View Full Version : English built airliners were a total failure.

unmanned transport
8th Apr 2005, 04:21
Brabazon. (1)
Vanguard (44)
Britannia (83)
Comet (114)
VC10 (54)
Trident (117)
BAC 111 (236)
Concorde (10)

And now this small island nation has been reduced
to sub-contracting for the major airframe manufacturers.

8th Apr 2005, 04:24
And what's wrong with the Viscount?

8th Apr 2005, 05:03
The Viscount and VC10 are two of the most quiet and comfortable airliners I've ever flown in. The aircraft were perfect. The salesmen were the failures.


8th Apr 2005, 05:05
And I suppose the fact that there are still varients of the Comet (Nimrod) still flying, the VC10 still flies and there are various 1-11 operations still going prove that they were certainly built to last then. OK so there ae none of he others left but Concorde has only just stopped flying........The british engineers could still build if given the chance but why cough up all the money when the costs can be shared nowadays.......I still value British Engineers amongst the highest in the world if not the highest.

8th Apr 2005, 05:20
forgot the 146, ATP and Jetstream too.

8th Apr 2005, 05:47
The Airbus 380 is a British aircraft assembled in southwest France. Airbus likes to promote that only 4% of the cost is the Toulouse production. It‘s generally accepted that 20% of the aircraft are the wings, and every Airbus ever built, over 3,300 to date, started life at Chester. 30% of the aircraft are the engines and here Rolls-Royce are the lead supplier. Common sense would suggest that other British suppliers contribute at least 10% to the overall cost of the aircraft. These include BAE SYSTEMS for the inner leading edge droop; GKN, secondary structure and shroud box; Messier-Dowty for the nose landing gear; Smiths Aerospace for the landing gear extension and retraction system and for the concentrator multiplexer for video; Dunlop are an important supplier as is Barnes Aerospace, Cytec Engineering Materials, The FR Group, Pau Aerospace and Senior Aerospace

B Fraser
8th Apr 2005, 06:05

You have it completely wrong. The reason for a lack of commercial success is a combination of......

Pioneering and getting it wrong - The Comet 1 which was nobody's fault.

Government Interference - The Trident 1 which was reduced in size by the demands of Whitehall however by the time the 2C, 3 and 3B were ready, the 727 was streets ahead in numbers. The final models met the spec of the original design. Don't forget that this aircraft led the world in triplex systems and autoland :cool:

Having lost the lead to the States, we were always going to play catch-up however by the early 70's, we were a banana republic.

Now let's look at the positive side......
The 1-11 pioneered deep-stall avoidance and was hardly a commercial failure. The Trident was just about the fastest airliner ever that didn't need re-heat. The VC-10.....drooooool .....copied by the Sovs with their IL-62. Today it is the tanker of choice by the USAF (see other threads) when there is an alternative close by to their KC-10. The Vanguard, Viscount and the Britannia were wonderful in their day but the allure of the pure jet was too strong for the airlines.

The French got burned with their Dassault Mercure, the Germans with their overwing jet thingumybob, the cousins with Convair so in hindsight, we did rather well for a country going to the wall with the unions pulling the strings. Today, we make the wings and only decent engines for Airbus while the Europeans make the tube that holds them apart.

Just ask any lady pilot which country's aircraft snaps her knicker elastic :E

as a footnote, if this country is so bad at engineering.... why do almost all of the F1 teams choose the UK as their manufacturing base ? You'd be amazed at how much of the Ferrari is made in Guildford :ok:

chimbu warrior
8th Apr 2005, 06:39
What about the Heron? Dove?

You certainly couldn't call the Britten Norman Islander a failure, although you could call it noisy, and slow. It is still in production after 40 years (and still noisy), and nothing else will do the job.

8th Apr 2005, 07:12
On UK home leave, gazing out of my daughter's living room window I see the remains of what was once the De Havilland factory at Hatfield. Its now an odd combination of Booker warehouses, housing estate and university campus. Beside the shiny new 'T-Mobile' office blocks along Comet Way, the old De Havilland design offices still stand - the exterior is listed, as is the main gate. The Trident assembly building is also grade three listed, but in danger of falling down. Sad.

