Dear reader, please bear in mind that news about VC10s is sparse. I don't expect many news items, on the other hand... you never can tell, so be sure to check frequently. For the latest news please keep an eye on the VC10 forum and the A Little VC10derness Facebook page as items of interest sometimes turn up at these locations first, before these pages are updated. Scroll to the bottom of this page for archived news items.
ZA147 scrapped, cockpit section preserved
Posts on different forums and social media sites have reported the sad news that VC10 K3 ZA147, previously 5H-MMT, was scrapped at Bruntingthorpe. This is not an unexpected outcome as the airframe was living on borrowed time ever since the Bruntingthorpe site was sold to a new owner. The recent addition of ZA147 to the US register as N147ZA was either a paperwork exercise to smoothen the process of reusing spares from this airframe for the return to flight plans of ZA150, or it may have been a delayed action from a time when the project was somewhat larger in scale. I am leaning towards the former explanation myself. Although I have not seen any photos, the cockpit section was apparently spared and is still at Bruntingthorpe.
Fifty Six Years & Many Airlines Later - Some Pilot
/ Sunrise Publishing, November 2021
Two recent publications cover two different careers in aviation that included several VC10s. Bob Cooper wrote 'Fifty Six Years & Many Airlines Later' about his work as a licenced aircraft engineer with an impressive list of more than nineteen different airlines and maintenance organisations. Far from being a dry account about maintaining airliners, it is a personal account in an amusing and readable style that appears to include almost every possible combination of airline and aircraft type. From the challenge of obtaining his licences to dealing with a seriously blocked toilet on a 757, it is all included and a large collection of Bob's own photos are used to illustrate the many stories. This book has been self-published by Bob and although an initial print run has already sold out, an e-mail to the address above will put you on the list for a second print run.
Sunrise Publishing has just published 'Some Pilot', written by Nigel Harrison. Nigel learned to fly in South Africa in WWII and became a flight instructor for the RAF and later for Airwork before joining BOAC. As an airline pilot he flew as second officer on Constellations, Britannias and Comets before gaining his command on the VC10. After retiring from BA he flew for the royal family of Abu Dhabi. His autobiography deals with his career but also covers the ups and downs of a long haul-pilot's family life. A short extract from the book is available on the Sunrise Publishing website, see the link above.
Four VC10s on the US register
Recently, four new US registrations were assigned to the VC10s currently located at Bruntingthorpe, Dunsfold and Newquay. The N-numbers are N147ZA, N148ZA, N150ZA and N241ZD and the link to the RAF serials is pretty obvious. Out of these four airframes, ZA150 is the only candidate for flight but having the other three airframes on the same register will make it easier to swap out spares if this should become necessary. All of these airframes are owned by GJD Aerotech, acting as the UK representative of Kepler Aerospace who is the planned user of the VC10 tanker. While the chances of ZA147 and ZD241 leaving Bruntingthorpe in one piece are very slim, the museum career of ZA148 is most likely not in jeopardy because of this. Even if this airframe would need to donate parts to its sister ship, it could still remain as an example of the RAF's ultimate tanker at the Cornwall Aviation Heritage Centre.
Back in 1960, Vickers presented options to Pan Am for a Super VC10 with 200 seats and easy Atlantic capability in all but the most severe winter conditions. They also came up with a VC10 freighter for the airline and the proposed variant would incorporate some interesting options, including an ahead of its time two-man flight deck. Even though this plan never went beyond meetings and paperwork, 61 years later we finally are able to see VC10s on the US register.
Tailwinds & Teapots, memories from a BOAC steward
BOAC-Heritage.org, November 2021
Robert Thornton, who runs BOAC-Heritage.org, has written a book about his early years as a BOAC Steward. In his early twenties he flew around the globe in VC10s and in 'Tailwinds & Teapots' he shares stories from those heady days. It is available from Amazon.co.uk either as a paperback or a Kindle download. Keep an eye on his website, Twitter feed and Facebook page and do not forget to celebrate Historic Airlines Day on 24th November 2021.
