The Vickers VC-10 was one of the last long-range airliners developed in the United Kingdom. A total of 54 were built, and operated by BOAC/British Airways, as well as several airlines in the more backwards portions of the former British Empire, during the 1960's, 1970's, and early 1980's.

BOAC ordered the VC-10 with a request for an aircraft that could take off from short, high, hot runways in Africa and Asia, which would require thrust and lift proportions not found on any other aircraft at the time. Vickers accomplished this by building a narrowbody aircraft with four engines on the tail. In other words:

           |                __|__
    _____ooOoo______   _______O_______
                         o  o   o  o
         VC-10             707/DC-8
However, the individual desires of Vickers and BOAC led to a major struggle over the design of the VC-10. Vickers wanted to make a larger and longer-range aircraft than what BOAC was requesting, to compete with the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 in mainstream airline use. BOAC, on the other hand, wanted a high-performance aircraft that would suit its operations in out of the way places like Kenya, Afghanistan, and Iran. In fact, BOAC expressly asked that the aircraft not be designed with transatlantic routes in mind. This made it seem rather useless to most other airlines, which placed orders for the VC-10's American rivals instead.

Somewhat paradoxically, the VC-10's first commercial flight with BOAC, in 1965, was from London to New York City. At any rate, BOAC cancelled many of its original orders for the VC-10 after its first deliveries, claiming that the aircraft wasn't making as much money as a 707 or DC-8 would. Once they purchased their first 707's, however, they realized that many Britons actually preferred flying on the VC-10: whether it was out of patriotism, or just because the VC-10 looked cooler, nobody can say.

One of the main problems with the VC-10 was that as it aged, its engines became obsolete. Many airlines kept their 707's and DC-8's flying well into the 1980's by refitting them with new turbofan engines: on the VC-10, this just couldn't be done.

The VC-10 was built in two models: a standard model, and a "Super VC-10" model with a 13-foot extension in the fuselage (Vickers originally wanted to make it 28 feet longer, but BOAC insisted on 13). Most of the standard models were sold to the Royal Air Force in the 1970's, and became tanker aircraft (the K-1, K-2, and K-3). British Airways kept the Super VC10's flying until 1981, when it sold its fleet to the RAF: they became known as the K-4. The RAF's VC-10 tankers are still flying today, although the British are currently looking for a replacement.

The USSR, incidentally, made a poor copy of the VC-10 called the Ilyushin Il-62, which flew intercontinental routes for Aeroflot, LOT, and other airlines in the Soviet bloc up until the early 90's. You can easily tell the two apart because the Il-62 has a long bullet-shaped pylon at the top of the tail.


Crusing speed: 605 mph (970 kph)
Range: 5,000 miles (8,100 km)
Capacity: 187 passengers
Length: 150 ft (49 m)
Wingspan: 130 ft (43 m)