But the aircraft that were designed and built there were certainly not failures. Not such a great success as the B727 perhaps, but penetrating the US market was always a dodgy business. 'Free Trade' is merely an illusion, mealy mouthed words - the US has so many invisible trade barriers.

Brooklands is in much the same state as Hatfield but the VC10 is still in service and as beautiful as the day she made her maiden flight on 29th June 1962, almost forty three years ago - the RAF are still flying some of their originals, thirty nine years since they were delivered.

Hardly a failure.

8th Apr 2005, 07:18
Don't forget that in the Forties Fifties and Sixties Britain's two airlines were nationalised, and the wartime culture of government control over aviation was still visible. Airliners were designed for our colonial routes, sometimes making them over-engineered for the really dense profitable routes. While Comet 4s departed Heathrow at a huge climb angle, the early 707s just about scraped over the fence, because Boeing didn't have to design for hot-and-high colonial routes.

Governments are generally very bad at running aviation.

8th Apr 2005, 07:24
Funnily enough BS, the view from my folks' house is of the same aiirfield from the north side. I spent many happy hours as a child watching the 146 on trial in it's light green straight off the line colours. I would like to kknow how many of those have been sold in the hairdryer & other variants.:ok:

8th Apr 2005, 07:25
Governments are generally very bad at running aviation

Hear, hear.

Speaking for the Canadian aviation industry - Avro Arrow and Avro Jetliner.

As reported in the Funk & Wagnalls "Year Book for 1948" under First Jet Transport: "Scheduled for flight test early in 1949 was the first aircraft designed from scratch as a jet-propelled transport. It is the Avro XC-102, designed and built by Avro Canada of Toronto in collaboration with engineers of Trans-Canada Airlines. Cost of the project are shared by the Canadian government and the manufacturer. The XC-102 is a low-wing, all metal monoplane with pressurized cabin and tricycle landing gear. It is designed to accommodate 40 passengers and a crew of three and is expected to cruise at 430 mph at 35,000 ft. Gross weight is 52,500 lb. Power plant consists of four Rolls-Royce Derwent II turbojets providing 14,000 lb. static thrust output. The engines are grouped in pairs on either wing panel."

Though the Avro Jetliner was just 13 days behind the British Comet, it was years ahead of the Boeing 707, the Jetliner did not have the problems of the Comet and when you look at it you must ask why did Canada not back this great aircraft! If Avro had not fallen behind on the CF-100 production line and if the Korean war not been going on we may still have Jetliners flying today, but the story of the Jetliner is much like the story of the Avro CF-105 Arrow -- it is the story of broken dreams and lost opportunities

The C-102 had been designed to the Trans Canada Airline requirment agreed in 1946, which called for a 36 seat aircraft with a cruising speed of 425 miles per hour, a "still-air" range of 1,200 miles, an average distance between stops of 250 miles, with 500 miles as the longest leg requiement. Alllowances were specified as 45 minutes stacking and flight time to a 120-mile alternate airport. Headwind was to be taken as 20 mph average, with 40mph maximum.

The Jetliner was built during the daytime, tested at night. Once in the wooden mockup stage, Jim Floyd said, "That nose just won't do." So they sawed it off, and built another within a week.

The first prototype, CF-EJD-X christened the Jetliner, first flew 10 August 1949, just 25 months after the design of the Derwent-engined version was started! The crew consisted of Avro UK Chief test pilot Jimmy Orrel; Avro Canada Chief Test Pilot Don Rogers; and flight engineer Bill Baker. The first flight was without any problems and the only problem in over 500 hours of flight occured on the second flight (16 August 1949) when the aircraft had to make an emergency belly-landing because the main gear would not extend (the damage was so minor that the aircraft was flying within three weeks).

By December 1950 the Jetliner had reached 39,800 feet and had exceeded 500 mph in level flight!

Howard Hughes was so impressed with the Jetliner that he wanted to manufacture it under license at Convair and use it on TWA routes, but the U.S. government would not agree to Convair devoting effort and space to a civil project in view of the Korean crisis.

