The first flight of the British Aerospace ATP
By early Eighties, the still in production HS748 was beginning to show its age amid the rise of more efficient Short Haul Turboprop Airliners; a market which, by new entries such as the ATR-42 and the Dehavilland Canada Dash 8, was being dominated with great success. Keen to get a foot in this door, British Aerospace announced at the 1984 Farnborough Airshow that a new aircraft was to be produced as their entry into this ever competitive market.
The first prototype G-MATP make its maiden flight at 10am on this day 34 years ago
They called it the ATP, an abbreviation for ‘Advanced Turboprop’. They further detailed that to prove the efficiency this aircraft and its manufacturers would maintain, the prototype would make its first flight on the 6th August 1986 at 10:00hrs. And that it did! On this day, 34 years ago, at ten in the morning, the ATP prototype and first production airframe G-MATP made its maiden flight from Woodford at the ever capable hands of Test Pilot Robbie Robinson.
Robbie Robinson (Right) and his flight crew, beside G-MATP after its maiden flight
The ways the ATP differed from its predecessor, the HS748, were what owed to its efficiency. Notably, the engines were upgraded from Rolls Royce Dart engines to the Canadian made PW.124 Turboprops. In addition to this, the ATP had modern instruments and flight systems, the fuselage was extended to accommodate more passengers, the nose was more refined, and the aircraft sat higher on its front undercarriage to be compatible with air bridges at commercial airports.
The ATP entered airline service with British Midland in 1988, incidentally the same year the HS748 production was suspended at Woodford. The ATP was further ordered and operated by 23 air services, including West Air Cargo based in Sweden and Deraya Air Taxi in Indonesia who both operate a handful of the type to this day
The Jetsream 61 was an ultimately unsuccesful version of the ATP of which only four airframes were made. It offered upgraded PW127 engines and increased seating.
Production of the ATPs moved in 1992, to BAe Regional Aircraft based at Prestwick, bringing the number of ATPs made up to 63 airframes by 1996 when production ended. In 2001 a number of these aircraft returned to what was by then BAE Systems Regional Aircraft to be converted to a cargo role, with the large rear cargo door being a modified version of the same door added to the cargo variant HS748s.
And so today we say Happy 34th Birthday to the British Aerospace ATP and mark it’s continuing service across the globe!