Vickers VC-10

In the early 1950's Vickers were already working on designs for a 4 engined jet airliner, originally known as the V1000. It had a similar layout to the Comet, but it was a more modern design, featuring a wider fuselage, slotted flaps and much better performance. Unfortunately, the government pulled the plug on the project, as the prototype neared completion. It has been speculated that behind the scenes dealing with the Americans may have led to this strange decision. The governmentís action stopped the aircraft from becoming the commercial success that it could have been. BOAC stated that it still wanted the aircraft, but only to fly their 'Empire routes' to Africa and Australia. They stated specifically that they did not want a Transatlantic airliner. Their strict requirements had to be incorporated by Vickers and the project continued as the re-designed VC10. BOAC ordered 35 in 1957, with an option for 20 more.

The prototype first flew on 29th June 1962 and it entered service with BOAC in April 1964.

The VC10 was designed to give good takeoff performance from hot and high altitude airports, often with short runways. Powered by 4 Rolls Royce Conway bypass engines, its large wings, leading edge slats and huge Fowler flaps, gave it the take off and landing performance of a much smaller aircraft. But in designing it this way, other trade offs had to be made, particularly in fuel economy. In hindsight BOAC had made a bad judgment in asking for a design to fit the existing airports. With the arrival of the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8, most of the airports began to extend their runways, so as not to be left behind. This made the VC10ís design advantage unnecessary to most major destinations and hindered itís future sales.

Vickers, worried about the type's appeal to other airlines, had set the VC10's fuel capacity high enough to allow non-stop flights across the Atlantic. BOAC had stated from the start that they did not want this. Vickers also set about a stretched version, with a 28ft fuselage extension. BOAC demanded that the stretch be reduced to just 13ft before they would place an order. This not quite as stretched version became the Super VC10.

The Super VC10 entered service with BOAC in April 1965, bizarrely on the Ďnot wantedí Transatlantic service to New York.

Relations between Vickers and BOAC were not particularly good, with the airline repeatedly changing its order quantities and even publicly criticising the aircraft in an attempt to gain a subsidy for operating it.
A leaked memo from BOAC also showed that they were losing money with the VC10 and were better off with the 707. The VC10 was more expensive to buy than a 707 and BOACís damning figures cost Vickers a number of overseas sales and effectively doomed the VC10 to commercial failure.

Later figures showed that itís massive passenger appeal, meant that it averaged a higher income than a 707 on the same route. Coupled with much lower maintenance costs, BOAC were actually shown to be making a profit with the aircraft. BOACís negative attitude was all a bit suspicious.

The final blow for the VC10 was the development of newer, more efficient engines. It was not very adaptable, due to itís clustered engine configuration. While the 707 and DC-8 could easily take advantage of the newer power plants, the VC10 was basically stuck with itís uneconomical Conways for life. Other airlines did take up the VC10, but never in great quantities. BUA (later British Caledonian), Ghana, Malawi, Gulf Air, Nigerian had the Standard and East African had the Super. BOAC later became British Airways, who flew both types for many years. The RAF also used both types, taking most of the surplus from BOAC's reduced orders.

Renowned for it's distinctive looks, quiet cabin and sparkling performance, the VC10 was amazingly popular with both flight crews and passengers. It did managed some passenger service into the 1980's, but was on the whole phased out rather early.

The VC10 now only operates in the RAF, where it has been a good servant for many years as the converted ĎKí series of transport and in-flight refuelling tanker.
Originally the RAF (10 squadron) had the Standard VC10 in a transport role only.

The original tanker conversions, the K2, were started in the late 70ís on Standard VC10ís acquired from the airlines. These were then assigned to 101 squadron. With East African going bust in 1977, their Super VC10ís eventually ended up as 101 squadronís K3 tankers. The ex BA VC10ís followed some years later as the K4. Finally, the 10 squadron Standards were converted to the C1K in 1996, with wing pods only. Both squadrons of VC10ís are based at Brize Norton and can be seen flying regularly. However the RAF are now looking at replacing the aircraft in the next few years.

In all, only 54 VC10's were built.


Four 21,000 lb (94.1 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Conway 540 turbofans (Standard), 22,500 lb (100.1 kN) thrust Rco.43 Mk.550 turbofans (Super)


Max cruise 502kts (930 km/h) at 25,000ft, Operational ceiling 43,000ft (13,106 m), Take off field length 8,280ft (2,524 m), Landing field length 6,380ft (1,945 m), Max payload range (no reserves) 4,380nm (8,112 km)(Super: 4,100nm (7,600 km)), max fuel range (no reserves) 5,275nm (9,765 km) (Super: 6,195nm (11,473 km))


Basic operating empty 146,980lb (66,670 kg) (Super: 156,828lb (71,137 kg)), Max takeoff 312,000lb (141,523 kg) (Super: 335,000lb (151,956 kg)), Max zero fuel 187,400lb (85,004 kg) (Super: 215,000lb (97,524 kg)), Max landing 216,000lb (97,978 kg) (Super: 237,000lb (107,503 kg)), Max payload 40,420lb (18,335 kg) (Super: 58,172lb (26,369 kg))


Wing span 146ft 2in (44.55 m), Length 158ft 8in (48.36 m) (Super: 171ft 8in (52.32 m)), Height 39ft 6in (12.04 m), Wing area Type 1101: 2,851sq ft (264.8m2), type 1102/3 and Super 2,932sq ft (272.4 m2), Tailplane span 43ft 10in (13.36 m), Tailplane area 638sq ft (59.3 m2), Wheelbase 65ft 11in (20.09 m) (Super: 72ft 1.5in (21.98 m)), Wheel track 21ft 5in (6.53 m).


Standard: Typically 109 passengers in two classes, maximum 151 passengers six abreast. Super: Typically 139 passengers in two classes, maximum 174 passengers six abreast.


Standard: Type 1100 - 1, Type 1101 - 12, Type 1102 - 2, Type 1103 - 3, Type 1106 - 14, Type 1109 -1, a conversion from 1100. Total 32. Super: Type 1151 - 17, Type 1154 - 5. Total 22.