The Jetliner never did go into commercial use but was used as the aerial survey & photo platform for the CF-100 project, as orders were never placed, construction on the partially built second prototype was abandoned. On 10 December 1956 the Jetliner was ordered destroyed, and after contacting the National Aviation Museum turned up no interest in obtaining the aircraft due to a lack of space, the Jetliner was cut up on the 13th of December 1956 with only the cockpit section surviving (in the Canadian Aviation Museum in Ottawa).

8th Apr 2005, 07:28
S'cuse me fellows, before you get too carried away, the tread title is English built airliners........
If you now gonna mention Jetstreams and the like you are guilty of thread creep :uhoh: cause most of them was built in Scotland and not England! :rolleyes:

Or did unmanned transport mean British built airliners? :cool:

8th Apr 2005, 08:11
if 236 BAC 1-11 are "a total failure", Iwonder what consititutes a success.

I read somewhere that 1-11s were designed and manufactured for use in Europe and where corrosion-proofed to cope with the conditions. An inspection of a B737 & 1-11 of identical ages woulds reveal that the 737 would require extensive re-skinning due to condensation whereas the 1-11 might require a flick over with a duster.

skianyn vannin
8th Apr 2005, 08:27
Well how about the 400 or so 146/RJ's built. Hardly a failure. In fact Lufthansa are quoted as saying its the most reliable aircraft they operate. Perhaps thats why they're getting more of them

Big Tudor
8th Apr 2005, 08:33
The reasons behind Concordes (apparent) lack of commercial impact on the aviation market have been discussed at length. However, I don't see how you can say the aircraft was a failure. It operated commercially for 27 years and I believe BA did actually manage to turn some profit from it. It also only ever existed in one version, no need for -100, -200, -300 series. The original was good enough! No other airliner ever had so much public appeal as Concorde, a guarenteed head turner wherever it went. I wonder if we will see such a send off when the B747 is eventually retired fom service. :rolleyes:
As for the A380, I have heard that the wing production team at Broughton has been told to slow down as the rest of the manufacturing sites can't keep up with them! :confused:

8th Apr 2005, 08:36
Nobody mentioned the shed or the 748 - where would Emerald be without them.

Piltdown Man
8th Apr 2005, 08:38
The British were probably some of the best aircraft designers and builders in the world. Unfortunately, we suffered from government interference in every direction. The government were the specifiers (even when they weren't the customer), the customers, the certification authority and corrupt. Many had also been "got at" by the Americans (and don't forget which bunch of goons gave the Soviets five of the very latest jet engines from Rolls Royce - just so they had something to put in the MIG 15) and had NFI about how a high tech industry should be run. A bit like the current lot really. And, despite that, the Comet, Britannia, VC10, Concorde, Trident, BAC 1-11 were designed, built and flown for many years. We should be proud of what they did do.

We should also take lessons from the French on how to protect our own industries.

8th Apr 2005, 08:43
Should we add to this list the Vulcan, Victor, Canberra, Lightning, and Harrier?

Never mind the WW11 stuff.

Don't see how any of these aircraft could be described as failures!

These, along with the civil aircraft that are the subject of this thread, prove there was no problem manufacturing superb British aeroplanes, the problems are elsewhere!!

Oh, and the TSR2! Incredibly capable, but a victim of politics.

8th Apr 2005, 08:47
A former colleage of mine, who had been Chief Pilot for an operator of both Viscounts and One-Elevens, told me once that the Viscount was an absolute dog of an aeroplane, kept aloft only by the excellence of its engines, and the 1-11 was the most over-engineered airliner in history, indestructable but as a result economically uncompetitive.

8th Apr 2005, 08:56
unmanned transport:

Why did you leave out ALL the most successful ones from your production list ?

146/Avro RJ

Just interested.

blue up
8th Apr 2005, 09:09
Was the Constellation REALLY a Fairey Aviation design, or was that "one of those stories"?

8th Apr 2005, 09:11
The main problem with most of the British airliners cited, is that they were designed to meet as specific BEA or BOAC requirement.

I recall one of the biggest cock-ups was the Trident, which DeHavilland originally planned to be larger than the 1C variant that BEA wanted. The resulting airframe was then too small to compete with the 727 in the world market.

On the other hand those projects that were "private ventures", in particular the 1-11, HS748, Jetstream, 146 were designed for a world market, and saleswise performed muc better.