5X-UVA crash at Addis Ababa in the news
BBC News Stories, October 2021
Back in May 2021, Harriet Ware-Austin was a guest on the BBC4 Radio programme 'Life Changing' (see below) and talked about the tragic Super VC10 crash at Addis Ababa in 1972 that claimed the life of her two sisters. She also shared this story on my website. A new BBC article about Harriet's experience talks about the responses she has received since the radio show and about the differences and similarities between her situation and that of Graham Townsend, who lost his two brothers in that same accident. See link above or click here.
New Art Print
Hansen Fine Art, October 2021
A recent addition to the selection of fine art prints at Hansen Fine Art is 'Wisley Flypast' by Richard Wheatland GMA, GAvA. This painting shows prototype VC10 G-ARTA overhead Vickers flight test centre at Wisley. Click on the link here or above to view or purchase a copy.
Aircrew Interview: Flying the VC10
AircrewInterviewTV, August 2021
Aircrew Interview TV produces an online show that does what the name indicates, arranging interviews with various aircrew members and talking about their work, often including interesting aircraft types. Advertised as Part 1, in this 30 minute episode they interviewed former RAF VC10 pilot Chris Nash about his experience with Vickers' finest. It covers Chris being posted to multi-engined types, the role of the VC10 within the RAF and various other topics. Available on Youtube or by using the link above.
Freddie: The Second Coming of Sir Freddie Laker is available
Recursive Publishing, June 2021
Ania Grzesik and Gregory Dix published the very well researched and complete biography 'Laker' in 2019, which finally made the full story of Freddie Laker's amazing history available. This book ended at Laker Airways' financial downfall in 1982 and did leave the reader wondering: what happens next? This question has now been answered with the release of the follow up 'Freddie: The Second Coming of Sir Freddie Laker'. This book picks up where 'Laker' ended and describes the aftermath of the airline's bankrupcy, the huge antitrust case that was filed and then delves into Sir Freddie's financial recovery and his new Laker Airways (Bahamas) that emerged 10 years after the original Laker Airways went bust. Sadly, co-author Gregory Dix passed away in 2021 and did not get to see the release of this second volume. His hard work has resulted in a book that completes the story and serves as a wonderful tribute to a great businessman. Available now from Recursive Publishing or Amazon.
As it deals with the period after 1982, Sir Freddie's involvement with BUA and the VC10 is not covered in 'Freddie', for that story, have a look at the earlier volume 'Laker'. If you enjoyed 'Laker', you should really get yourself a copy of this second volume too!
Ascot Airways, a book about the life of a 10 Sqn steward, now out
Amazon, June 2021
Robert Whittingham has published a book about his career as a steward with No.10 Squadron, looking after the varied passengers on 'RAF Airlines'. One story that is in the book is his account of how he was part of the crew that rushed to Addis Ababa on XR808 to take the survivors and wounded from the 5X-UVA crash back to the UK, which is also on the RAFBF site here. There are lots of other stories included as well, such as one about a test flight on Concorde, or about the time when he approached Air Force One and heard "Stop, or I will shoot" and several anecdotes about looking after distinguished passengers. His book 'Ascot Airways: The Life and Times of a Royal Air Force Steward' is available on Amazon and through various other retailers. Click here for Amazon.com or here for Amazon.co.uk.
Classic Gatwick Jetliners book out
History Press, May 2021
Author and ex-Gatwick Air Traffic Controller Tom Singfield has completed the perfect companion to his Classic Gatwick Propliners book: Classic Gatwick Jetliners. It is a full-colour photobook containing over 200 shots of various types that visited the Gatwick apron in the 60s, 70s and 80s. The extensive captions provide a pretty complete overview of the development of the airfield and the background of the various airlines of that era. Obviously, the VC10s of BUA, BCal and some other airlines are included but they are in the minority. Still, I can recommend this as a worthwhile addition to your bookshelf, so that you can enjoy the view of late 20th century liveries and many airlines and types that are long gone now.
