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End of an era in British aviation


Ian Macmillan
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The RAF's last VC 10 aircraft was flown into retirement this afternoon, bringing to an end an era that started in 1962 when BOAC got its first of the type.  The RAF fleet began in 1966 when No 10 Squadron was equipped with 14 aircraft, a mix of the basic and Super civil versions, flown in the Strategic Transport role.  A number of ex-civil aircraft were later acquired for conversion to Air-to-Air Refuelling tankers.  It was an aircraft of unsurpassed elegance.

 

This painting - by Penelope Douglas, and hanging in the Officers' Mess at RAF Brize Norton - is of the C Mk 1 version as I flew it in the mid-70s.  The background is at Dulles International Airport, outside Washington DC:

 

file-7.jpg

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There will be many very old now ex vickers workers probably feeling the same day. I really felt quite tearful when Concorde stopped as where my parents lived in Byfleet you saw it fly over daily there. I thought it was a beautiful plane too.

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Actually Ian may have made mistake about VC10 being tested at Wisley. I think the occasion when we all ran out in the street...as I'm sure this was still in the fifties may have been another of Vickers aircraft. It was while my mum still worked for them. Perhaps it's the VC1 or Vanguard that flew really low over Byfleet and landed at the Wisley strip.

 

I'm in touch with a history type forum site for Byfleet(where I grew up of course) and may make some enquiries there....someone will remember the plane.....it would have been 1955-8 I think.

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I cried when Concorde went out of service.  I used to authorise the bills for the engines and associated parts and servicing.  I went on a pleasure ride once from Heathrow to Liverpool Airport.  When they were giving the spiel about the specific Concorde we were on, I realised I had probably authorised the payment for the engines.

 

It was such a beautiful plane - inside, on the ground and in the air.

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Lucky you Janet actually flown in one!! Ive been on the once standing one at Brooklands and was actually surprised how small it was close up and inside but would have loved to have flown on one as would my dad.

It used to fly in or out of Heathrow can't remember which now at a similar time most evenings and Dad would always go out to have a look when he could as it flew over.

Vickers which built the VC10 was a big employer in the area for many years. I'm not sure now whether the test flights for this particular aircraft were local or not but it was always exciting when we knew a new aircraft was being flown over to Wisley all of about five miles from Brooklands!

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In fact it was the VC10 that took off from Brooklands and landed at Wisley for its first flight!!

I remember the noise being tremendous as it was so low. Where I lived were the last houses then before Wisley Gardens and then just over the other side of the old A3 was the airfield. Most of the people around were employed by Vickers Armstrong as it was called. There was still what sounded like an air raid siren then for the lunch hour. People had been talking about this new plane for a while so it really was very exciting.

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Lin: You sneaked in just as I was writing that the 10s were built in the Weybridge factory, and flown out from the Brooklands strip to the larger airfield at Wisley for testing.  There is one back at Brooklands - it was acquired by the Sultan of Oman in the mid-70s and modified internally for Ritz-style operations until he decided to go upscale with a 747 in 1987, when a friend delivered it back there.  That required very precise flying and, I think, the removal of some trees short of the touchdown zone.  The aircraft that went to Dunsfold on Tuesday is, I understand, for the Brooklands Museum.  I'm not sufficiently clued-in on distances and so forth to know how that will work in practice.

 

Like Janet, I did a few circuits in the back of a Concorde in May 1977 - Fairford, then the Concorde training base, was having its runway resurfaced and the training moved over to Brize Norton.  (Concorde 002 did a promotional visit to Australia in 1972, with RAF VC10 and Belfast aircraft allocated in support, before my time on 10 Squadron.)

 

But back to the 10 - there are now lots of photos etc of yesterday's final arrival around.  A good group is here, complete with a number of the shirts you now see at left. ( I hear there were about 500 visitors' cars in all turned up.):

 

http://www.vc10.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=807&p=4686#p4686

 

And one of the shorter bits of video - do turn up the sound for that glorious Rolls Royce Conway howl in the go-around:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sWNwTIBAYM

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Thanks Ian its been a nice trip down memory lane remembering all this.

 

My dad went to many air shows with a couple of ex RAF pals of his. Alas can no longer ask him about his VC10 memories/stories etc.

 

 

Changing subject slightly there is another plane I would like to see but this has to be in the USA only at mo and that is the Stealth Bomber. I know it's purpose not exactly wonderful but it's another unusually designed plane and I often wonder whether it was ever secretly flown in UK and thus a source of some UFO stories!!

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I remember being in a history lesson when Concorde took it's first flight out of Heathrow and we all jumped to see it.  I also remember watching it take off standing right next to the runway at Heathrow something I took my DC to see.

 

A colleague's husband worked on Concorde until it retired and she was always miffed that he got to fly on her and she didn't.  He was lucky enough to go on the final flight out to Barbados.

 

I also got very emotional on its last flight into Heathrow I was stuck in a traffic jam taking DS to Ballet as Concorde flew over getting ready to land we pulled out of the jam to watch it fly over.  It was the only plane we ever heard fly over us and we don't live far from Heathrow we also went out to take a look.

 

We still look at the hanger where Concorde could often be seen when we go pass Heathrow.

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I fear that I disrupted a Primary School class back around 1950 on account of seeing an aircraft.  The Bristol Brabazon, an 8-engined airliner and one of the several large scale projects that emerged in the postwar years, was on a tour around the UK and quite unexpectedly flew near our school.  I spotted it through a window and could not stop myself calling out "Look, it's the Bristol Brabazon," somewhat to the chagrin of the teacher.

 

Bristol Brabazon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bristol_Brabazon

 

Perhaps I was destined to have something to do with aircraft!

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That reminds me.....though nothing to do with planes....that when I used to teach in Highbury I took my then class of Year 3's on a trip to a lovely little nature reserve off Gillespie Road and walking distance from the school.

 

We had had a talk on the wildlife we might see before venturing out into the reserve. Every child was busy looking for some creature or other when suddenly one of the boys yelled out "cor, miss look" I rushed over to see what amazing creature he had seen but alas no such luck....he was pointing at the Arsenal football ground!! This could be seen from the top of the reserve at that time. He was genuinely impressed!!

Since then of course it has now moved to its current site which is in fact a stones throw from the very first school I taught at in London.

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Sometime in the early 1980's I went to an air show at the US base in Mildenhall, and saw the Blackbird. The aircrew came out of the hangar wearing space suits, they took off and did a couple of flypasts; and then flew it vertically straight up like a rocket, until it completely disappeared. Made a heck of a noise!

 

Not quite as much noise as the Galaxy which we saw the same day though!!

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Taxi:  Not having facts and figures to hand, I'd say that the SR-71 in reheat for a vertical climb would beat the C-5 Galaxy on a decibel count.  The latter's early turbofans might, however, have a more noticeable low-frequency rumble that can be particularly irritating.

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It was quite a airshow, that one, and the Blackbird broke the sound barrier...

 

As well as the Blackbird and Galaxy, we saw: Starlifter, Vulcan, Concorde, helicopters flying upside-down, (how on earth do they do that?), Awacs, no end of fighter jets, a Hercules with a weird-shaped nose (?), a whole array of Dakotas, the Red Arrows, and another display team which I think was from Canada, who got into trouble by flying loudly over Mildenhall village against instructions.

 

It was my first husband who was interested in the aircraft, and I just tagged along, and ended up really enjoying the day.

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