The Vickers VC10 was a long-range British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrong's (Aircraft) Ltd, and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also capable to use hot and high airports. The aircraft was often compared to the somewhat larger Russian design; the Ilyushin Il-62 with featured a similar rear-engine quad layout, the two types being the only airliner designs with such a configuration.
The initial concept of the VC10 was to provide a jet-powered airliner that could comfortably make use of the shorter runways commonly in use at the time. The performance of the VC10 was such that it achieved the fastest crossing of the Atlantic - London to New York, by a jet airliner, a record still held in 2009 for a sub-sonic airliner although beaten by the supersonic Concorde.
During the 1950s the government required the industry to consolidate: in consequence only two engine makers were left by 1959: Rolls-Royce and Bristol Siddeley. In 1960, the British Aircraft Corporation (BAC) encompassed Vickers, Bristol, and English Electric's aviation, Hawker Siddeley and Westland consolidated helicopter manufacture. In 1977 BAC and Hawker Siddeley (by then also including Avro) were nationalized and merged to form British Aerospace. In 1951 the Ministry of Supply asked Vickers-Armstrong's to consider a military troop/freight development of the Valiant V-bomber with trans-Atlantic range as a successor to the de Havilland Comet. The concept interested BOAC, who entered into discussion with Vickers and the RAF. In October 1952 Vickers were contracted to build a prototype which they designated the Type 1000 (V.1000), followed in June 1954 by a production order for six aircraft for the RAF
The planned civil airliner was known as the VC7 (the seventh Vickers civil design). The development period was extended as the company had to meet RAF requirement for short take-off and a self-loading capability. Work started on the prototype but by 1955 the increased weight of the aircraft required a more powerful engine. Then the government cancelled the RAF order in the 1955 due to defense cuts. Vickers and the Ministry of Supply hoped that BOAC would still be interested in the VC7 but they were reluctant to support the production of another British aircraft following delays in the Britannia program and the crashes involving the de Havilland Comet
Though BOAC had ordered modified Comet 4s it saw the type as intermediate. In 1956 BOAC ordered 15 Boeing 707s. These, however, were oversized and underpowered for BOAC's medium-range Empire (MRE) African and Asian routes, which involved destinations with "hot and high" airports, notably between Karachi, Kano, Nairobi and Singapore. Several companies proposed a suitable replacement. De Havilland offered the DH.118, a development of the Comet 5 project while Handley Page proposed its HP.97, based on their V-bomber, the Victor. After carefully considering the routes Vickers offered the VC10
The VC10 was a new design but used some production ideas and techniques, as well as the Conway engines, developed for the V.1000 and VC7. It had a generous wing equipped with wide chord Fowler flaps and full span leading edge slats for good take-off and climb performance. And rear-mounted engines which reduced cabin noise. Technology from the V.1000 and later Vanguard program's included structural parts milled from solid blocks rather than assembled from sheet metal construction. The entire airframe was to be coated against corrosion. Planned flight-deck technology was extremely advanced; with a quadruplicated automatic flight control system (a "super autopilot") intended to enable fully-automatic zero-visibility landings. Capacity was up to 135 passengers in a two-class configuration. Vickers calculated that it would need to sell 80 VC10s at about £1.75 million each to break even so, apart from BOAC's 25 another 55 remained to be sold. Vickers offered a smaller version (the VC11) to BEA for routes like those to Athens and Beirut but this was rejected in favor of the Hawker Siddeley Trident.
Vickers revamped its production plans to try to achieve break-even point with 35 sales at £1.5 million each, re-using jigs from the Vickers Vanguard. On 14 January 1958 BOAC increased its order to 35, with options for a further 20 aircraft, all with smaller 109-seat interiors and more first-class seating so, as orders from BOAC alone now allowed break-even, the use of the Vanguard jigs was abandoned and new production jigs made.
By January 1960 Vickers was experiencing financial difficulties and was concerned that it would not be able to deliver the 35 VC10s without making a loss. It offered to sell ten Super 200s to BOAC at £2.7 million each only to find that BOAC was unconvinced it had a role for the already ordered 35 VC10s and doubted the airline's ability to fill all 200 seats. The government intervened again on Vickers' behalf with an order for Super 200s, placed on 23 June 1960. The Super 200 extension was cut down to 13 ft (3.9 m) for the final Super VC10 (Type 1150), the original design retrospectively becoming the Standard VC10 (Type 1100). As allowed in its contracts with Vickers, in May 1961 BOAC amended its order to 15 Standard and 35 Super VC10s, eight of the Supers having a new kombi configuration with a large cargo door and stronger floor: in December the order was reduced again to 12 Standards. By the time deliveries were ready to begin in 1964 airline growth had slowed and BOAC wanted to cut its order to seven Supers. In May the government intervened, placing an order for VC10s to operate as military transports to absorb over-production.
The prototype Standard, G-ARTA, rolled out of the Weybridge factory on 15 April 1962. On 29 June, after two months of ground, engine and taxi tests, it flew to Wisley for further testing. By the end of the year two more had been flown to Wisley. A serious problem with drag appeared: to cure it Küchemann wingtips and "beaver tail", engine nacelle fairings were added and tested. The certification program included visits to Nairobi, Khartoum, Rome, Kano, Aden, Salisbury and Beirut. A VC10 flew across the Atlantic to Montreal on 8 February 1964.