BBC Radio 4, 21 April 2021
The BBC Radio 4 programme 'Life Changing' that aired today includes a conversation with Harriet Ware-Austin, who was eight years old when she witnessed the crash of Super VC10 5X-UVA at Addis Ababa. The aircraft carried her two sisters, who did not survive the accident. A few days ago, it was 49 years ago that the combination of a jacking pad left on the runway and incorrectly assembled brakes caused the loss of this airframe and 43 lives. Click on the link above to listen to or download the programme.
Another account describes how a RAF crew was asked to carry out an extra flight to bring the survivors and their family back home, see here: VC10 Crash. Ethiopia, 1972. This flight was carried out using XR808 and is mentioned in the radio programme.
Harriet has kindly shared parts of her mother's account and her own memories on this page.
Still two intact VC10s at Bruntingthorpe
E-mail, April 2021
A recent overflight confirmed that there are still two intact VC10s at Bruntingthorpe airfield. The six Tristars and two 747-400s can also be seen. Apart from these airframes under threat, the Walton owned Nimrod, Comet and Victor are safely stored in a corner of the site. It may take a while before more news emerges, so for now we'll have to make do with this status update.
Aviation Megastore, March 2021
Various shops are showing a new JC Wings 1:200 scale model of BOAC Standard VC10 G-ARVM in its interim BOAC/BA colours. There are several photos on the Aviation Megastore site (see link above) and a drawing on the Diecast Trading website and this model has the unique BOAC fuselage with BA 'Negus' tail scheme that 'VM wore in the mid-70s. The model is familiar if you know the previous JC Wings releases in this scale, with only minor changes (no shiny wheels and an additional stand). Based on the photos, JC Wings has got the wing shape right but the outboard fence should extend along the entire wing chord for the type 1101 wing. Still, the JC Wings models are pretty good value for money and in the limited 1:200 scale market, this is a welcome addition to the range. Visit your favourite aviation model retailer for pre-order details and price indications, or follow the links in this post for some suggestions.
ZA150 photobombing the Top Gear crew
BBC News, March 2021
It is always good to see ZA150 popping up in the news, even though it's only in the background of a photo. As there are no updates on the plans for this airframe, this photo will have to do for now.
Legal wrangling over airframes at Bruntingthorpe
The Times, January 2021
An article in The Times for 22nd January 2021 explains that the owners of Bruntingthorpe airfield have gained the right to remove the stored aircraft from the airfield. Although the article lists the VC10s, the contested situation is mostly that of two stored 747s, ex-TransAero (now bankrupt) but now owned by a different company, and six Lockheed Tristars, ex-RAF but now owned by a US-based firm hoping to get a foothold in the air-to-air refuelling business. The owners of the 747s and the Tristars both argued that these aircraft are part of an active project and that they should have access to the aircraft to get them back to airworthy status, and that the runway should be made available to fly them out in due course. The judge ruled that most of these plans were not realistic and that the companies have had enough time to take action, having received notices to remove the aircraft on several occasions.
The situation for the VC10s has not changed, apart from the fact that there appears to be a small window left in which the aircraft should be removed from Bruntingthorpe by its owner. GJD services has already invested heavily in keeping ZD241 intact and alive over the past 7 years and it is unrealistic to expect its owner to come up with the funds needed to take the airframe apart and move it to a new home. The same applies to ZA147, which has been stored since the last VC10 flight, having had its engines and several other parts removed. Based on this, the odds are against these two airframes surviving beyond the next few months, although perhaps cockpits or fuselage sections may be preserved.
The full text of the judgement is here.
The large aircraft owned by David Walton (Nimrod, Comet, Victor) are not affected by this, these will remain stored at the airfield. Smaller types have been moved to a new storage/museum area next to the Lightning Preservation Group's sheds.
News Archive - 2019/2020