Solent Sky saves One-Eleven

Forward fuselage of ex-British Airways airliner and QinetiQ testbed arrives at Southampton museum

Sixty-two feet of forward fuselage from BAC One-Eleven 539GL ZH763/G‑BGKE arrived safely at Solent Sky in Southampton during the early evening of 25 November at the end of a long road trip from Newquay Airport, where it had been part of the now defunct Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre. The remainder of the aircraft has been scrapped at Newquay. The fuselage has been placed alongside the front wall of the museum parallel to Albert Road South.

Solent Sky director Alan Jones says, “Gary Spoors and his team at GJD Services did an excellent job cutting the fuselage and preparing it for the journey. I don’t like the idea of cutting a fuselage like this, but we just haven’t got room here for the whole aeroplane. We will be building a new café to butt up the against the rear fuselage, and be providing wheelchair access to the co-pilot’s station. All the instruments and controls are still in the aeroplane, which will be a tremendous advantage for us. It will be great to be able to get children on board: people tend to think that everybody gets to fly on an airliner these days, but many children just don’t get that opportunity.”

Built during 1980 at Bournemouth-Hurn for British Airways as G-BGKE, this One-Eleven was based out of Manchester for the next 11 years, flying to destinations all over Europe. During 1991 it went to the Defence Research Agency, flying from Boscombe Down, Bedford and Farnborough as ZH763, predominantly on radar trials work. When retired from service with the DRA’s successor organisation, QinetiQ, during 2012, it was the last airworthy One-Eleven in the UK. It was delivered from Boscombe Down to Newquay on 26 April 2013. Alan Jones adds, “We were intending to repaint it in its original British Airways scheme, but we rather like the QinetiQ colours, so will be leaving it as it is. The fuselage will be open to the public before the end of the year, and the new café should be in place for Easter 2024.”

BAC One- Eleven ZH763 is eased into place in front of the Solent Sky building during the early evening of 25 November.
BAC One-Eleven ZH763 is eased into place in front of the Solent Sky building during the early evening of 25 November. TREVOR MORECRAFT