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Vickers VC10

By Wikipedia,
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Vickers VC10
The Vickers VC10 prototype G-ARTA first flew in 1962 in BOAC colours
Role Jet Airliner
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs
Designed by George Edwards
First flight 29 June 1962
Introduced BOAC, 29 April 1964
Status Active
Primary users BOAC
East African Airways
Ghana Airways
Royal Air Force
Produced 1962 — 1970
Number built 54
Unit cost £1.75 million

The Vickers VC10 is a British airliner designed and built by Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd and first flown in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long distance routes with a high subsonic speed and also be capable of hot and high operations from African airports. Today, a handful of these aircraft remain in service as aerial refuelling and transport aircraft with the RAF.

Design and development

Vickers VC10 just before landing
Vickers VC10 just before landing


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 BOAC, the initial operator, laid claim to the VC10 providing the fastest crossing of the Atlantic - London to New York, by a jet airliner.

This record is still held, to date, by the VC10, for a sub-sonic airliner; only beaten by the supersonic Concorde

Political and aviation background

Though privately owned, Britain's aviation industry had de facto been managed by its largest client, the State. This arrangement held true in peace, and particularly during the Second World War, when production of transport and passenger aircraft was curtailed in favour of bombers. During the war, in 1943, the Brabazon Committee ushered even tighter command economy-style principles into the industry by specifying a number of different types of airliners that would be required for the post-War years. However, because it assumed that US dominance in transport aircraft would translate into leadership in long range airliners, at the time of the Brabazon Committee the British government conceded in principle that its industry might have to cede the long range market to US makers.

By the late 1950s, the government decreed that the industry should 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 interests, Hawker Siddeley built on de Havilland's heavy aircraft experience, and Westland consolidated helicopter manufacture. In 1977 BAC and Hawker Siddeley (by then also including Avro) were nationalised and merged to form British Aerospace.

BOAC background

The British government also controlled the airline industry. Apart from very tight route licensing for private airlines, this involved direct ownership of the newly established British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) long-range and British European Airways (BEA) short and medium-range airlines. They acted as government instruments first and commercial entities second. Thus, BOAC served British Empire destinations across Southern Asia and Africa: the "Medium-Range Empire routes" (MRE). Many of them were to remote and less-developed areas. Most were commercially unattractive, but all were politically, strategically and socially important.

As had been the case for its interwar predecessor, Imperial Airways, BOAC invariably had to operate British-designed and built, or at least British-powered aircraft, with procurement bills paid by the Ministry of Supply. Several of these aircraft were either unsafe, delayed, uncompetitive, or had all of these defects combined. The Canadair DC-4M was uneconomical, as was the Hermes. The Comet I suffered crashes due to loss of cabin pressure and was removed from service, and the Britannia was years late entering service. Though not operated by BOAC, the Tudor also suffered crashes which forced the closure of quasi-private British South American Airways. This strained relations between BOAC and indigenous aircraft makers.

Vickers and Rolls-Royce background

Vickers VC10 at the Belgian Air Force base of Kleine Brogel
Vickers VC10 at the Belgian Air Force base of Kleine Brogel

In 1951, the Ministry of Supply asked Vickers-Armstrongs to consider a design for 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 both Vickers and the RAF. In October 1952, Vickers were contracted to build a prototype which they designated the Type 1000 (V.1000) which was followed in June 1954 by a production order for six aircraft for the RAF.

The planned civil airliner version was known as the V.C.7 (the seventh civil design by Vickers). The development period was extended as the company had to meet the RAF requirement for short-field performance and a self-loading capability. Work had started on the prototype but by 1955, the weight of the aircraft had increased which would have required a more powerful engine but the project was delivered a blow from which it did not recover when the government cancelled the RAF order in the 1955 round of defence cuts. Vickers and the Ministry of Supply hoped that BOAC would still be interested in the VC.7 but they were reluctant to support the production of another British aircraft following delays in the Britannia programme and the crashes involving the de Havilland Comet.

