Tuesday, 7 August 2018

British Airliners (1) : Vickers VC10

This new series will looks at some of the many airliners produced by the British aircraft industry over the decades. Starting with the mightiest of them all...

Like many airliners the origins of the VC10 lay with a military type. In the early 1950s Vickers were approached by the government to design a military transport based on the Valiant bomber. The V.1000 was to be powered by four Rolls-Royce Conway turbofans, the first turbofans to enter service and later used on the Boeing 707-400 series [1]. The V.1000 was to have a civil version called the VC7 able to carry up to one hundred and twenty passengers. Unfortunately the V.1000 (and VC7) were cancelled 1955.

First flight: 1962
Withdrawn: 2013 (military service)
Number built: 54
However the British national airline (then BOAC) needed a 707 type aircraft for African and Asian routes. These routes usually had short runway and thus the VC10 was designed with excellent short field performance though as it was heavier and higher powered than the 707 and DC-8 it was comprised economy wise [2].

The VC10 reused a lot of the design of the VC7 including the Conway turbofans however it had them at the rear of the aircraft in two sideways pairs instead of buried in the wings. BOAC placed an order for thirty five aircraft.

The VC10 first flew from the Vickers factory at Weybridge in 1962. By then Vickers had designed an improved Super VC10 having more powerful engines and a longer fuselage. Production lasted until 1970 with only fifty four VC10s being built, most going to BOAC. Ironically the success of the 707 and DC-8 had seen many airports with shorter runways extend them for the American airliners thus negating the one key advantage of the VC10.

The VC10 remained in service with BOAC (later British Airways) until 1981. Fourteen ex-BA VC10s were sold to the RAF where they had a much longer service life as transports and tankers. The last RAF VC10 was retired in 2013. Ten VC10s have been preserved, though not all in complete condition.
Former British Airways G-ARVM at Brooklands Museum

Under the tail of A40-AB, former Omani VIP jet


Front fuselage of G-ARVM at Cosford

[1] Charles Kennedy, Boeing 707 (Haynes, 2018) p. 37
[2] Keith Wilson, Vickers/BAC VC10 (Haynes, 2016) p. 11