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Hawker Siddeley Trident

By Patrick Mondout

This trijet (three jet engines) started life as the de Havilland 121 and became the Hawker Siddeley Trident after the consolidation of several British aerospace companies. It was a short-range transport like the Douglas DC-9, the BAC One-Eleven and the Boeing 737, though it ultimately was less successful than all three.

It's level of success, like the BAC 1-11, was partially the result of it being designed specifically for the state-run airlines, British European Airways (BEA). A more flexible design that appealed to other airlines might have given this otherwise excellent jet a chance.

The Trident 3B was the last model to be produced and the last of those was delivered in 1975.

HS-121 Trident

G-AZXM, a British Airways Hawker Siddeley HS-121 Trident seen in Sweden, August 1978.

Image courtesy of AirNikon. Find more of his photos at


Hawker Siddeley Trident at a Glance
Engines3 Rolls-Royce RB 163-25 Mk 512-5W Spey turbofans
Cruising Speed605
Length114ft 9in
Final Production1978
Mesurements refer to Trident 2E


Share Your Memories!

What do you remember about the Hawker Siddeley Trident? Were you a member of the flight crew on one? Have you any interesting stories to share? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"I flew a Trident as a passenger on several occasions: twice in Trident 1Cs, four times in 2Es, and three times in 3Bs. At the time I also flew regularly on other types, making comparisons possible. This included BEA/British Airways and Cyprus Airways aircraft between 1971 and 1984.

The Trident was a very beautiful airliner. She had something typically British about her. Somehow she was redolent of the Triumph 2000 saloon car or the Triumph Stag -- elegantly understated British vehicles of the same period.

But in other ways she compared poorly with the competition. The Tupolev 154 trijet airliner looked if anything even more purposeful and beautiful, and the Boeing 727 was almost there on looks, and much more comfortable.

Inside, the Trident suffered (along with the Soviet type) from a peculiar 'slumpdown' cabin interior. Unlike the Russian, she was also very narrow -- the six-abreast seating within a diameter of 3. 45m (against 3. 58m for the Tupolev and the Boeing's 3. 55m double-lobe body) was excruciating on longer flights -- and I am just 1. 70m (5ft 7in) tall!

The aviation press will have you believe the Trident was dubbed "Gripper" by pilots because she 'gripped the ground' (was so underpowered as to make takeoffs very difficult). I don't remember this being so. The machine certainly had a departure behaviour all of its own. She would not give you a heave and a push at the start of the takeoff roll. Unstick came at about the same time as with other trijets, and initial climb was indeed less steep than the competition. But within seconds there was steady increase in pitch until the nose pointed skyward at quite a healthy angle. Arrival at the initial cruise altitude was quite as rapid as with other types. And once there, the Trident cruised faster than even the Tu-154 or Convair 990: 605 mile per hour groundspeeds were regularly quoted by Captain Speaking.

All 115 Tridents built were retired early by modern standards: it was rare for a machine to serve for much longer than 12-13 years or 20, 000 hours. For instance, BEA more or less retired the vast majority of its Trident 1Cs in 1973-'74 (after eight or nine years' service) at Prestwick where they rotted away. This afflicted Zhongguo Minhang (CAAC) machines as much as BEA ones.

The early retirement may have had something to do with fatigue fears. In 1977 British Airways' Trident 3Bs were found to have extensive wing spar cracking at Rib 8 (a third of the way out from body to wingtip) and underwent extensive repairs. The related Trident 2E wing was also inspected and had Trident 1E wingtips fitted in lieu of the original Kuchemann wingtips."




Image of a 1982 Gibraltar stamp

Model: Trident

Manufacturer: Hawker Siddeley

Country: Britain

First Flight: January 9, 1962

First Passenger Flight: March 11, 1964

Launch Customer: BEA

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