The begining of the end for Boeings valiant heavy work horse, sad also to see the reception of the 747-8 by carriers will not see much of commercial role. Based on Boeings current focus it also looks like the end of Boeing four engined airliner history.
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Don't write them off (sic) just yet. The cargo conversion market is still very strong, and despite carrier reluctance, there's always someone somewhere willing to risk everything and fly new routes with aging equipment - DC-3s and C-54s and Bristols and even a Dove or two still ply the skies in commercial service (thank the Gods).
You're right, of course, re 4x engined ops for Boeing. That's not really such a bad thing, though, is it? I for one, would much rather manage 2 engines than 4. I can appreciate the nostalgia and familiarity aspects though.
Bristols still in service? Wow! What type and where?
These are the ones I know of.
Bristol Freighter Mk1 in service Argentina TC-330 (Historical)
Bristol Freighter Mk31E in service New Zealand ZK-CPT (rarely flown but airworthy)
Bristol Britannia C1 RAF Historical XM496 rarely flown - only airworthy example at the moment (see next entry)
Bristol Britannia 312 ex Air Monarch under restoration at Duxford G-AOVT
Bristol Freighter Mk31 in service Air Express Australia VH-ADL (rarely flown but airworthy)
Instone Airlines (later Atlantic Air Transport) operated 2 Freighters until at least 1989 - fate unknown.
Midland Air Cargo operated a Freighter Mk31 and a Mk32 until at least 1985. fate unknown
Most Britannias disappeared around the early 70's with some surviving until 1975. The engines and avionics just couldn't compete.
Most Freighters disappeared around the late 70s but some survive still.
All metal grows weary with time (except perhaps that yellow stuff). I know the chap who delivered that aeroplane to New Zealand, a pleasant gentleman called Neville Hay. Though retired from line flying, his airframe and internally head-mounted processing and data storage and retrieval systems seem to be in better condition than the old 747. You may be interested to learn that Neville actually built, and flys, one of those tiny twin-engined French Cri Cri monoplanes...the one with the chain-saw powerplants. I asked him what was its Vmca and he said, no problem; it is down around Vs. I loved the comment he made when asked why he selected the Cri Cri for a home-build project?
"Well...it was the only aircraft that I could take along with me in the 747 cockpit as carry-on baggage!"
Here is an excellent site devoted to Bristol aircraft worldwide http://www.filton.flyer.co.uk/bristol/
Wow - What a challenge that must have been to build - I know my limitations and precise carpentry is definitely one of them!
I love this pic of one registered in Germany - it's like a Tardis cockpit - the pilot's body enters another dimension. Also note the wind turbines in the background - that to me indicates 1. that consistent winds are prevailing and 2. that flying nearby must be like pylon racing!