Kuwait Airways: The Hawker Siddeley Trident’s First Foreign Customer

Hawker Siddeley Trident, designated as the HS121, was designed as a medium-range jet for fast inter-city travel. Conceived for Western European air routes, BEA (British European Airways) would be the first customer of the jet. However, the jet’s first foreign customer would be further afield with Kuwait Airways ordering several of these trijets.

Kuwait Airways ordered just three of the HS121 Trident 1E. Photo: Clinton Groves via Wikimedia Commons 

First designed for the European market

First designated the DH121 and designed by the De Havilland Aircraft Company, the Trident would be re-designated as the HS121 after De Havilland’s merger into the Hawker Siddeley Group.

The initial design of the DH121 would have input from BEA, with the aircraft built to directly reflect the specifications of the domestic market. The aircraft was fitted with three Rolls-Royce Spey engines, which BAE Systems notes “would feature on every variant thereafter.”

As BAE Systems goes on to state, the Trident was “compromised” by its strict BEA specification. Indeed, most prospective customers found that it was “lacking range and short-field performance.”

Perhaps responding to these criticisms, Hawker Siddeley would go on to produce a revised variant that would attract more foreign attention.

Hawker Siddley Tridents
BAE was the largest customer of the HS121 Trident. Photo: BAE Systems

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Kuwait Airways takes two with an additional option

It was shortly after that Hawker Siddeley introduced the HS121 Trident 1E trijet, an improvement on the first production model, the 1C. The 1E offered increased capacity (115-139 passengers) as well as a significantly increased fuel capacity with a higher take-off weight. This was all made possible with uprated engines and an extended wing area.

According to BAE Systems, only 15 of these variants were built, with the first going to Kuwait Airways. On August 8th, 1962, Kuwait Airways became the first foreign customer to order the Trident. In this deal, two aircraft of the type were acquired, and an option for a third was taken.

While the 1C would not have suited Kuwait’s hot climate, the 1E would have made ‘hot and high’ operations in the small Middle Eastern state more feasible. This would also be the case for other HS121 1E customers, which included Iraqi Airways (Iraq) and PIA (Pakistan).

Yesterday’s Airlines asserts that many of the foreign sales of this jet were likely influenced by the UK’s colonial ties. Indeed, the airlines of Kuwait, Iraq, and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) placed orders, with all three having historical colonial ties to the UK. Kuwait was a British protectorate from 1899-1961, while Ceylon had been a British Crown Colony until 1948.

Kuwait Airways’ smallest jets are now Airbus A320s. Photo: Airbus

Kuwait Airways’ fleet today

Kuwait Airways has long said goodbye to its HS121s. The last of the jets left its fleet in early 1972.

These days, Kuwait Airways’ shorter-range operations are conducted by the airline’s fleet of Airbus A320-200s and A320neos. These modern jets have a similar capacity to the HS121 (plus a little more) while obviously being much more efficient thanks to multiple decades of technological advancement.

Did you know about Kuwait Airways’ Hawker Siddeley Trident fleet? Let us know in the comments.