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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.  
BOAC got an outstanding aircraft, loved by passengers and crew, but due to its specification, never a favourite with the airlines.
It has been speculated that behind the scenes dealing with the Americans may have led to this strange decision.  The government's 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.

One of the few to have a real use for the VC10, East African was always able to schedule flights from Nairobi, no matter what the temperature.
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 VC10's design advantage unnecessary to most major destinations and hindered its 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.

Well it outlasted BOAC !
BA had sold most of its Standard fleet by the mid 70's, but used the Super VC10's until 1981.
The Super VC10 entered service with BOAC in April 1965, bizarrely on the 'not wanted' 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 BOAC's damning figures cost Vickers a number of overseas sales and effectively doomed the VC10 to commercial failure.

Never ones to worry about things like fuel economy and noise.  The RAF has had excellent use out of VC10's as transport and in flight refueling.
Later figures showed that its 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. BOAC's 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 it's clustered engine configuration.  While the 707 and DC-8 could easily take advantage of the newer powerplants, the VC10 was basically stuck with its uneconomical Conways for life.

When BA started to replace the Standard VC10, many were taken on by Gulf Air, where they were subsequently replaced with the more efficient TriStar.
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 its 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.
In all, only 54 VC10's were built.

The modern face of the VC10.  The commercial aircraft may now be a museum piece, but the RAF will keep them flying for as long as possible.
The VC10 now only operates in the RAF, where it has been a good servant for many years as the converted 'K' series of transport and in-flight refueling 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 70's on Standard VC10's acquired from the airlines.  These were then assigned to 101 squadron.
With East African going bust in 1977, their Super VC10's eventually ended up as 101 squadron's K3 tankers.  The ex BA VC10's 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 VC10's were based at Brize Norton and can be seen flying regularly. However the RAF are looking to replace the aircraft by 2011 and are reducing the number of aircraft in service each year.
10 squardron disbanded in October 2005 with all aircraft and personnel transfered to 101 squadron.

(Article by David Maltby)

Vickers Super VC10 data
3-5 Crew & upto 174 passengers
4 Rolls-Royce Conway 43 mk 550 turbofans 22,500lb st
146ft 2in
171ft 8in
Gross weight:
Max payload:
Max cruise:
568mph at 38,000ft
4,630 miles with max payload at 550mph
data Civil Airliner Recognition 1973

VC10s preserved in the UK
Standard 1103 VC10 A40-AB in Oman Royal Flight livery at Brooklands
Super VC10 G-ASGG in BOAC livery at Duxford
VC10s preserved in other countries
Standard 1101 VC10 G-ARVF in UAE livery at Hermeskeil, Germany

Vickers VC10 Links
A little VC-10derness
Vickers VC10    MS Flight Simulator Model
Models by David Maltby. Standard VC10, Super VC10, RAF VC10 C1K. plus Panel & Sounds
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