182nd Review VC10: Icon of the Skies- Lance Cole

  • VC10: Icon of the Skies

    Lance Cole
    Pen and Sword Books
    2017
    English
    X X X X X
    224 pg.
    9781473875326
    Review written by: Max Heldring

    With the VC-10 in the main role this book describes with thorough arguments the downfall of the British aircraft industry. The story started in the post war years when BOAC was ruling the skies specifically in the British colonies in Africa. BOAC was looking for the ultimate jetliner that could handle the difficult British and European […]

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    With the VC-10 in the main role this book describes with thorough arguments the downfall of the British aircraft industry. The story started in the post war years when BOAC was ruling the skies specifically in the British colonies in Africa. BOAC was looking for the ultimate jetliner that could handle the difficult British and European weather as well as the high and hot airfields in Africa. Vickers responded well to the desired specifications and developed a wonderful and advanced jetliner that was far ahead of its time in many aspects. But then the  British government and the board of BOAC started with a serial of controversial decisions that influenced the worldwide marketing expectations of Vickers in a negative way.

    Instead of using the technical advanced specifications of the VC-10 for definite supremacy of the long range routes, BOAC was constantly changing their requirements. Vickers that developed the VC-10 purely based on the BOAC specs had to cut back in the production levels and started to lose the race against the Americans with their Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8.

    Vickers had a wonderful reputation with building commercial aircraft as well as military like the Viscount and Armstrong. Based on this knowledge and the swept wing concept, invented and developed by Nazi Germany,  the VC-10 was a winning concept, but as the author explained in the first part of the book, BOAC had a inconsequent decision policy that leaded to delivery delays and order cutbacks of this marvelous design.

    And when BOAC decided to add the Boeing 707 to their fleet, the dead sentence for a large production of the VC-10 was a fact. Why a British company was bypassing a successful design in favor of its American competitor? Nobody understood. Maybe existing unknown connections between BOAC management and the USA?  It was never cleared. At the end only 54 aircraft were ordered were as everybody that flew the VC-10, crew as well as passengers, were enthusiastic and preferred flying this beauty. It was a safe plane, no crash occurred during service with BOAC and the RAF, and the flight characteristics were very good, low landing speeds due to its wing design and impressive take off performance on hot and high airports due to its powerful 4 RR Conway rear mounted jet engines.

    The author made an extensive comparison between the  VC-10, 707 and DC-8 and explained with good arguments why the VC-10 was superior in every aspect. The construction was sturdy, the RR Conway jet engines had a much higher thrust and max takeoff weight was superior. Costs of maintenance of frame and engines were lower and performance was better in every aspect. The Boeing 707 was smaller and had less thrust therefore not well suited for hot and high countries and despite that this plane was preferred by BOAC over the VC-10? Many other famous aircraft companies copied successful parts from the VC-10 design in their planes like the DC-9, Trident, 727, Tristar, IL-62  and BAC 1-11.

    The RAF also took 13 aircraft into service for transport and air to air refueling and here also the VC-10 was operational a success with a very high safety record. In total the VC-10 was 47 years in service and with an excellent history.

    In the book Lance Cole explains in a clear way the technical details of the design and compares it with its main competitors, He also describes the service records with other airlines that ordered the VC-10 and in between he explains why England lost the domination in the skies and created the downfall of the commercial aircraft industry. Cole’s admiration for this plane is contagious and even I regret now that I never flew with this queen of the skies with its beautiful sleek body.

    The book is easy and fascinating reading with all the technical descriptions and stories around the VC-10’s life and is provided with many photos and drawings. I also like the fact that Lance Cole is explaining in a clear way the whole picture of what happened around the development and production and the politics involved that played a big part in the VC-10 ‘s life.  Recommended!


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