While BOAC was the VC10's main customer, and the RAF provided the VC10 with a significant 'stretch' to its career, there were quite a few other operators that played a role in the VC10's career.
Tables show details as follows:
Air Ceylon never owned its own VC10 but operated services from Colombo to London using BOAC VC10s which were allocated on availability. In December 1977 A4O-VL was leased from Gulf Air for the same purpose. After the lease, in January 1978, A4O-VL was returned to Gulf Air but probably never flew another route for them as the aircraft was sold to the RAF in the same year and the photo on the right shows it stored with the Air Ceylon titles still present.
Malawi had already regularly been visited by EAA and BUA VC10s when Air Malawi bought G-ASIW off British Caledonian. Operating in a bright red livery it was the flagship of the company for several years until in 1979 it was deemed beyond economic use. Stored for several years at Bournemouth (Hurn) it eventually flew home to Malawi where it was left to decay, eventually being scrapped in 1994.
Click here to see a route map of Air Malawi's services in the '70s.
Freddie Laker was involved early on with the VC10 design, as he saw another way to use the airframe, this leading to the cargo door-equipped Type 1103. Laker's BUA did not operate a passengers only service, but filled up the half-booked aircraft with five tons of cargo, thus making otherwise inoperable routes pay again. In this way BUA had found its own niche in the airline market, one which would later on be fully exploited by larger companies. Initially BUA ordered two VC10s, G-ASIW and G-ASIX, but when Ghana Airways canceled their order for a third VC10 this airframe was completed as a type 1103 and sold to BUA as G-ATDJ. Later on G-ARTA was converted to airline standard and also added to this fleet, initially she was dry leased to Middle East Airlines as OD-AFA for a year. The entire fleet was sold to British Caledonian when they merged with BUA in 1970.
This company acquired their VC10s through the merger with BUA, getting four airframes as part of the deal. The VC10's were repainted and given names of famous 'Lochs' in keeping with British Caledonian tradition. They flew in this guise for three years, mainly on BCal's South American routes, after which they were sold off one by one. G-ATDJ went to the RAE in February 1973, G-ASIX to the Omani government in October 1974 and G-ASIW followed in November 1974 going to Air Malawi. Dave Thaxter has set up a wonderful tribute website dedicated to British Caledonian.
Perhaps ironically, the ultimate Super VC10 was not ordered by big operators like Pan Am, but by East African Airways. The EAA group was an amalgam of the aerial services of three nations - Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. It mainly flew on the domestic African market in its early days, but grew to become the main African-based airline, operating routes around the globe. After 1970 business dwindled as competition from European based operators grew, and the loss of 5X-UVA in an accident in 1972 didn't help either. EAA struggled on until in 1977 it ceased operations as its financial backbone had disappeared. The four remaining VC10s were repossessed by BAC and eventually went to the RAF. This website shows various images of East African Airways aircraft and sceneries.
For a while the EAA VC10s were known as 'Jambo Jets', somebody in marketing had thought of this to counter the introduction of BOAC's 747s which were known as Jumbo jets. 'Jambo' is the normal greeting in Swahili. The term wasn't very useful in P/A announcements and was quickly dropped again. Coincidentally (or perhaps related to this issue) the EAA staff newsletter was called 'Jambo news'.
Ghana Airways was started partly on BOAC money, and started operations with ex-BOAC Stratocruisers, later switching to Britannias. It felt confident enough to order three VC10s, but in the end only bought two airframes, of which one was quickly leased to Middle East Airlines. This left 9G-ABO as Ghana Airways' single VC10 and in this capacity she flew on until withdrawn from use in 1980. Although both aircraft were designated as type 1102, - ABP had a main deck cargo door while -ABO did not have this feature.
