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N999BW BAC1-11 Charter Flight, Dallas Love-Field, TX (KDAL) - 26/27 August 2011

A unique opportunity was presented to enthusiasts a few months ago to fly on one of the few remaining BAC1-11s that are authorized to carry passengers, and on Saturday 27th August that day dawned. Paul Filmer reports on this unusual flight from Dallas Love-Field, Texas.

The company that operates the BAC1-11, Business Jet Access (BJA), was approached by Classic Jet Tours about a special charter to allow enthusiasts to fly on this, all too rare, British airliner. In the end the 30 seat executive configured aircraft carried 21 happy passengers on a two-hour flight transiting to the Amarillo area at 22,00 feet, and flying around the Palo Duro Canyon and along the Red River at 6,000 feet.

The idea behind this flight was an unusual one, as Sean Burris explains below. Surprisingly, Sean is only in 11th grade (16 years old) and will be applying to get accepted into a university next year. His high school councilor suggested that Sean should do something entrepreneurial to add to his resume, in order to better his chances of being accepted into a competitive business school, in order to pursue an MBA.

"Of course my mind immediately turned to aviation. Having always had a special interest in 1st and 2nd generation jet airliners, I have always longed to fly aboard them. With their dwindling numbers it has become increasingly challenging to do. Having heard of Airevents enthusiast charters in Europe, I decided to bring a similar type of operation to the US as there are still a few classics plying our skies.

"So with my father's guidance, I recorded my business name, Classic Jet Tours, I built a website, and then began looking for the right aircraft. I decided on the BAC due to the extremely small number of operational aircraft and the fact that the operator had an excellent website and seemed like they would be open to my unusual proposition.

"On August 27th we were graced with the presence of many great enthusiasts who were a joy to meet. In hindsight, we may have been able to get better returns with a DC-8 flight (we have received an astounding number of requests from people asking us to organize a flight) and it may have been a better choice for our first endeavor. That said, the flight on Saturday was absolutely spectacular and I wouldn't change a thing about it. It was a phenomenal experience to be able to bring folks from around the world together on account of their one common interest."

The evening before I had arranged a sunset shoot of the aircraft as the next day the heat would be fierce and the lighting harsh, during the planned flight.

The majority of the 21 enthusiastic passengers came all the way from Europe including the UK, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and Greece plus closer participants from the USA and Canada. One passenger was so excited that he wouldn't even step aboard the plane during the sunset shoot, saving his excitement for the flight.

Start Up


Start Up mp3

On the day of the flight Business Jet Services, the fixed base operator side of BJA, escorted us to the approximate rotation point along the runway, and the owner, his son and the charter manager joined us. We could already tell that they were proud of their aircraft.

This aircraft, N999BW construction number BAC.120, is unusual, as it has never seen airline service. It's a BAC1-11-419EP and was originally delivered to Engelhard Industries and latter flew for Amway Corporation. The 400 series of BAC1-11 was effectively a 300 series aircraft specifically for the North American market, with different instrumentation and equipment, and was the most widely built of the short-fuselage versions. This aircraft has Spey Mk.511-14 engines fitted with Quiet Technology Stage 3 hush kits.

Richard Church, well known BAC1-11 historian and author of the Air Britain book 'The One-Eleven Story', takes up the story of the flight. "The forward door remained open for the characteristic scream of the starter motors on engine start to be heard. The One-Eleven provided an incredibly smooth and remarkably quiet flight (especially up front) throughout as the type usually did. We were served Bucks Fizz or champagne in flight while a selection of biscuit type snacks was available throughout."

Richard also gave us a little information regarding the remaining passenger BAC1-11s in Africa. Tombouctou Aviation, in Mali, who were the only other commercial operator of the type, have been forced to ground their two Series 475s and are now just left flying their Stage 3 hush-kitted TZ-BSB Series 401AK c/n BAC.086. There is a remote possibility that one of their 475s, TZ-BSC Series 488GH c/n BAC.259 currently stored at Bucharest-Baneasa, could fly under Mali military marks.

While the flight took place I took the opportunity to chat with the owner of the operation, Robert Wright. Robert started in the flying business around 1987 with a single Falcon 20F and used this aircraft to add the very first EFIS (electronic flight instrument system) into its cockpit in the USA.

As time went by Robert was buying larger and larger aircraft until he reached Gulfstream sized machines. He had heard of a BAC1-11 that was available and already kitted out with an executive interior via one of his friends. A company in Africa was already looking at this example, but Robert happened to be in Denver and flew to Oklahoma to view this aircraft and decided that he wanted the aircraft, offering cash up front. At the time it was fitted with stage 2 hush-kits and was also a low time aircraft at under 10k hours. Another couple of examples were bought later on, with one being stripped for spares and the other later sold. Basically owning the 1-11 was a happy accident.

Take-off


Take-off mp3

Robert says the aircraft is very well built and when flown regularly with proper maintenance it usually flies with zero squawks. An unusual advantage for owning this type is that it will fit in a normal sized hangar, which for an airliner is very rare with its tail being shorter than a Gulfstream. It can also carry an insane amount of equipment as it has the storage capacity of an airliner that a biz jet can only dream of.

Sometimes there's push-back on charters because of the age of the aircraft, as risk management people will simply look at the age of an aircraft and not take into account flight hours, cycles or maintenance schedules, so sometimes the age does hinder this aircraft, albeit for all the wrong reasons.

Some interesting charters that have taken place with this aircraft like tours with Bon Jovi, Sanatana, and even a pair of US Presidents have used the aircraft from time to time. Stars On Ice charted the aircraft two years in a row, visiting 65 cities, and it never missed a connection. The crew was changed every two weeks and a maintenance guy would fly out to check it over. The only issue they had was that the vodka would always run out with the Russian skaters on board.

When asked about the future and if he would ever sell the aircraft, Robert explained, "It's an absolute joy to have", and "the pilots and crew love the aircraft. If the crew and maintenance guys didn't like it, I'd probably sell it, but as it stands I have to keep it, even though it might be a foolish move on my part.

"I've never found a pilot who flew the BAC that didn't love it."

Today meant a lot to Robert to see everyone so happy to be on the flight, and he even took the opportunity to bring out his copy of Richard Church' book from his office to get it Richard to sign it.

Before the landing back at Love-Field the aircraft performed a go-around for the passengers, followed by a visual circuit, touching down one hour fifty-three minutes after take-off, and quite spectacularly holding up a Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 at the hold because of the tight circuit executed.

So what's it like to fly a BAC1-11? Talking to Ward Abbs, who was the captain for this flight, "The 1-11 is a very stable flyer, heavy on the ailerons, but very responsive and reliable." Ward's aviation background has included flying many different types, with quite a few being British built. Electra, DC-6, Metroliner, Dash7, BAC1-11, Fokker 50, ATP and BAe146 being some of those in his logbook.

Taxi


Taxi mp3

Many thanks to Robert Wright, Michael Wright, Chaney Nall, Jason Pons, Don Draper, Ward Abbs, Jose Torres, Frank Rebarchik and Sean Burris who put up with my constant badgering to get to the right place for the photos.



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