BOAC re-enters the jet age

Though BOAC had ordered modified Comet 4s, it saw the type as intermediate (the new Comet served the carrier for well under a decade). In 1956, BOAC declared its direction for the future when it ordered 15 Boeing 707s. These, however, were both oversized and underpowered for BOAC's medium-range Empire (MRE) African and Asian routes. MRE included destinations with "hot and high" airports: those at high temperatures and elevations which reduced aircraft performance. For this reason, the early 707 that BOAC had ordered was unsuitable for MRE routes, notably between Karachi and Singapore, and could not lift a full load from high-altitude airports like Kano or Nairobi. This seemed to inject new life into the MRE requirement.

Several companies pitched for the MRE fleet. De Havilland offered the DH.118, a development of the Comet 5 project, while Handley Page proposed the HP.97, based on their V-bomber, the Victor. After carefully considering the routes, Vickers offered the VC10.

The VC10 concept

RAF Vickers VC-10 from the rear, to show the position of its four engines.
RAF Vickers VC-10 from the rear, to show the position of its four engines.

The T-tail of an RAF VC-10
The T-tail of an RAF VC-10

The VC10 was a new design but some of the production ideas and techniques developed for the V.1000 and VC7 as well as the Conway engines were used. It had a generous wing equipped with full span Fowler flaps for good take-off and climb performance, and its engines were at the rear, giving an efficient clean wing and reduced cabin noise. Technological breakthroughs from the V.1000 and later Vanguard programmes included structural parts milled from solid blocks, rather than being assembled from pieces of profiled sheet metal. The entire airframe was to be carefully coated against corrosion. Planned flight deck technology was extremely advanced, with a quadruplicated automatic flight control system (a "super autopilot") envisaged to enable fully automatic zero-visibility landings. Capacity was up to 135 passengers in a two-class configuration. Vickers designer Sir George Edwards is said to have stated that this was the sole route he could have taken unless he were to reinvent the 707. Despite very serious misgivings on operating cost, BOAC was pressured by the government to order 25 aircraft.

Vickers calculated that it would need to sell 80 VC10s at about £1.75 million each to break even. With BOAC taking only 25, another 55 remained to be sold. Vickers offered a smaller version (the VC11) to BEA for longer routes like those to Athens and Beirut, but this was rejected in favour of the Hawker Siddeley Trident.

Uncertainty and indecision

Vickers revamped its production plans to try to break even with only 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. With orders from a single customer giving an expected break even, the use of the Vanguard jigs was abandoned and new production jigs made.

Internally, BOAC had calculated that the 707 cost £4.10 per passenger mile, while the VC10 would cost £4.24. This information was leaked and was credited with the loss of several foreign orders. The large difference caused growing concern and calls to cancel the VC10 orders in favour of the 707. The VC10 was rescued by the British government. In order to offer a more economical product, Vickers began work on the Super 200 development of the VC10. Its main differences were more powerful Conway engines and a 28 feet (8.1 m) longer fuselage offering up to 212 seats: 23 more than the Boeing 707-320 series.

By January 1960, Vickers was experiencing financial difficulties and was concerned that it would not be able to deliver the original 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. The government intervened again on Vickers' behalf, with an order for Super 200s placed on 23 June 1960. BOAC doubts continued, this time centred on the airline's ability to fill all 200 seats. The Super 200 was accordingly cut down to a 13 ft (3.9 m) stretch to 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 combi configuration with a large cargo door and stronger floor. The order was changed again in December 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, absorbing the overproduction.

The lengthy political manoeuvring surrounding the VC10 was well publicised and did much to erode market confidence in the type. Its history to that date had been something of a see-saw, with the government promoting it and an increasingly unwilling national airline hoping it would go away. This culminated in a furious public political scandal when BOAC chairman Gerald d'Erlanger and managing director Sir Basil Smallpeice resigned over the issue of whether the national airline was a profit-making company or an automatic sponsor of indigenous aircraft designs; the two (with Smallpeice later an ardent supporter of the Margaret Thatcher premiership) defended the former opinion. They were widely supported within BOAC, whose staff felt the VC10 was foisted on them purely to boost employment figures, and who no longer had confidence in British aircraft makers. BOAC's incoming chairman Sir Giles Guthrie was also anti-VC10: he proposed that the Vickers programme should be shelved in favour of more 707 orders.

Development and production

VC10 1151 flight deck
VC10 1151 flight deck

The prototype Standard, G-ARTA, rolled out of the Weybridge factory on 15 April 1962. After two months of ground, engine and taxi tests, on 29 June 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 had appeared by then. To cure it, Küchemann wingtips and "beaver tail" engine nacelle fairings were added and tested. Along with the rework of the base rudder segment (its scythe shape was replaced by an angular design with an endplate for greater control effectiveness), this lengthened testing. The certification programme 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, being introduced to regular passenger service between London and Lagos on 29 April. By the end of 1964 all the production Standards had been delivered, with Vickers (by this point part of the BAC) retaining the prototype.

Super VC10s followed a month later, with the first flight on 7 May 1964. Although the Super was ostensibly 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 tailplane 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.

Later VC10 design developments included testing the large main deck freight door and new wing leading edges featuring a part-drooped four per cent chord extension over the inboard two thirds, and a drooped extended-chord wingtip which allowed more economical higher cruising heights. (This mimicked the 1961 aerodynamics of the similar-looking but significantly different Il-62.) Further developments were proposed, including freighter versions including one with similar front-loading configuration like the C-124 Globemaster II. Effort was focused on getting a BOAC order for a 250-seat "VC10 Superb."[1] This was a move away from the VC10's initial MRE role and into the area targeted by Douglas with the DC-8 Super Sixties. Unlike the Douglas machine, the VC10 would have needed an entirely new double-deck fuselage, and this raised emergency escape concerns. The design failed to attract orders.

Sales and airline service

BOAC took delivery of its first VC10 on the day the aircraft received its Certificate of Airworthiness. The first commercial flight, to Lagos, was on 29 April 1964. Super VC10 services started on 1 April 1965. Operational experience soon resulted in the deletion of the inboard thrust reversers due to continued tailplane buffeting despite the engine repositioning. 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.

BOAC's successor British Airways began retiring its Super VC10s from Atlantic flights as early as 1974, mainly due to the 1973 oil crisis, and using them to displace standard VC10s. Ten of the eleven surviving standards were retired in 1974-75. Of these, five were leased to Tayaran AlKhalij (Gulf Air) until 1977-78, before being 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 was G-ARVM, which was retained as a standby for the Super VC10 fleet until retired in 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.

VC10 of Gulf Air at Heathrow in 1977
VC10 of Gulf Air at Heathrow in 1977

Two of BOAC's Super VC10s were lost in terrorist hijackings in 1968 and 1970, and 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). This ended the type's airline service history.

Ghana Airways ordered three VC10s in January 1961. Two were to be fitted with a cargo door and were 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); this 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 (later Sir) Laker's eponymous 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 economic 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 upon 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, with 54 airframes built. Airline demand for the 707 and Douglas DC-8, with their superior operating economics, encouraged many of the world's smaller airports to extend their runways, thus eliminating the VC10's main advantage.

Marketing overtures for the VC10 were also made elsewhere, particularly in Mexico, Argentina, the Lebanon, Thailand, Czechoslovakia, and Romania. In line with the VC10's state-led background, these tended to be fronted by British cabinet figures from the Harold Wilson era such as John Stonehouse and Tony Benn. (In reminiscences, some of these figures have claimed that BOAC staff actively sabotaged VC10 marketing by leaking confidential documents relating to the type's fuel consumption.) The final serious enquiry for VC10s came from Chinese state airline Zhōngguó Mínyòng (CAAC) in 1971 and was confirmed in 1972. By then, however, the production equipment had been broken up.

The VC10 served its intended market for a mere decade and a half. Because it was fully written down and amortised by the 1970s, it could have continued in airline service much longer despite high fuel consumption. However, its high noise levels on departure and approach sealed its fate. Hush-kitting the Conways was considered in the late 1970s and rejected on grounds of cost.

RAF service

In 1960, the RAF issued Specification 239 for a strategic transport, which resulted in an order being placed by the Air Ministry with Vickers in September 1961 for five VC10s. The order was increased by an additional six in August 1962, with a further three aircraft cancelled by BOAC added in July 1964. The military version (Type 1106) was a combination of the Standard combi airframe with the more powerful engines and fin fuel tank of the Super VC10. It also had a detachable in-flight refuelling nose probe and an auxiliary power unit in the tailcone. The first RAF machine (known to the service as the VC-10 C Mk. 1, often abbreviated to VC-10 C1), was delivered for testing on 26 November 1965, with deliveries to No. 10 Squadron beginning in December 1966 and ending in August 1968. The VC-10s were named after Victoria Cross (VC) medal holders, displaying the VC holder's name above the forward passenger door.