Today a major operator, Gulf Air is partly indebted to the VC10 for its position on the market. Initially leasing VC10s from BOAC, Gulf Air later bought them off the shelf when BOAC sold off their fleet of Standard VC10s. Five airframes were used and these formed the backbone of a large scale route structure expansion, although A4O-VL also spent some time being leased to Air Ceylon. After a hectic three year operation the VC10s were sold off again, this time going to the RAF for conversion.
Although Middle East Airlines had wanted to buy VC10s, they never did as at that time the VC10 story was at its public and political worst. Buying 707s instead it looked as if this was a missed opportunity, but in 1967 MEA leased under-utilized 9G-AGP from Ghana Airways to fill the gap until the 707s could be delivered. For the same reason G-ARTA was also leased, this time from Freddie Laker's Laker Airways, as OD-AFA. Sadly 9G-AGP was lost in a military action at Beirut Airport in December 1968, fortunately empty, and G-ARTA went back at the end of its twelve month lease only three weeks later.
Nigeria Airways mainly followed the same route as Ghana Airways, using BOAC Stratocruisers and Brittanias. It ordered two VC10s type 1104, but these were never built. In 1964 Nigeria Airways wet-leased two BOAC VC10s in basic BOAC livery with Nigeria Airways stickers. These two flew on until 1966, in that year G-ARVC was wet-leased in full Nigeria Airways livery. In 1969 G-ARVA was sold by BOAC and was re-registered 5N-ABD, sadly this airframe was lost several months later.
The story of Nigeria Airways and the VC10, and the crash of 5N-ABD is well presented in Scott Henderson's "Silent, Swift, Superb: The Story of the VC10". Pages 88 - 93, detailing the story of Nigeria Airways and the VC10, including the crash, are reproduced on this page:
With thanks to Mark Hubbard who included the text in electronic form in his Nigeria Airways VC10 package for Microsoft Flight Simulator 98, which can be downloaded here.
The ruler of Qatar felt that his position justified the use of an impressive VIP transport and for this purpose G-ARVJ was put on a long-term wet lease to the Qatar Government. Although not owned by them the aircraft did fly in Gulf Air colours, apparently she was sometimes used as a spare aircraft for their services. It provided an interesting posting for several BOAC crews until it was returned to BOAC, and was sold to the RAF as a spares source for the conversion program.
See also Surviving Bits & Pieces for more about its use for the RAF.
Needing an aircraft to flight-test the new RB211 turbofan engine, Rolls-Royce leased XR809 from the RAF as G-AXLR. At the end of the flight-test program the aircraft was returned to the RAF but never used again.
When British Caledonian sold its VC10s, one of the three aircraft found its way to the Royal Aircraft Establishment Bedford as XX914. Over the next two years this aircraft was used for several research tasks, mostly to do with structural responses. In May 1975 she was withdrawn from use and stored on the site until the scrapman caught up with her in 1983, but some of her parts were still of use. The fuselage was moved to Brize Norton and used for training by the Air Movements School as 8777M. The vertical tail was used as a replacement for ZA141, whose tail had been damaged during resonance testing at altitude.
For more about the remaining sections of this aircraft see Surviving Bits & Pieces
As the Sultan of Oman was also in need of VIP transport he had G-ASIX extensively modified and used it as A4O-AB for thirteen years. The aircraft was flown back to the United Kingdom in 1987 and donated to the Brooklands Museum for preservation. The Sultan's transportation needs have since been provided by a suitably equipped Boeing 747SP.
In one of Freddie Laker's dealings a BUA VC10 was used on Sierra Leone Airways flights, replacing a Britannia from November 1964 on, at first operating in full SLA livery. This colourscheme was short lived, most of the time stickers were used in addition to the BUA colours. Based on the rare photos it was G-ASIW that carried the full Sierra Leone titles in late 1964.
The third Arab government to use a VC10 for transportation was the United Arab Emirates government. They bought G-ARVF off BOAC and after conversion it flew for seven years in an attractive white livery. Today this aircraft is preserved in Germany with the Flugausstellung Junior in Hermeskeil.