BAC Three-Eleven

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Two-Eleven / Three-Eleven
Role Airliner
National origin United Kingdom
Manufacturer British Aircraft Corporation
Status Cancelled
Produced 0

The BAC Two-Eleven and BAC Three-Eleven were British airliner studies proposed by the British Aircraft Corporation in the late 1960s. The projects emerged from design studies aimed at competing first with the Boeing 727-200 and then with the proposed European Airbus.

BAC Two-Eleven[edit]

In 1966, the Two-Eleven was proposed. It was sized close to the Boeing 727-200, but more resembling the future MD-80 in size and layout. The study failed to attract attention and had been shelved by 1968.

The Three-Eleven was introduced at the 1967 and 1969 Paris Air Shows. It was a widebody in the size, weight, and range class of the original, somewhat smaller European Airbus. At the time, the Three-Eleven was widely assumed to have emerged with encouragement from some British government circles and circles close to Rolls-Royce, who were anxious to have a fall-back option in case the European Airbus failed. BAC was thought to have welcomed such encouragement, not being part of the European Airbus (as distinct from Hawker Siddeley) and having little airliner work for the future as the One-Eleven project wound down.

As presented in drawings, artists' impressions, models, and a partial timber mock-up, the Three-Eleven[1][2] resembled a BAC One-Eleven which had been doubled in size. Powerplant was foreseen as two large bypass ratio turbofan Rolls-Royce RB207, RB211 or similar engines mounted on the tailcone beneath a T-formation empennage.

In order to proceed, the Three-Eleven needed what was termed at the time "government launch aid." In 1967, the British government entered the Airbus Industrie consortium through Hawker Siddeley and could not support competing projects. After withdrawing from Airbus over the issue of British engines in 1969, the government was theoretically free to support the Three-Eleven.

In 1969 and 1970, the British government-owned airline British European Airways (BEA) expressed willingness to operate the proposed airliner, as did the private Court Line Aviation airline (the latter equally willing to operate the European Airbus). No orders were placed: design was not finalised and the programme had not launched. By this stage, the Three-Eleven had become involved in several controversies:

  • The foremost controversy addressed the Three-Eleven's technical aspects, with claims that it would be prone to the deep stall phenomenon, would encounter loadability and centre of gravity issues in real-life airline service, and would be overweight. It was suggested that the aeroplane would make a poor freight and mixed passenger/freight carrier due to configurational shortcomings. (Indeed, the layout failed to make its way into production on any widebody aircraft, the Ilyushin Il-86 project reverting to a conventional layout before it reached the hardware stage.);
  • Another controversy addressed Britain's foreign policy and was double-sided. On the one hand, in nascent complaints at European governments' finance for aircraft which competed with American products, private US aircraft makers cautioned that such support may ultimately impact trade and political relations across the Atlantic. On the other, Britain's potential Common Market partners warned that since the Three-Eleven project competed with the European Airbus, around which they had largely coalesced, it threw doubt over British loyalty to the EEC which it had applied to join.
  • A third controversy addressed British government backing for its aviation industry and concerned claims that airliner projects sponsored by government had tended to be uncompetitive and had been unwanted by the airlines whose needs they purported to meet. In particular, it was claimed that Vickers VC10 and Trident experience showed that initial finance was understated deliberately so as to entice government, locking it into further support later.

This delayed government launch aid. Since a general election was approaching, the Labour cabinet of Harold Wilson halted progress on the issue until a new government had a fresh mandate. The election resulted in a Conservative government. As opposed to Labour, this party was enthusiastically intent on taking Britain into the EEC. It was also ideologically opposed to state intervention in industry. In short order, however, the new Edward Heath cabinet had to rescue Rolls-Royce from bankruptcy by nationalising it. Since launch aid for the Three-Eleven would have been a further very significant instance of state intervention, and would also have given an anti-EEC signal, it was omitted from the political agenda.

By that time the Airbus A300 design had been finalised and had attracted modest but sufficient orders, while the first A300 aeroplane was progressing to completion. There was also growing pressure from the Heath government for BEA and private British airlines (particularly Court Line) to buy TriStars: since TriStars were powered by Rolls-Royce engines, this would help recovery in a sector of the British aviation industry which had recently attracted large state support. In the circumstances, few sales could be foreseen for the Three-Eleven and no commercial source was likely to fund it. By 1971, BAC had quietly abandoned it.

See also[edit]

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration and era
Related lists


External links[edit]