One aircraft (XR809) was leased to Rolls-Royce for flight testing of the RB211 turbofan between 1969 and 1975. On return to the RAF it was found that the airframe had become distorted, due to th eincrease in power from the RB211 fitted to one side of the fuselage over the Conways fitted to the other side. It considered uneconomical to repair and was instead used for SAS training, before being scrapped.

In 1978, the RAF contracted British Aerospace to convert five former BOAC (that had been operated by Gulf Air) Standard VC10s and four former East African Airways Super VC10s as air-to-air refuelling tankers. These were known in service as the VC-10 K2 and VC-10 K3 respectively. During conversion, extra fuel tanks were installed in what was previously the passenger cabin. These increased the theoretical maximum fuel load to 85 tons/77 tonnes (K2) and 90 tons/82 tonnes (K3); the fin fuel tank of the Super VC10 making the difference. In practice, the fuel load would be capped by the maximum take-off weight before the tanks are completely full. Both variants had refuelling pods mounted under the wings and a centreline refuelling point, known as a HDU, was installed in the rear freight bay. An in-flight refuelling probe was fitted on the nose, allowing fuel to be taken from the VC10, Victor or TriStar tankers. The K2s have since been retired and scrapped, the last aircraft leaving service in 2000.

In 1981, 14 former British Airways Super VC10s were purchased, and these were placed in storage and some were used for spare parts. In the early 1990s, five of the aircraft were revived and converted to VC-10 K4 tankers. Upon examination prior to the first "major" indepth servicing of the K4s it was discovered that there was extensive wing plank corrosion in the lower surface of the wings. This was attributed mainly to the storage method whilst held at RAF Abingdon, prior to conversion, whereby the wing tanks were defueled but then filled with water, in order to add ballast to the aircraft during storage. This lead to an extensive wing plank corrosion rectification and in some cases plank replacement during subsequent major services. The K4 has identical refuelling equipment to the K2 and K3, but does not have any extra fuel tanks in the fuselage, or central rear HDU and is therefore only a two-point tanker. Its fuel capacity remains at 80 tons (70 tonnes), the same as a Super VC10. Around the same time, the 13 surviving C1s were also equipped with wing refuelling pods and re-designated as VC-10 C1K dual-rôle two-point tanker/transports. Again, no extra tanks were provided and the fuel load remains at 80 tons (70 tonnes). The in-flight refuelling probe was a feature of the original RAF aircraft, but it was removed for a period during the 1970s and 1980s due to lack of use. The probe was refitted sometime before the tanker conversions took place.

Another one-time BOAC Standard VC10 was acquired as an instructional airframe/spare parts in 1981, having previously been leased to the Government of Qatar. A former BUA/British Caledonian aircraft was acquired by the MoD in 1974 and served with the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) at Bedford. After retirement the fuselage was retained at RAF Brize Norton as an instructional aid for the Air Movements School.

In August 1992, aircraft XR806 suffered a flash fire in a wing fuel tank, whilst undergoing major maintenance and fuel leak rectification, by BAE Systems Contractor Working Party (CWP), in Base Hanger, at RAF Brize Norton. Two members of the CWP team received burns (one serious) as a result of this incident. The damage to the aircraft was classified as minimal, due to the fire being classed as a "Flash fire" and no follow-on combustion and the fast response of the emergency services. The aircraft was repaired and returned to service. In 1997, XR806 was damaged beyond economic repair in a ground de-fuelling accident at RAF Brize Norton, whereby fuel was drained from the wing & centre section fuel tanks, but not the rear fin tank. This resulted in an imbalance of the aircraft, making it tail heavy. The aircraft tipped backwards on its main undercarriage, with the tail of the aircraft crashing heavily onto the hard standing. This caused damage to the rear cone of the fuselage and lower sections of the rudder. Upon more detailed examination, it was found that the rear pressure bulkhead had suffered severe damage. The RAF considered a repair scheme, utilising a replacement rear pressure bulkhead from a donor aircraft (the fire trainer at Brize Norton), until an estimate of in excess of £2m was tabled by BAE Systems.

