Another nearly obsolete aircraft I’ve worked on is the BAe 146. I visited the Air Wisconsin facility in Appleton, WI in the early 90s, a place I would never have expected to return to. Unbeknownst to me at the time, EAA had a rapidly growing aviation hobby center about 20 miles to the south. In Appleton, I performed as a liaison engineer for Airworks / AES / Schwartz Engineering doing Satcom/ADF installations on a BAe146 Italian charter airline (Meridiana* if memory serves me. They operated BAe 146-200 aircraft from 1991 to 2004).
The BAe146 made its first flight in 1981. Renown as the most successful British civil jet airliner program, the 70-seat regional airliner was operated under United Express, a.k.a. Air Wisconsin. Approximately 387 (394) aircraft were produced. The Avro RJ was an improved version introduced in 1992. All BAe146 / Avro RJ production ended in 2002. Around 220 aircraft still operate worldwide in various roles. A conversion, popularized by the United States Forest Service (USFS) and Canadian firefighters, sees the Avro RJ and BAe 146 presently being used as airtankers.
*Meridiana was set up under the name of Alisarda on March 29, 1963 by Aga Khan Prince Karim Al Hussaini with the aim of promoting tourism in Sardinia. Scheduled flights commenced in 1964. The name was changed to Meridiana in 1991, the same year the company began its BAe146 operations.
One enduring aircraft that I worked on is the Lockheed P-3B Orion, a four-engine turboprop surveillance aircraft developed for the US Navy in the 1960s. Operated by NASA at Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia this ex-US Navy aircraft is used for low altitude heavy lift airborne science missions. It was modified to support passive microwave instruments, such as NOAA’s Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer, NASA’s 2-DSTAR, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s polarimetric scatterometer instruments.
Modifications to the P-3B were performed for NAVAIR, the US Navy’s Air Systems Command. At that time its purpose was “weather collection.” Today, the P-3C Orion is a land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft. Its mission includes surveillance of the battlespace, at sea and over land. The P-3 Orion excels at this task due in part to its long range and long loiter time. The project was in collaboration with Avionics Engineering Services and Associated Air Center in Dallas, Texas.
In the now obsolete aircraft that I once worked on category is the DC-8 for UPS (United Parcel Service).
In 1980 UPS opened its first major hub in Louisville, Kentucky and began acquiring recently retired commercial jet aircraft. These Douglas DC-8s, Boeing 727-100s and Boeing 747-100s were converted from passenger aircraft to freighters. Of 556 DC-8 aircraft manufactured from 1958 to 1972, around 200 were still in commercial service in 2002, mostly used as freighters and nearly half (97) operated by UPS.
I worked with a team of electrical, systems and structural engineers on a multi-faceted project including an instrument panel re-design, and cabin and service bay modifications.
By 2009, UPS had retired their fleet due to aging, increasing operating costs and strict noise and emissions regulations. The UPS DC-8 final flight landed at Louisville International Airport on May 11, 2009. The first flight of a UPS DC-8 had occurred 21 years prior, on February 1, 1988.