Many British products may also have benefitted from a choice of engines (e.g. Pratt & Whitney as well as Rolls Royce).

You can't blame the salesmen - they can only sell a saleable product!

8th Apr 2005, 09:56
If you now gonna mention Jetstreams and the like you are guilty of thread creep cause most of them was built in Scotland and not England

Designed and first built at Radlett, Hertfordshire so I would call it an English aircraft.

8th Apr 2005, 10:02
Designed and first built at Radlett

So you accept that the A380 is a French aircraft then?;)

B Fraser
8th Apr 2005, 11:25
So you accept that the A380 is a French aircraft then

only if it's [email protected] :}

Shaggy Sheep Driver
8th Apr 2005, 12:21
I recall one of the biggest cock-ups was the Trident, which DeHavilland originally planned to be larger than the 1C variant that BEA wanted. The resulting airframe was then too small to compete with the 727 in the world market.

So why didn't dH have the courage of their convictions, and build the first Tridents as big as the Trident 3, aiming for world markets, instead of cutting it down to a size no-one else wanted just 'cause that's what BEA demanded?


8th Apr 2005, 12:26
I know it wasn't an airliner (a few were used as such after the war) but don't forget the Lancaster as a great airplane.

8th Apr 2005, 13:33

That's a good question. I guess because BEA was the launch customer and therefore had a disproportionate say in the final outcome.

I think I'm right in saying that United and Lufthansa, as launch customers for the 737 had a similar say in the somewhat small 737-100, which was not exactly a commercial success on it's own.

It was only when the bigger -200 hit the market that the 737 took off - so to speak.

I suppose that with a larger home market, then it would have been easier for dH to react to the demands of the market.

8th Apr 2005, 13:41
Unmanned transport,

You could equally well say,

French built airliners were a total failure;

Caravelle (280)
Mercure (10)
Potez 840 (2)
Nord 262 (105)
Concorde (10)

AS to the UK, how about;

And now this small island nation has been reduced to being the 4th largest economy on the planet and being co-owner (NOT a sub contractor!) of one of the most successful airline manufacturing concerns ever.


I wouldn’t quite say the VC10 was perfect, if it was it would have been as successful as the B707 and the DC8. It was built for a silly market for a single airline, not exactly a recipe for financial success!

B Fraser,

Don’t blame the Govt for the Trident fiasco, it was BEA who insisted on the reduction in size that condemned it forever to be second best to the 727. After this intervention and ruination of the design they then tried to order the 727 and 737 instead of the Trident and 111, it was only the Govt’s refusal to give permission for the dollar expenditure that stopped them.
BEA ruined the Trident.

8th Apr 2005, 14:10
Heh. Unmanned strikes again.

In future, before responding to Mr. Transports's little threads, perhaps you folk should do a search for his previous contriutions.

Methinks Mr Transpost has a bit of a hate on for "The English" (wait, just found one on Canada as well)...........I think the term is commonly known as "stirring sh*t"

Not bashing Heathrow this time :hmm:

8th Apr 2005, 14:43
People have mentioned that BEA ruined the Trident but BOAC's requirements did the same for the VC-10.

From what I understand, BOAC's hot/high airfield takeoff requirements (e.g. Nairobi) dictated that overly powerful engines had to be used which had an adverse effect on fuel consumption and therefore higher seats per mile costs than the competition.

BOAC's worries were groundless as most airports increased the length of their runways so the lower thrust-to-weight ratio DC-8s and 707s could use them with no problem.

PPRuNe Radar
8th Apr 2005, 15:27
Should we add to this list the Vulcan, Victor, Canberra, Lightning, and Harrier? Never mind the WW11 stuff. Don't see how any of these aircraft could be described as failures!

Err, no. Hard to see them getting much success on Revenue Passenger Kilometres. :}

8th Apr 2005, 15:48
desk jockey
Your friend was wrong! The Viscount, far from being a dog, was a wonderful aeroplane to operate, particularly the later 810s. It (the 810 series) was one of the few aircraft that would take full tanks and maximum passengers, a luxury to many operators these days. In my opinion, it was also one of the best trainers for the future progression of a whole generation of pilots.
As you say, the 1-11 was pretty good too and please, do not run away with the idea that an "over-engineered" aircraft is necessarily a bad thing. That sounds like negative spin from the makers of lesser machinery!