Several other C1K, K2 and K4 aircraft have also been scrapped. The surviving airworthy VC-10 C1Ks, K3s and K4s serve as tanker/transports with No. 101 Squadron at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire and No. 1312 Flight at RAF Mount Pleasant, Falkland Islands, making the RAF the VC10's final operator. The VC10 and Lockheed TriStar tanker/transports are due to be replaced in RAF service by the Airbus A330 MRTT under the Future Strategic Tanker Aircraft Project.

Servicing / Repair / Conversion

All servicing, including minor, minor star and major servicing, of the RAF fleet of VC10s was undertaken at RAF Brize Norton, which also serves as the RAF's Main Operating Base (MOB). This took place in a purpose built hanger, known as "Base Hanger", built in 1969 and was considered the largest cantilever-roofed structure in Europe. Base Hanger is a quarter of a mile in length with no internal supports and the ability that when the full length hanger doors are fully opened provides a vast unobstructed area, where six VC10 aircraft can be positioned beside each other and still provide working space around the aircraft.

During the late 1980s, the RAF/Mod considered moving the major servicing to RAF Abingdon, a short distance away from RAF Brize Norton, and the storage location of the future K4 aircraft. The decision to close RAF Abingdon as an RAF base, and transfer it to the Army's Royal Logistic Corps 7 Transport regiment put paid to this. Instead a purpose build hanger facility was built at RAF St Athan, in South Wales. This facility was known as "1 Air Maintenance Sqn" (1 AMS) and could take two VC10s side by side with a dividing wall between the two bays. Because of the design of the structure it was given the nick name "Twin Peeks". In August 1992, the pre-Dock Day (input date) meeting took place for the 1st aircraft to under go major service at this facility took place within 1 AMS. This meeting was interrupted with the news of the flash fire, at Base Hanger RAF Brize Norton of XR806. The first aircraft to undergo major servicing at the new facility entered Twin Peeks in January 1993.

Conversion to K Mk 2, K Mk 3 & K Mk 4 tanker role of the previous civil aircraft took place at BAE Systems Filton site. Because the K Mk 3's had a forward freight door this facilitated the insertion of five upper fuselage tanks in the main fuselage of the aircraft. In the case of the K Mk 2's, there was no forward freight door and it was required to dismantle a large section of the fuselage roof structure for the insertion of the five upper fuselage tanks. This proved to a mammoth task and for the K Mk 4 conversions, as with the K Mk 2 aircraft, there was no facility of a forward freight door. For this reason it was decided that there would be no internal refuelling tanks fitted to the K Mk 4s. In the case of the K Mk 2 & 3 conversions there was also extensive floor reinforcement required to accommodate the additional weight of the five tanks and fuel load. K Mk's 2 and 3 aircraft were classed as three point tankers, consisting of two wing mounted Hose Drum Units (HDU) and one center fuselage HDU.

VC10 C Mk 1 aircraft were supplied to the RAF in specific configuration of a forward freight door (as per the K Mk 3), the "super" VC10 wing (as per the K Mk 3 & 4) and the fin fuel tank. These aircraft did not have any ability to refuel other aircraft. During the late 1980's & early 1990's these aircraft were converted to C Mk 1 K standard of two point tankers with wing mounted HDUs under each wings. The C Mk 1's did not have any additional internal tanks and therefore did not require the strengthened flooring. The conversions were undertaken by Inflight Refuelling Limited based at Hurn Airport, near Bournemouth.

BAE Systems Support

After the closure of British Aerospace site at Hatfield, responsibility of design and all commercial activity transferred to British Aerospace (now BAE Systems) Manchester, Woodford and Chadderton sites. During the early 1990s Chadderton produced the majority of the detailed components, until a corporate decision to subcontract all detailed manufacture was taken in the mid 1990s. At this time the design team, led by Chief Design Engineer David Natham, transferred from Woodford to Chadderton.

In 2003, responsibility for the commercial procurement of all spares items was undertaken by BAE Systems, Customer Solutions Services (CSS) based at BAE Systems Salmsbury, where it still remains to date. The Chadderton site still maintains responsibility for the MoD contracts for project managing modifications; major repairs and major maintenance are carried out at RAF St Athan.


