Kit No. 313
Decals: One version – British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC)
Comments: Engraved panel lines; attractive decals featuring BOAC livery
History: BOAC and the VC10
The Vickers Super VC10 (VC standing for “Vickers Commercial”) made its first flight on May 7, 1964, following by nearly two years the first flight of its predecessor, the original “Standard” VC10 on June 29, 1962. Super VC10’s entered service with BOAC in 1965, serving alongside the Standard to become very popular within the BOAC fleet. The type was often praised for its comfort, and low cabin noise level. A sophisticated and economical aircraft built in relatively small numbers, the cutting edge VC10 nonetheless surprisingly never quite achieved the level of success of its DC-8 and Boeing 707 competitors. The impressive Super VC10 remained in service with BOAC and later British Airways until withdrawn from service in 1981, after a decade of yet stiffer competition on international air routes from the Boeing 747.
The VC10 has its origins in Vickers’ ambition to design the world’s first truly intercontinental jet airliner. At first this took shape as the V.1000, a project intended for the RAF as a strategic transport but with definite ulterior motives to be marketed as the civil VC7. This aircraft took shape along lines resembling the Vickers Valiant strategic bomber, with power provided by four Rolls-Royce Conway turbofan engines buried in the wing roots of the low-wing design. Before the first flight of the prototype, in 1955 the RAF order was rescinded and BOAC showed no interest in keeping the project going, as it was looking towards the Bristol Brittania and the de Havilland Comet 4. The result was that a relatively complete aircraft that showed a lot of promise for all Vickers employees was scrapped before their eyes. Vickers Managing Director George Edwards lamented: “We have handed to the Americans, without a struggle, the entire world market for big jet airliners.”
Having ensured that Britain would lose whatever advantage it had held in the field of medium-long range jet airliners, after a year’s delay BOAC decided that it really should have a higher capacity and longer ranging replacement for the forthcoming de Havilland Comet 4 if it was going to be able to compete successfully on the North Atlantic and other routes. Rejecting de Havilland’s proposal and fearing that a new British design would take too long (and ignoring the original reason for this state of affairs) BOAC ordered American Boeing 707s. According to the official comment from BOAC this was “because no new British aircraft can be made available in time.” After this, in 1957, they issued a requirement for a Comet and Brittania replacement with specifications tailored to their Middle-East and African routes, a specification that was far above what could be reached by the 707 or the DC-8. Vickers responded to this by submitting several design studies that they had been working on since the V.1000 cancellation. These designs progressed past a jet powered Vanguard (VanJet) with three rear mounted engines, and several other variations on this, to settle on the now familiar rear engined layout of the VC10 in early 1957.
The VC10/type 1100 configuration which finally landed the BOAC contract called for accommodation for about 135 passengers in a BOAC two class layout (or up to 151 all economy class); a six abreast cabin with its cross section based on that of the V.1000 and the same internal width as the DC-8; Rolls Royce Conway turbofans capable of over 20,000 lb. (89.6kN) thrust and mounted in pairs on either side of the rear fuselage; a T-tail (both of these a first for a large jet transport), and in order to meet the stringent runway requirements, a very efficient wing with leading edge slats, outboard ailerons, upper wing spoilers and massive Fowler flaps. A notable feature was the use of split control surfaces, each driven by separate power units managed by two autopilots, each monitoring the other. The result was a very high level of systems reliability which later allowed the VC10 to become one of the first airliners certified for completely ‘hands off’ automatic landings in nil visibility.
The initial model (which later became known as the ‘Standard’) was ordered in several versions not only by BOAC but also by Ghana Airways, Nigeria Airways, British United Airways and the RAF. Studies into a higher capacity version of the VC10 were instigated early in the development programme. The philosophy behind what emerged as the Type 1150 Super VC10 was to provide extra seating capacity at the expense of some of the Standard VC10’s exceptional ‘hot and high’ airfield performance.
The Super VC10 Type 1151
Where the Standard VC10 was optimised for BOAC’s routes into the demanding airfields of the Middle East, Far East and Africa, the Super was intended to provide more economical operation (especially in the case of seat/mile costs) on other major routes including the important North Atlantic. The Super featured more powerful 22,500lb (100,1kN) thrust Conway 550 engines, additional fuel capacity via a 1,350 Imperial gallon (6,137 l) tank in the fin, an increase in maximum takeoff weight to 335,000lb (151,9556 kg) and a fuselage stretch of 13ft 0in (3.96 m) for a maximum passenger capacity of 174.
The total production run eventually totalled out at 32 aircraft for the Standard and 22 for the Super, not an impressive number compared to the monthly numbers at Seattle or Toulouse. In its time the VC10 was the largest aircraft that had ever been produced in the United Kingdom and although a very sophisticated design it completely lost out to the Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8. The VC10 became the victim of several issues, the two main ones being the timing of its debut and the Standard’s compromise between performance and operating costs. By the time the Super’s improved economics appeared it was already too late for the VC10 to claim any significant part of the airline market.
By 1967 the public opinion concerning the VC10 got an interesting push by the then Minister of State for Technology when he stated: “The British Aircraft Corporation has made an outstanding contribution to world aviation through its development of the BAC One-Eleven and the VC10. Both these aircraft are a credit to Britain on each of the many routes they are flying. The two airlines in Britain operating the VC10 have every reason to be grateful not only for the prestige they enjoy through flying this aircraft in their colours but also for the undoubted attraction it has for passengers.” After only six months of operating the Super VC10 on the North Atlantic routes, BOAC had seen their average passenger load increase by 40% compared to the same service with 707s prior to the VC10s introduction. Even the 707 enjoyed a small spill-off of the VC10s publicity, its figures increasing by 15%.
The Standards were quickly withdrawn from service in 1974 when BOAC decided that they were no longer economically viable, especially with the 747 rendering the type superfluous to requirements. The Supers soldiered on for another seven years with the final Super flight in BOAC (by then renamed British Airways) service in March 1981.
Roden’s Vickers Super VC 10 is injection molded in grey plastic and consists of 73 parts, five of which are clear plastic for the windshield and cabin windows. Fully assembled, the kit will be about a foot long with a wingspan of about 12.5 inches — and at 1/144 scale, this provides an idea of the sheer size of the actual aircraft. Immediately noticeable on the fuselage halves are a rather large number of connector stubs (the sprue for these large parts is absent) along the ventral surfaces, all of which will have to be sanded down.
The kit has delicate engraved panel lines, and the fuselage has a separate part for the nose cap which may require some seam hiding. The quartet of turbojet engines consist of eight parts. Each pair of turbojets have top and bottom halves, another part for the intake fan faces, and a fourth part for the tapered jet exhaust. The “T” tail assembly is comprised of six parts, the two halves of the tail fin, with a top and bottom half for each elevator. The landing gear are as detailed as can be expected in this scale. The kit includes at least nine small parts for various antennae on different parts of the airframe.
The most outstanding feature of the kit by far are the striking decals representing the BOAC livery: gold BOAC lettering and the gold speedbird logo on the tail, all against a Royal Blue background. Roden was clearly aware that this is the kit’s key selling point: These markings have rich, realistic color and are perfectly in register. Caution will have to be taken with rather delicate parts forming wing fences, one for each wing that are to be cemented rather close in to the fuselage on the upper wing surfaces.
This kit harks back to an icon of 1960’s commercial aviation. Highly recommended.