decade career. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Following its retirement, EI-RJN went into storage at Norwich Airport (NWI). This East Anglian air hub is something of a gold mine when it comes to stored aircraft, particularly in terms of Avro’s regional jets. As seen in the tweet below, you can find several ex-Braathens Regional Aviation examples of both the RJ85 and RJ100 in storage at NWI.

The big move

EI-RJN made for a sad sight at Norwich Airport, sitting on the airfield stripped of its livery for almost two years. However, in October 2020, it was offered a new lease of life, that came in the form of preservation at the adjacent City of Norwich Aviation Museum.

While the airport and the museum are located next to each other, there was a significant obstacle between them in the form of Norwich’s Northern Distributor Road. As such, local authorities had to close this dual carriageway overnight to move the plane.

Avro RJ85
The move to the museum had to be carried out in two phases. Photo: Alan Wilson via Flickr

With the road closed, EI-RJN got to take to the skies for one final time, with the assistance of a crane. While it ‘flew’ at altitudes far lower than it used to in its CityJet days, it still made for a spectacular sight, as you can see in the tweet below. The Eastern Daily Press reports that the first part of EI-RJN’s journey saw it lifted from the airport onto the road itself.

Following this, the second phase of the transfer, which had taken months of planning, resulted in the aircraft being lifted from the road onto the museum’s grounds. The delicate operation concluded at 05:00, with EI-RJN’s arrival making it the only aircraft of its type on display in the UK. October 30th will mark the first anniversary of its transfer.

Norwich Map
The museum’s impressive collection is clearly visible from above. Photo: Google Maps

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An impressive collection

The Avro RJ85 was a natural choice for the museum, given that it (and its BAe 146 predecessors) served Norwich for over three decades. According to the BBC, a museum spokesperson explained that “its quiet operation has been the key to its success.”

You can see EI-RJN in its preserved state in the video above. It is one of two Avro aircraft to be on display there, with the other being a might Vulcan bomber registered as XM612. Overall, the City of Norwich Aviation Museum is home to 26 aircraft, which it proudly displays both inside and outside. It will be interesting to see what its next acquisition will be.

Did you know about the City of Norwich Aviation Museum’s Avro RJ85? Perhaps you’ve visited the site yourself? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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