Those were the days. I was looking at a picture the other day of N70700, the prototype Boeing 707 (or more properly the Boeing 367-80 Stratoliner) which flew around this date in 1954. I started wondering about VC10s. I remember seeing them around and about during my travels and indeed they served BOAC / British Airways until 1981. I always remember thinking how graceful they were. I also have a vague memory of a Dr. Who story which involved VC10s or an airport, or both, in some way. I must confess I was watching it from the hallway so I don’t remember all the details.
There is one association that many Brits will have with the VC-10 and that’s mostly because of this bloke. If there was anyone you wanted to see jetting around the world in the First-Class compartment of a VC10 it was the late, great Alan Whicker (1921 – 2013). He may have had an amazing title image for the series in the 1980s standing beside a runway as a British Airways Concorde took off (and all without ear defenders) but for me the VC10 is a symbol of British sophistication and grace in the air during my impressionable youth.
Alan Whicker, circa 1960 (BBC)
Opening Titles from Whicker’s World in the 1960s.
That undercarriage and the rear-mounted engines are saying VC10 to me. (BBC)
The VC10 was designed to operate on long-distance routes from the shorter runways of the era and especially was designed to maximise hot and high performance for operations from African airports. Allegedly a VC10 still holds the record for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic by a subsonic jet airliner at a shade over 5 hours. I’m also fascinated to read in Wikipedia that the original plan for the Super VC10 involved lengthening the fuselage by 28 feet, although after some worries over production schedules this was cut to around 13 feet.
And while I’m here, some rather charming YouTube footage from 1968. The second commercial, as the comments suggest, seems to be fascinated by the main undercarriage of the VC10. Who am I to complain?
The politics of the VC-10, the Boeing 707 and the intervention of the British government in aircraft production are fairly well summarized in the Wikipedia article on the VC10 so I won’t go into any of that here.
On the lighter side, a couple of pictures of the lowest known pass by a VC10 at a UK airshow – G-ARVM appearing at the 1977 Silver Jubilee air show on 14-15 May at White Waltham airfield in Berkshire. – go to the VC10.net Memories page.
Another footnote which I feel requires inclusion is this BBC News website article from May 2016 reporting that a collection of Alan Whicker’s personal papers had been donated to the British Film Institute’s National Archive.