Short 360: the Iconic Legacy Aircraft

Aircraft · 6 min read · Oct 20, 2022
short 360

The Short 360 is a twin-engine short-haul regional airliner produced by the British manufacturer Short Brothers in Belfast, Northern Ireland. This aircraft is mainly known for its significant impact on the short-haul market, especially in the UK and the United States. It was short-lived, with only 165 aircraft being built before the production line was closed in 1991.

The Short 360 was introduced at a time when most regional airlines were still using propeller-driven aircraft, and it immediately was loved by such airlines.

But what made the Short 360 so popular among regional airlines? And is it still flying? Keep reading as we disclose all the details about this aircraft operated by US and UK’s regional airlines.

A Short 360 taxing down the airport runway.
Image source: © Photographer Tim Rees

A bit of history

Being introduced in the 1980s, the Short 360 was one of the first turboprop-powered regional airliners, and it quickly became popular with airlines for its fuel efficiency and low operating costs, with the first model powered by Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-65R turboprop engines. The Short 360 is derived from the Short 330, but it is easily identified by the larger swept tail mounted on a revised rear fuselage. Also, the Pratt & Whitney PT6A turboprops used to power the plane are fully ICAO Stage 3 noise-compliant, making the 360 one of the quietest turboprop aircraft in operation.

Moreover, the Northern Ireland-born aircraft was also notable for its short take-off and landing (STOL) capabilities, which made it well-suited for operating from small airports. However, it was not the fastest of its kind since other turboprops had a higher cruise speed than the 215 mph (370 km/h) cruise speed of the Short 360. The short take-off and landing aircraft were designed to seat up to 36 passengers, 39 in the high-density configuration.

The Short 360s were operated by a number of regional airlines, including Manx Airlines, Air Midwest, Mississippi Valley Airlines, International Trans Air Business, Suburban Airlines, Dash Air Interisland Airways and Atlantic Southeast Airlines.

Some specifications of the Short 360

The aircraft was operated on short-haul routes of up to 500 Nautical Miles (800 km). However, it had a maximum range of 570 Nautical Miles (1,056 km).

Regarding capacity, it could carry up to 39 passengers or 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of cargo.

Other specifications of this regional airline use aircraft include:

Max Takeoff Weight: 27,117 lbs (12,300 Kg)

Flight crew capacity: 2

Payload Service Ceiling: 20,000 feet

Power: 2x PT6A-67R engines (Pratt & Whitney Canada) of 1,424 horsepower in the 360-300 model for higher cruise speed and improved performance.

A Short 360 in flight.
Image source: (CC) Kambui

Air cargo carriers aircraft

The Short 360 was also used by air cargo carriers after the manufacturer created a special configuration from the original design called the 360-300F.

The main idea behind the design of this aircraft was to provide small air cargo airlines with an efficient way to transport cargo. This aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 14,800 pounds and can carry up to nine thousand pounds of cargo in five LD3 cargo containers. Having more powerful PT6A-67R engines with six-blade propellers, this version was ideal for any airline needing to complete their cargo flight quickly and over long distances. And because of its fuel efficiency, it helped keep operating costs down for cargo airlines.

British regional airlines aircraft

Before the widespread adoption of jet aircraft, regional airlines in the United Kingdom were largely served by propeller-driven planes. But, the short-haul international business aviation community is highly competitive, so these airlines needed an efficient and reliable way to connect their customers with their destinations.

The Short 360 aircraft has a range of 3,200 nautical miles, so it was the perfect choice for connecting short-haul international flights. The aircraft is also equipped with advanced navigational equipment, allowing it to land in any weather conditions. With its high-tech features and spacious interior, the Short 360 was clearly the perfect aircraft for British regional airlines.

However, the Short 360 was phased out in favor of more modern jets.

An aircraft Short 360 in flight.
Image source: (CC) Tomás Del Coro

Short 360 maiden flight

On June 1st, 1981, the Short 360 took to the skies for its maiden flight. This time, it was the first production model prototype on a test flight, since the aircraft did not receive type certification until September 3rd.

