One of the final three flying Vickers VC10 jetliners left in the world landed last week at the Newquay Cornwall Airport in Newquay, UK where it will be joining the collection of aircraft in the Classic Air Force Museum. This “Vickie Ten” was built in 1967 and began life with East African Airlines as 5Y-ADA. It was then acquired by the Royal Air Force and converted into a troop transport aircraft, before being converted for duties as an aerial tanker and aircraft refueler.
The VC10 was originally conceived in the late 50s as a fast, long-haul passenger jetliner for the privately-owned but government-controlled British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), that would be able to utilize the shorter runways that were still prevalent at the dawn of the jet age as well as providing service to hot and high airports in Africa and Asia that were politically important for the still-existent British Empire. While the plane more than met the specifications set out for it, setting the record for the fastest jetliner crossing of the Atlantic, only bested in later years by the Concorde, and was lauded for its comfort and low cabin noise levels. It also has the distinction of being only one of two production jetliners to mount four jet engines to its tail, the other being the Soviet Ilyushin Il-62 which made the plane well-suited to operate on primitive runways where there was more risk of ingesting debris with engines placed under the wings. For all of it’s manifest attributes, the VC10, referred to as the “Queen of the Skies” by her supporters, was expensive and thirsty, and it was handily outsold by the Boeing 707, finding few takers outside of those beholden to the British government.
VC-10 K3 ZA148, like all RAF VC-10s is named after a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest military decoration awarded for valour “in the face of the enemy,” her name officially being “Guy Gibson VC,” who was awarded the medal for leading “Operation Chastise,” better known as the Dambusters Raid in May 1943. Interviewed about the museum’s latest acquisition, Tim Skeet, chairman of the Classic Aircraft Trust said:”The Classic Air Force collection includes both military and airliner aircraft, so we are pleased to offer a home to a machine that crosses the boundaries and served with both the military and the airline world. As an example of British design and engineering at its best, it is fitting that one of the last airworthy examples should find a home with the Classic Air Force. This is a very significant addition to the collection and an additional attraction at Newquay.” That this VC10 has been in active service for over 50 years, particularly shouldering the heavy loads assigned to her over the course of her extraordinarily long career, is indeed a testament to the quality and robustness of her design.
Video of the Vickers VC10 Arriving at Newquay Airport: