Vintage BAC 1-11 is towed through the streets of Southampton 

Author: Trevor Morecraft (courtesy of Solent Sky Museum)

On November 25, 2023, the citizens of Southampton, on England’s southern coast, woke up the extraordinary sight of an aircraft being towed through the streets of the city. 

The aircraft in question was an old BAC 1-11 making its way to the nearby Solent Sky Museum, where it will be turned into a café. Due to space constraints at its new emplacement, only the cockpit and forward section of the cabin will be preserved, though. 

The BAC 1-11 was a British-developed airliner for between 80 and 119 passengers (depending on the version) that was in production between 1963 and 1982 in the UK and, subsequently, between 1982 and 1989, under license in Romania.  

Some 244 of the type were built in total, with the last operational aircraft being retired in 2019 by Northrop Grumman, which used it as a testbed for the F-35 program. 

The airframe being transported to the Solent Sky (G-BGKE) entered service in 1981 with British Airways and later, in 1991, transferred to the UK’s Defence Research Agency, which used it, with its new military registration ZH763, in radar trials at its Boscombe Down establishment, in Wiltshire. In 2022 it was transferred to defense contractor QinetiQ, which used it as a flying laboratory, also for radar trials and research, until 2012. 

The last flight of this aircraft was on April 26, 2013, when it was flown to the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre, in Newquay, in the soutwest of England.  

The BAC 1-11 spent a decade on display in Cornwall, but the closure of that museum in 2022 brought it under threat of scrapping, until the Solent Sky Museum stepped in to purchase it. 

The Solent Sky Museum has shared, on its Facebook page, several videos of the BAC 1-11 complex ground transportation operation.

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