A year later, the first production type-certificated Short 360 flew for the first time on August 19th, and the first scheduled passenger flight took place later in November under the Suburban Airlines banner.

Are Shorts 360 still flying?

Although the Short 360 stopped production in 1991, a significant number of aircraft remained in operation around the world afterward. However, the short 360 has fallen out of favor with airlines and has been replaced by more modern turboprop aircraft. As a result, there are very few Short 360s still in operation today.

According to aircraft data, 110 were still flying in 1998. Yet, only 42 were in service by 2017.

Who owned Manx Airlines?

Manx Airlines was a regional airline that operated from the Isle of Man between 1982 and 2002, and one of the main beneficiaries of the Short 360 service. It was a joint venture founded by British Midland Airways and AirUK and set up in the early 1980s. It quickly became one of the most successful businesses. The airline grew rapidly, carrying over a million passengers a year by the early 1990s. From 1985 until 1993, the airline employed the Shorts 360 and the Shorts 330.

In March 1991, Manx Airlines created Manx Airlines Europe in order to expand and fly routes within the United Kingdom. In 1994, Manx Airlines Europe became a franchise carrier for British Airways, its fleet flying in the colors of British Airways.

In September 1996, Manx Airlines Europe changed its name to British Regional Airlines. In March 2001, British Airways purchased the British Regional Airlines Group (holding company of British Regional Airlines and Manx Airlines) for £78 million. The airline merged with Brymon Airways to create British Airways CitiExpress.

Manx Airlines ceased operations on 31 August 2002.

An aircraft on the runway,
Image source: © Konstantin von Wedelstaedt

A black cloud above the Short 360

Despite the Short 360 being a well-rounded and a versatile aircraft, it had its fair share of incidents and accidents during the years of production. Luckily, many of the accidents had no fatalities, but the airframes had to be written off. Some of the lighter Short 360 accidents included:

  • 1985 CAAC flight: The aircraft overran the runway and crashed while landing at Enshi Airport. Fatalities were avoided during this accident.
  • 1986 Aer Lingus flight: The Aer Lingus flight crashed during approach to East Midlands Airport due to turbulent weather. No fatalities were registered during this accident.
  • 1997 Corporate Air flight: During a gusty day, Corporate Air landed heavily and lost the nosewheel strut. No fatalities were recorded.
  • 2012 Air Cargo Carriers flight: The aircraft was damaged following a wheel brake fire at the George Bush Intercontinental airport. The aircraft was overweight and taxied at a higher speed. No injuries were reported during the incident.

Sadly, there have also been some less fortunate instances. One of them was actually deemed as the deadliest aviation accident involving a Short 360. It was a Venezuelan Air Force flight which crashed into a mountain, instantly killing all 30 passengers on board.

Brake fire of the Air Cargo Carriers flight with Short 360.

Final thoughts on the Short 360

Many think that the Short 360 was just a short-range commuter aircraft that was operated by regional airlines in the United Kingdom and the United States, which was popular with this type of airlines only because of its low operating costs. Yet, it also served military operators such as the US Army and the Venezuelan Airforce.

Definitely, the Short 360 provided more to the aviation industry, even when it was involved in a number of accidents and incidents, which led to its eventual retirement from production.

Although the Short 360 is no longer in production, it remains an iconic aircraft, and its legacy continues to be felt in the regional aviation market.


Can you still buy a Short 360?

Yes, now and again there is a listing for a Short 360. But keep in mind as it is a decommissioned aircraft, maintenance costs can add up to a hefty number.

Are there similar aircraft to the Short 360?

Similar crafts to the Short 360 could be the Sukhoi Su-80 and Cessna Grand Caravan, however, they are quite much smaller.

Can you get a type rating for the Short 360?

Training for this type rating is not readily available anymore as the aircraft is not being produced at the moment. However, there might be companies that organize private type rating training for the Short 360.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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