A review of the new Haynes manual about the VC10 that was released in October 2016.
Let’s start with a disclaimer: although Haynes is well-known for producing manuals that enable an owner to completely take apart and rebuild a car, Keith Wilson’s latest addition to the range will not enable you to fully rebuild a VC10 or service it to an airworthy standard. Ever since the Somerset-based company has branched out into creating manuals on such wide-ranging items as Star Trek’s USS Enterprise, a complete London Heathrow airport or even Men, the actual time spent in getting greasy fingerprints onto their pages while searching for that elusive diagram has significantly diminished, to be replaced by pure reading pleasure. With the Vickers/BAC VC10 Owner’s Workshop Manual, Haynes has produced another very worthy addition to their ever increasing range.
At the time of writing the range of available books about the VC10 is pretty slim while there is certainly a demand for comprehensive books about this wonderful airliner, RAF transport and tanker. Keith Wilson has taken up the challenge to write a book that both fits into the Haynes range and does justice to the 51-year career of an iconic British airliner that is loved by many. Having previously written about the BBMF and the Avro Shackleton, as well as creating other books focusing on his photography, he is very well suited to take up this subject and, as he states in the introduction, also a big fan of the type. While reading through the manual and admiring the many great photographs it becomes clear not only that Keith has regularly been involved with the RAF VC10s during their service life but also that he has spent a lot of time photographing the VC10s that have been preserved and talking to the teams that look after them.
The VC10 has had a long and varied career so anyone who takes up the challenge to write about this has to face the fact that only so much can be included in just under 200 pages. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Keith has certainly not skimped on describing both the civil career of the type as well as the various tasks that the RAF found for the airframes that they bought. The first six chapters of the book are evenly divided between these two aspects and cover both in such a level of detail that I could not spot any gaps, whilst noting that several aspects of the VC10s RAF service have now found its way into print for the first time. The second half of the book is where the Haynes approach really comes to the fore with detailed descriptions of the day-to-day life of a VC10 maintainer and detailed stories and photos of both line- and base maintenance on the RAF VC10s. The last chapters also manage to cover the unbuilt freighter and military variants and a listing of all the preserved airframes and fuselage sections.
As expected from a workshop manual this book is filled with facts, such as detailed captioned photos of the flight deck, various schematics showing the VC10’s systems and lovingly photographed details of both the interior and exterior of the various subtypes. The human element is well represented through firsthand accounts from pilots, flight and ground engineers and it is these stories that bring the story of the VC10 to life. The sum of all this is a book that delivers both through its many great photos and through the various stories and descriptions. Along the way it manages to pay homage to several of the people responsible for the healthy number of airframes and fuselage sections that have found its way into preservation. Although he has managed to stay out of all but one of the photos, GJD Services’ Gary Spoors is deservedly mentioned as the main driving force behind this situation. With The Brooklands Museum in second place, Gary currently owns the largest VC10 fleet and has also managed to find secure homes for them, something that certainly deserves some attention.
In short: this book delivers a great collection of varied VC10 facts, a lot of wonderfully reproduced photographs, many taken specially for this book, a very comprehensive overview of the complete career of the type and some great first-hand recollections from both the civil and the military side of the VC10’s history. If you already own other books about the VC10 you may find that Henderson and Cole have spent more time on the civil history of the type but on the other hand you will learn more about the technical side of the type as well as more recent events from Wilson’s book. This book is certainly a welcome addition to the bookcase of any VC10 fan!