Admit it. You’ve mistaken a BAe 146 / RJ85 for a 747 or A340 at least once in your life as you saw it fly overhead. I’m not ashamed to let you all know that I used to do it all the time when I was younger, because these little four-engined airplanes really do look like something much larger when viewed from directly underneath. I’m not exactly sure why the engineers deemed it necessary to strap four engines under the wings of this little bird, but I thank them profusely for doing it. Whether they were trying or not, they succeeded in creating one of the most interesting-looking airliners of all time.
The BAe 146 / RJ85 is all but extinct here in the US unfortunately, but the AvGeek in me is proud that there are still 118 still in operation in other parts of the world at the time of this writing. I naturally assumed that most would be in Europe, but it turns out that Asia is home to the bulk of the remaining airframes. According to Wikipedia (take that for what it’s worth), 47 are in Asia / the Middle East, while only 34 remain in Europe. That’s a lot less than I thought!
My personal history with the RJ85 is short, but memorable. Northwest Airlink (Northwest’s commuter brand) had a sizable fleet of them in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, and I managed to find myself on 5 of them between the years of 1997 and 2004. Of course I didn’t think anything of it at the time (I was never a big fan of regional jets), but what I wouldn’t give now to go back in time and take another one for a spin.
Finding the reference material needed to create these illustrations was not difficult, but trying to understand the British Aerospace / BAe Systems / Avro brand evolution had me scratching my head in maddening confusion. Basically, as far as I understand it, the 146 was developed under British Aerospace in the early 1980’s and launched into production in 1983. In 1995, they split some of their commercial airliner programs off of the main brand, resulting in the creation of Avro International. Then, in 1997 (in reaction to the merger of Boeing and McDonnell Douglas), British Aerospace merged with several other companies / entities and the name of that conglomerate was called BAe Systems.
At least I think that’s how it happened. I know that some of you who read this blog are hard-core airline and aviation experts (with an incredibly detailed knowledge of the aviation industry), so please feel free to leave a comment below to let me know how badly I botched this summary of the history of BAe Systems and Avro International. I won’t be offended, and as a matter of fact I’m dying to have someone explain it to me in a simple and easy to digest way.
Anyway, as I wrap up this post, I can’t help but to be very appreciative of the fact that the BAe 146 (or should I just call it an RJ85?) is a regional jet that (from underneath) can be mistaken for the mighty 747. When’s the last time you mistook a crappy CRJ-200 for something even remotely cool and interesting? And the ERJ-145 isn’t exactly a nice looking regional jet either, but sometimes I mistake one of those things for a sleek business jet of some kind. At least the current generation of regional jets (such as the E-175 and 190) look like real airplanes.
My next template is going to be an update of my existing 747-400. I’ve been needing (badly) to create versions with Rolls Royce and Pratt & Whitney engines, and depending how easy (or difficult) that is I may do the -300 (and -300 combi) at the same time. As of right now, it’s looking like my next built-from-scratch template is going to be the Airbus A300-600. Why isn’t my to-do list getting any shorter? lol
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