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
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
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
Originally the RAF (10 squadron) had the Standard VC10 in a transport
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
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.