In recent weeks, we have looked at several classic aircraft, including the trijet Boeing 727. However, the British competitor to this US powerhouse, the Hawker Siddeley Trident, was the first three-engined commercial jet to fly. Performing its maiden flight on January 9th, 1962, the Trident broke new ground in the aviation industry.
The legendary De Havilland Aircraft Company initially proposed the jet. However, Hawker Siddeley took over the company at the turn of the 1960s. Before this acquisition, American Airlines expressed its interest in a three-engined plane, but the carrier eventually opted for the American-made 727. Thus, De Havilland adapted its design to meet the requirements of British European Airways (BEA) and the domestic United Kingdom market.
Notably, it was this adaptation that caused the initial model of the type to suffer. It was felt that the plane lacked the range to truly compete with the 727.
Moreover, while the plane could perform well at high speeds, the Trident 1C’s wing generated less lift at low speeds when against its rivals. With this aspect, the three-member crews found that there were longer take-off rolls. Subsequently, the plane attained the nickname of “The Gripper.”
Despite these concerns, the aircraft was designed with the latest technology in mind. For instance, it pioneered the Smiths Aircraft Industries Autoland System. This feature enabled pilots to fly in effectively zero visibility conditions. This factor allowed launch customer BEA to continue operating well throughout the harsh British winters.
Altogether, the type went through several adjustments as the requirements of the industry evolved, including the shifting from DH121 to HS121 amid the change of management. The plane…