Featured image: Tim Rees/GFDL 1.2

6/01/1981: First Flight of the Prototype Short 360

DALLAS – Today, in 1981, the prototype of the Short 360 (SD3-60), 36-seater airliner took to the skies for the first time, a year after its manufacturer, Short Brothers, announced its production.

The model follows the Short 330, developed in 1974, with an additional six-seat capacity and a short-range regional with a maximum fuel range of 1,055 km. While the aircraft is mostly used for cargo services; it is also used for military operations by the US Army and was previously used by the Venezuelan Air Force.

File:Short SD360 cabin interior.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
Three abreast seating of the Short 360 aircraft. Photo: RuthAS – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Commuter Airliner in the 80’s, Variant Models

As the market demanded larger cabins for seat capacity by the 70s, Short Brothers started to develop aircraft with 30 seats like its Short 330, based on its prior Short SC.7 Skyvan, which is a twin-engined model for short-haul freight and skydiving with a high aspect ratio wing.

At the beginning of the new decade, the company announced the assembly of a new Short line with the 360 aircraft for further capacity and enhanced models produced year by year. Once the prototype was ready in 1981, it performed its maiden flight on June 1 and later received its type certification on September 3.

A year later, the first production of the series, the Short 360-100, made its first flight on August 19 and began commercial operations in November of ’82 with the now-defunct Suburban Airlines.

Night Express freighter with windows plugged. Photo: Kambui – Night Express Short 360-300 (F) D-CRAS, CC BY 2.0

Freighter Configuration, End of Production

By 1985, a new feature was added to the SD3-60 in the Short 360 Advanced with additional 1,062Kw PT6A-65-AR engines. Then, by 1987, the Short 360-300 was developed and ameliorated with PT6A-67R engines. Additionally, a freighter configuration (360-300F) was done to the -300 for five cargo containers.

In the 90s, the production of the aircraft was stopped, with 165 of the type delivered. However, its military variants, the C-23B+ Sherpa and the C-23C Sherpa were modified to be operated by the US Army. These improvements include the addition of a twin-fin tail section to replace its single-fin tail.

Front view showing the square cross-section and braced wing. Photo: Konstantin von Wedelstaedt – Gallery page, GFDL 1.2

Overview of Short 360 Incidents

During almost 30 years, the SD3-60 was involved in 15 accidents, all of them causing the loss of airframe. The fatalities were related mostly to emergency landings in and outside airports, wind incidents, explosions at airports, and a paramilitary bomb attack.

The first incident occurred on October 22, 1985, at Enshi Xujiaping Airport (ENH), where a commuter of the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) overran the runway in its landing, leaving no injured or killed passengers.

On October 29, 2014, the model registered its last incident during a cargo flight requested by FedEx. The aircraft of Skyway Enterprises lost altitude and crashed into water in the Netherlands-Puerto Rico route, killing both member of the crew.

short_360_3 - Air Cargo Carriers
Short 360 cockpit. Photo: AirCargoCarriers.com

Technical Specs

The Short 360 is an aircraft of 21,58m of length and 7.27m of height with two Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-67R turboprops engines, which operate 400Km/h at cruising speed for a total range of 1,055Km and a ceiling service of 3,505m.

Operating empty, the aircraft weights 7,350Kg (16,600lb) while its max takeoff weight with 39 passengers and 2 crew staff is about 11,657Kg (25,700lb).

Even though the SD3-60 has a typical passenger seating capacity of 36 in 12 seat rows, a further high-density configuration could carry 39 travelers.

In comparison with the Short 330, the 36 seat-aircraft difference relies on a 91cm fuselage plug that allows two additional seat rows, that is to say, six more passengers in the 360. Further, the extra length of the new design upgraded its aerodynamic profile and reduced the drag.

Tiara Air Short 360, Aruba. Photo: Bjørn Christian Tørrissen, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Total Short 360 Fleet

More than 100 aircraft of the total 165 remained operational by 1998, according to Airliners.net, but ten years later, just a quarter of the type was still carrying operations. As of 2017, there were 42 Short 360s in service.

The type was a hit with UK smaller airlines, especially the Isle of Man-based Manx. Passengers were transported to larger hubs in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland as a result of this.

Have you flown on a Short 360? What was the experience like? As always, you can leave your comments below, and remember to stay tuned for tomorrow’s History post.

The featured image show the Short 360 prototype at the 1982 Farnborough Airshow. Article source: Mondey, David. Encyclopedia of the World’s Commercial and Private Aircraft. New York: Crescent Books, 1981. ISBN 0-517-36285-6, p. 228

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