By this point seven of the original 12 Standards were complete and the production line was preparing for the Supers. A Certificate of Airworthiness was awarded on 23 April 1964 and the VC10 was introduced to regular passenger service between London and Lagos on 29 April. By the end of 1964 all the production requirements had been fulfilled, Vickers (by this point part of the BAC) retaining the prototype. Super VC10s made a first flight on 7 May 1964. Although the Super was a minor development of the Standard with an extra fuel-tank in the fin, testing was prolonged by the need to move each engine pair 11 in (27 cm) outboard. This major redesign was needed to resolve tail-plane buffeting and fatigue issues due to thrust reverser operation. The two inboard engines could have thrust reversers installed at last, matching the 707. (Military VC10s also had this engine arrangement.) The Certificate of Airworthiness was awarded in March 1965. Super VC10 entered service on 1 April 1965.
Later VC10 design developments included testing a large main-deck freight-door and fitting new wing leading edges that allowed more economical high-altitude flying. Further developments proposed included freighter versions, one with front-loading like the C-124 Globemaster. Efforts focused on getting a BOAC order for a 250-seat "VC10 Superb", a move away from the VC10's initial MRE role into the area targeted by the DC-8 Super Sixties. The VC10 would have needed an entirely new double-deck fuselage, which raised emergency escape concerns, and the design failed to attract orders
Commercial service and sales
A total of 12 Type 1101 VC10 (registered G-ARVA to G-ARVM) were purchased in 1964-65, followed by 17 Type 1151 Super VC10 in 1965-69 (G-ASGA to G-ASGP and G-ASGR). The VC10 became an immensely popular aircraft in the BOAC fleet, both with passengers and crew, being particularly praised for its low cabin noise level and comfort. BOAC (and later British Airways) obtained higher load factors with the VC10 than with the 707 or indeed any other aircraft of its fleets. Operational experience soon resulted in the deletion of the inboard thrust-reversers due to continued tail-plane buffeting despite the engine repositioning. Two BOAC Super VC10s were lost in terrorist hijackings in 1968 and 1970.
Ghana Airways ordered three VC10s in January 1961: two to be fitted with a cargo door, known as Type 1102s. The first (registered 9G-ABO) was delivered in November 1964 and the second (9G-ABP) in May 1965: the third was cancelled. Ghana Airways leased 9G-ABP to Tayaran Assharq Alawsat (Middle East Airlines; MEA), which was destroyed at Beirut during an Israeli raid in December 1968. The other, 9G-ABO, was retired from service in 1980. MEA also leased the prototype aircraft that Vickers had kept until 1965, leased from Freddie Laker's charter airline.
British United Airways (BUA), ordered two combi versions (Type 1103) in 1964, receiving them in October that year. When BOAC ceased VC10 operations to South America BUA took them over, purchasing Ghana Airways' cancelled third aircraft in July 1965 (G-ATDJ, a Type 1103). The prototype aircraft (G-ARTA) was purchased from Vickers/BAC and converted from Type 1101 to Type 1109 in 1968. It was initially leased to Middle East Airlines but returned to British Caledonian (as BUA had become) in 1969. G-ARTA was damaged beyond economical repair in a landing accident at Gatwick in 1972 and the others were sold in 1973-74. G-ASIW saw further service with Air Malawi, being retired in 1979. G-ASIX was sold to the Sultan of Oman as VIP transport and was preserved at Brooklands museum upon its retirement in 1987. G-ATDJ went to the Royal Aircraft Establishment for equipment tests and was retired in 1980. Nigeria Airways had planned to buy two VC10s but had to cancel the order for financial reasons; it leased BOAC G-ARVA from 1969, but it was destroyed in a landing accident at Lagos in November that year.
The final VC10 was the one of five Type 1154 Super VC10 built for East African Airways between 1966 and 1970 (registered 5X-UVA, 5H-MMT, 5Y-ADA, 5X-UVJ and 5H-MOG). Of these, 5X-UVA was destroyed in a take-off accident at Addis Ababa in 1972, and the other four were retired in 1977 and returned to BAC, subsequently being purchased by the RAF. After 5H-MOG was delivered in February 1970, the production line closed, 54 airframes having been built. The 707 and Douglas DC-8, with their superior operating economics, had encouraged many of the world's smaller airports to extend their runways thus eliminating the VC10's main advantage.
BOAC's successor British Airways began retiring its Super VC10s from Atlantic flights in 1974, mainly due to the 1973 oil crisis, and using them to displace standard VC10s. Ten of the eleven surviving standard models were retired in 1974-75. Of these, five were leased to Tayaran AlKhalij (Gulf Air) until 1977-78 then purchased by the RAF. One was leased to the Government of Qatar for VIP transport until 1981 when it was purchased by the RAF as an instructional airframe. Another went to the Government of the United Arab Emirates for similar purposes until retirement in 1981 and preservation at Hermeskeil, Germany. The other three were traded in to Boeing as part payment on new aircraft and Boeing scrapped them at Heathrow. The last standard VC10 in British Airways service, G-ARVM, was retained as a stand-by for the Super VC10 fleet until 1979. It was then preserved at RAF Cosford as part of the British Airways Museum collection. Its condition deteriorated (BA having withdrawn funding of the collection) and it was reduced to a fuselage in 2006 before being moved to the Brooklands Museum in order to create space for the new National Cold War Exhibition.
Retirement of the BA Super VC10 fleet began in April 1980 with use continuing on less-travelled routes until 1981. After failing to sell them to other operators British Airways sold 14 of the 15 survivors to the RAF in May that year (the exception, G-ASGC, went for preservation at Duxford's). This ended the type's airline service history.
Source: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Thanks to Scott Henderson – author of the Silent, Swift, Superb-Vickers VC10 Scoval Publishing and the Hans Huizing photo collection.
VC10 PROVES ITSELF
"BOAC presents the Super VC10"
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