|BEA Trident 1C in the original delivery colors|
De Havilland originally had designed a larger aircraft that could have boasted the seat-mile economics of the 727, but as the aircraft was being designed to British European Airways (BEA) requirements for European services, BEA wanted a smaller aircraft and the first version of the Trident carried only 78 passengers. It ended up having to compete with the successful Caravelle in capacity below the Trident and the Boeing 727 on the top end of the capacity segment. De Havilland even tried to pitch a version of the Trident to American Airlines which at that point hadn't made up its mind yet on the 727 whereas Eastern and United had already committed their launch orders. But in August 1961 American followed United and Eastern in ordering 25 727-100s in a crushing blow to the British sales effort. And to add insult to injury, De Havilland was having a difficult time pleasing BEA, its planned primary customer as BEA kept changing its requirements and asking for changes to the Trident design. Once changed and approved for production, BEA would come back with another set of changes resulting in a small production block with several different variants to suit BEA's wishes. Some in the De Havilland program felt that BEA was trying to sabotage the Trident with its requests while Boeing turned out 727s in only two basic versions by the hundreds. Even later versions of the Trident with higher-powered Rolls-Royce Spey engines and longer fuselages to carry more passengers failed to dent the 727 worldwide sales juggernaut as order after order bypassed the Trident in favor of the 727.
|BEA Trident Two- the aircraft was progressively improved|
With the election of a new Labour Party government keen on supporting British industry, Milward warned that "If a British aircraft was available to do this job at the right price we'd be delighted. At the moment there are no signs that such a British aircraft is available." It was well-known that BEA had asked for approval to purchase 35 727-200s and 737-200s. De Havilland was astonished that after creating larger versions of the Trident, BEA said the market had an overcapacity, but then turned around and wanted order larger American aircraft.
|BEA Trident Three in British European's final livery|
The new Minister of Aviation, John Mulley, found himself backed into a corner by BEA and the British government. BEA had to buy the Trident Three at the direction of the government but BEA wanted compensation to offset the higher operating economics of operating the Trident Three.
On 13 March 1968, BEA announced it was ordering 26 Trident Threes with options for 10 more. Four months later, the government announced what was called the "Mulley Pledge"- approximately US$50 million was transferred to BEA and was calculated to be the cost difference between the higher seat-mile costs of the Trident Three versus the 727-200. And additional 50% of that initial transfer would be made available later to BEA, fufilling the Labour government's pledge to support the British aircraft industry.
Source: Flight of the Titans: Boeing, Airbus, and the Battle for the Future of Air Travel by Kenny Kemp. Virgin Books, 2006, p65-74.