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29th of March 1981

In the last years, the B747 was retired by a lot of airlines. The unique 4 engined Queen of the Skies is not the first 4 engined jet being retired from service by the major airlines. The Boeing 707, the Douglas DC8 were withdrawn before (although a few of these “four holers jets” are still gracing the skies). Another 4 engined jet that was withdrawn from service by a major airline (British Airways in this case) was the Vickers VC10 on the 29th of March 1981, exactly 30 years ago today!




The VC10 first flew on the 29th of June 1962 and entered service with BOAC on the 29th of April 1964 on a London to Lagos service. A total of 54 aircraft were built between 1962 and 1970. The passenger capacity was up to 135 passengers in a two-class configuration (depending on aircraft version, a total of 10 versions were designed, although only 8 civil versions were actually built) Powered by its four Rolls-Royce Conway engines (the MK 301 version provided 22.500 lbf thrust) the aircraft had a Vmo of 500 kn, and an economic cruise speed of 480 kn at 38.000 ft. It was a fast aircraft, for 41 years it held the record for fastest Atlantic crossing by a subsonic jet. New York to London in 5 hours and 1 minute. (A British Airways B747 broke the record in February 2020 by 5 minutes, flying New York to London in 4 hours and 56 minutes) To this date the only commercial jet that flew this route faster is Concorde!

The aircraft was well ahead of its time, a quadruple Auto Flight Control System was installed to give the aircraft zero visibility auto-land capability. (later this auto-land capability was removed as it did not work as smoothly as envisaged.) Another unique feature of the aircraft was the Thrust Augmenters, 2-inch tubes connected to outflow valves angled towards the rear. The airflow from the outflow valves through these Thrust Augmenters provided an estimated fuel saving of 5o lbs/hr (according to an article in Flight International in May 1962) More information about this aircraft can be found all over the internet, but a great page is VC10.net!


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