MAX KINGSLEY-JONES / LONDON
BAE Systems has suspended flight-testing of the Avro RJX following last month's termination of the programme, pending a decision on the fate of the three test aircraft.
Although an announcement about the cancellation was originally made last November, BAE did not finally kill the project until 23 January after agreement was reached with launch customers British European and Druk Air to terminate their order contracts (Flight International, 29 January - 4 February). With an outside chance that BAE could have been legally contracted to build the aircraft, test flying continued while the discussions took place, with the third aircraft joining the test programme in mid-January. However, sources say a resumption of the flight test programme is unlikely.
The three Honeywell AS977-powered aircraft (one RJX-85 and two RJX-100s) had completed 528h in 242 flights, and are now stored at BAE's Woodford production plant awaiting a decision on their future. According to sources, this could range from being scrapped to being used "for other purposes". It is believed it would be uneconomic to convert them to Avro RJ specification with the retrofit of Honeywell LF507 engines and RJ equipment.
Meanwhile, BAE's vice-president marketing Nick Godwin says negotiations are under way with "five or six prospective customers" to place four white-tail RJs (two RJ85s and two RJ100s) near to completion.
BAE delivered 386 BAe 146s and Avro RJs over the programme's 21- year life, excluding the four unplaced RJs and three RJX test aircraft. Ironically, the first 146 ever built (serial number 3001) is likely to be the last aircraft to leave the factory. It is being reworked at Woodford for operation as an atmospheric research aircraft.
Source: Flight International