  • Vickers V.C.10 Type 1100: Prototype; one built, (one converted to Type 1109)
  • BAC VC10 Type 1101: BOAC Standards; up to 35 ordered at various times; 12 built
  • BAC Standard VC10 Type 1102: Ghana Airways' Standard combis; three built (one redesignated Type 1103)
  • BAC Standard VC10 Type 1103: BUA Standard combis; two built, (one redesignated Type 1102)
  • BAC Standard VC10 Type 1104: Nigeria Airways' Standards; two ordered, none built
  • BAC Standard VC10 Type 1106: military transport version for the RAF (RAF designation "VC-10 C. Mk. 1"); 14 built
  • BAC Standard VC10 Type 1109: Converted from Type 1100 for lease to Laker Airways
  • BAC Super VC10 Type 1150: Generic Super VC10
  • BAC Super VC10 Type 1151: BOAC Supers, up to 22 ordered at various times; 17 built
  • BAC Super VC10 Type 1152: BOAC Super combi; 13 ordered, none built
  • BAC Super VC10 Type 1154: East African Airways' Super combi; five built

RAF & Converted Aircraft

  • VC-10 C. Mk. 1 Type 1106: RAF designation for the Type 1106; 14 built, 13 converted to VC-10 C. Mk. 1K
  • VC-10 C. Mk. 1K Type 1180: RAF designation for the transport/tanker aircraft converted from Type 1106 ("VC-10 C. Mk. 1")
  • VC-10 K. Mk. 2 Type 1112: RAF designation for five inflight-refuelling tankers converted from Type 1101
  • VC-10 K. Mk. 3 Type 1164: RAF designation for four inflight-refuelling tankers converted from Type 1154
  • VC-10 K. Mk. 4 Type 1170: RAF designation for five inflight-refuelling tankers converted from Type 1151


Civilian operators

East African Community
  • The Government of Oman
  • The Government of Qatar
 Sri Lanka
 United Arab Emirates
 United Kingdom

Military operators

 United Kingdom

Accidents and Incidents

  • On 20 November 1969, Nigeria Airways 5N-ABD (ex BOAC G-ARVA) crashed on landing at Lagos, Nigeria killing all 83 passengers and crew.
  • On 27 November 1969, BOAC G-ASGK had a major failure of No.3 engine, debris from that engine damaged No.4 engine causing a fire. A safe overweight landing was made at Heathrow without any casualties.
  • On 9 September 1970, BOAC G-ASGN was hijacked, and on 12 September was blown up at Zerqu Jordan, in the Dawson's Field hijackings.
  • On 28 January 1972, British Caledonian G-ARTA was damaged beyond economic repair in a landing accident at Gatwick.
  • On 18 April 1972, East African Airways 5X-UVA crashed on take-off from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia killing 43 of the 107 passengers and crew.
  • On 3 March 1974, BOAC G-ASGO was hijacked and landed at Schiphol, Netherlands, where the aircraft was set on fire and damaged beyond economic repair.
  • On 18 December 1997, Royal Air Force XR806 was damaged beyond economic repair in a ground de-fuelling accident at RAF Brize Norton.


Numerous examples of the VC10 remain in active service with the Royal Air Force as of 2008. Some known static museum exhibits are listed below:

Specifications (Model 1101)

VC10 Silhouette Drawing
VC10 Silhouette Drawing

Data from Macdonald Aircraft Handbook

General characteristics

  • Crew: 4 + 3 flight attendants
  • Capacity: 151 passengers
  • Length: 158 ft 8 in (48.36 m)
  • Wingspan: 146 ft 2 in (44.55 m)
  • Height: 39 ft 6 in (12.04 m)
  • Wing area: 2,851 ft² (264.9 m²)
  • Empty weight: 139,505 lb (63,278 kg)
  • Loaded weight: lb (kg)
  • Max takeoff weight: 334,878 lb (151,900 kg)
  • Powerplant:Rolls-Royce Conway Mk. 301 Turbofan, 22,500 lbf (100.1 kN) each


See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists


External links

Text from Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License; additional terms may apply.

Published in July 2009.

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