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Photo © Paul Robinson
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Four 21,000 lb (94.1 kN) thrust Rolls-Royce Conway 540 turbofans (Standard), 22,500 lb (100.1 kN) thrust Rco.43 Mk.550 turbofans (Super)
Max cruise 502kts (930 km/h) at 25,000ft, Operational ceiling 43,000ft (13,106 m), Take off field length 8,280ft (2,524 m), Landing field length 6,380ft (1,945 m), Max payload range (no reserves) 4,380nm (8,112 km)(Super: 4,100nm (7,600 km)), max fuel range (no reserves) 5,275nm (9,765 km) (Super: 6,195nm (11,473 km))
Basic operating empty 146,980lb (66,670 kg) (Super: 156,828lb (71,137 kg)), Max takeoff 312,000lb (141,523 kg) (Super: 335,000lb (151,956 kg)), Max zero fuel 187,400lb (85,004 kg) (Super: 215,000lb (97,524 kg)), Max landing 216,000lb (97,978 kg) (Super: 237,000lb (107,503 kg)), Max payload 40,420lb (18,335 kg) (Super: 58,172lb (26,369 kg))
Wing span 146ft 2in (44.55 m), Length 158ft 8in (48.36 m) (Super: 171ft 8in (52.32 m)), Height 39ft 6in (12.04 m), Wing area Type 1101: 2,851sq ft (264.8m2), type 1102/3 and Super 2,932sq ft (272.4 m2), Tailplane span 43ft 10in (13.36 m), Tailplane area 638sq ft (59.3 m2), Wheelbase 65ft 11in (20.09 m) (Super: 72ft 1.5in (21.98 m)), Wheel track 21ft 5in (6.53 m).
Standard: Typically 109 passengers in two classes, maximum 151 passengers six abreast. Super: Typically 139 passengers in two classes, maximum 174 passengers six abreast.
Standard: Type 1100 - 1, Type 1101 - 12, Type 1102 - 2, Type 1103 - 3, Type 1106 - 14, Type 1109 -1, a conversion from 1100. Total 32. Super: Type 1151 - 17, Type 1154 - 5. Total 22.
Medium to long range airliner
The VC10 was based on a BOAC specification for a large airliner that would be able to operate economically on their 'hot and high' routes in Africa. The VC10/type 1100 configuration as settled was: 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 (coincidentally) the same internal width as the DC-8; 20,000lb (89.6kN) plus thrust Conways 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 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 Airlines and the RAF (although the RAF 'Standards' had the wing, fin fuel tank and higher powered engines of the Super to offset the extra weight of their strengthened cargo floor and door). Studies into a higher capacity version of the VC10 were instigated early in the development programme. The result of this, the longer and more economical Super VC10 was eventually only ordered by BOAC and East African Airways.
BOAC's orders for the VC10 were changed many times, settling on 12 Standards and 17 Supers, considerably less than the original 35 orders plus 20 options. Amongst the cancellations were 8 Supers which would have been built as a mixed passenger/freighter version with the large cargo door as had been developed for the Standard. This version eventually did fly as East African Airways bought 5 Type 1154s but the full potential of this 'combi' version was never fully exploited.
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 it's 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 it's 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.
After its civil career, a large number of VC10s was bought by the RAF and converted to air to air refuelling aircraft. The RAF fleet eventually totalling 26 aircraft. Even though some of these have by now been retired, the VC10s will fly on into the 21st century.
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