58 Years Have Passed Since The BAC One-Eleven’s Maiden Flight

Yesterday marked the 58th anniversary of the British-built British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) BAC One-Eleven’s maiden flight. Initially conceived by Luton Airport (LTN)-based Hunting Aircraft as a 30 passenger seat plane, the One-Eleven came about after the company merged with Vickers-Armstrongs, Bristol, and English Electric to form BAC in 1960.

BA BAC One-Eleven
British Airways used the BAC One-Eleven for short-haul domestic routes. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

After deciding that there would not be a big market for a small jet, BAC reworked the design to form a 59-seat aircraft powered by two Bristol Siddeley BS75 turbofan engines. Market research suggested that a 59 seat passenger aircraft was still too small and that a plane that could seat 80 passengers was needed. Now designated as the BAC One-Eleven, the aircraft was not designed for state-owned BEA or BOAC but customers worldwide.

BUA was the launch customer

The first order placed for the BAC One-Eleven was for ten aircraft by British United Airways (BUA) on May 9th, 1961. In October of the same year, Braniff International Airways ordered six aircraft followed by orders from Kuwait Airways for three and Central African Airways for two.

British United Airways BAC One-Eleven
British United Airways was the launch customer for the BAC One-Eleven. Photo: Getty Images

Painted in BUA livery, the first BAC One-Eleven rolled out of the Hurn assembly hall at Bournemouth Airport (BOH) and conducted its first flight on August 20, 1963. At the time, it was considered quite an achievement as BAC was a year ahead of the McDonnell Douglas DC-9. The British aerospace company thought the One-Eleven to be technically superior, which was important. At the time, US authorities could refuse to approve the sale of a foreign-made aircraft if an American-made alternative existed.

The One-Eleven crashed during testing

On October 22, 1963, a prototype BAC One-Eleven crashed in Chicklade in Wiltshire during a test flight killing all seven people onboard. The subsequent investigation into the crash discovered that a phenomenon known as a “deep stall” caused the accident. Deep stall occurs when a reduced airflow to the tailplane prevents rear engine T-tailed aircraft from getting airflow over the elevators on the tail.

To remedy the flaw, BAC designed and added stick shakers and stick pushers to the control system. They also redesigned the One-Eleven’s wing to allow a smooth airflow into the engines and over the tailplane. Despite the accident, confidence in the BAC One-Eleven remained high, with American Airlines and Braniff taking up their original orders and placing more. After receiving its first One-Eleven in January 1965 and route testing, BUA flew its first revenue flight from Gatwick Airport (LGW) to Aeroporto di Genova-Sestri Ponente (GOA) in Italy.

A stretched version was built

In 1967 BAC introduced a stretched version of the BAC One-Eleven called the BAC One-Eleven 500. The new, more extended version of the original concept was capable of carrying 119 passengers. Unfortunately, the aircraft’s launch was delayed by a year, eradicating BAC’s advantage over its American rivals. This gave the DC-9 and Boeings 737 a level playing field from which BAC never recovered.

After having delivered 120 by 1971, orders started to dry up for the One-Eleven, yet production continued until 1982 in the hope that Rolls-Royce would develop a quieter engine for the plane.

Production moved to Romania

In 1979 a deal was done with Romania to build the One-Eleven in Bucharest, and while expectations were high for sales in China and Eastern Europe, they never materialized.

TAROM One-Eleven
Nine One-Elevens were built in Romania. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikipedia

In the end, only nine One-Elevens were built, with all but two going to Romanian national flag carrier TAROM. In total, 253 One Elevens were built, with the last one still flying retired in 2019.

Have you ever flown on a BAC One-Eleven? If so, please tell us what you remember about the aircraft in the comments.