8th Apr 2005, 15:57
Over engineering is a bad thing when it makes the capital or operating costs too high for the market.

It's not just British airliners which suffer from that. IMO the Beagle Pup was another failure which deserved better.

Value engineering was never a strong feature of British engineering in the 60's.

8th Apr 2005, 16:02
In that case what about ..
the Hermes
the Viking
the Tudor
the Ashton
the marathon
the ATL98
the Herald
the Apollo
the Rotodyne!
the Ambassador
the Bristol freighter
the Argosy
the Universal(Beverley)
the Skyvan/330/360......perhaps the Belfast
should I go on?
And if you are talking about production airfields..just around London...Radlett,Dunsfold,Langley,Hatfield,Leavesden,Woodley ,White Waltham(open..but Fairey has gone)Hayes,Brooklands,Weybridge...Stag Lane!!

Shaggy Sheep Driver
8th Apr 2005, 17:32
From what I understand, BOAC's hot/high airfield takeoff requirements (e.g. Nairobi) dictated that overly powerful engines had to be used which had an adverse effect on fuel consumption and therefore higher seats per mile costs than the competition.

For the same reason, it had a large wing area and very effective flaps. The big wing was draggy at speed, and the effective high lift devices added weight.

But it is a lovely looking aeroplane! Never got to fly in one, unfortunately.


8th Apr 2005, 19:07
The main problem with most of the British airliners cited, is that they were designed to meet as specific BEA or BOAC requirement.

Boeing readily admitted a decade or two ago that the above quote, in contrast to the Americans seeking a variety of customers prior to launch, was a major factor in the relative loss of market by DeHavilland, Vickers, etc.

I only rode a VC-10 once, in 1977 LHR-THR, and thought it was superb from the pax viewpoint. (It could have used a passenger entertainment system, though...)

8th Apr 2005, 19:21
This old b*gg*r admits to having flown in VC-10s, in the jump seat. Wonderful aircraft in terms of comfort. Also flew many hours in them at FL0.1 (flight sims!) and they were a dream.

Yes, "horribly" over-powered, which made them a disaster when the oil prices went thru the roof, but "bulletproof" as it could climb out on full pax and tanks with only 2 donkeys (out of four!)

That is WHY the RAF and other, lesser air-forces use them as transports and tankers - probably very hard to "take out" :)

Onan the Clumsy
8th Apr 2005, 21:16
Would it be uncharitable to mention the R101?

master slug
9th Apr 2005, 00:00
What about the Avro 748 Budgie

So says the slug.....

As for the Svc10s Real planes.............

9th Apr 2005, 00:46
As an ex corporate pilot, I'm surprised no one has mentioned the DH125. In one or another of its guises it's still being produced, nearly 50 years after it's introduction - albeit by Beech.

The rudder bias system was invented, or at least perfected, at RAE Farnborough I believe. Every pilot who has flown an aircraft equipped with said system should get down on his knees and kiss the behind of the inventor. :D

Ignition Override
9th Apr 2005, 04:38
Total failure? Aviation history proves otherwise.

They have been operated for years by airlines all over the world (and as stated, some copied by Soviets). I flew a US-built plane for thousands of hours which was roughly based on the BAC-111 (very similar shape and size), and if the BAC-111 is just as straight-forward, and as reliable as the other types built there, then I would fly an English-built plane any day or year (also just today saw a comparison of the Spitfire and Me-109). Are the BAC's pneumatic, electric and hydraulic systems fairly simple? Always admired those heavy turboprops too. Even the Dart's whistle noise can't be nearly as bad as in an Allison-powered C-130, which has no sound-proofing (sign language used as back-up to raise/lower landing gear). Rode in the F-27 and the engine noise was not bad at all, nor in Dart-powered Convair 640 (with "SMB Stage Line").

A few large US airlines operated the BAC-111 and various companies flew the Hawker "Budgie" turboprop. When (US) Braniff had 111s, the airline grew too fast, along with other factors (check the book "Splash of Colors" [John Nance], maybe do research, find out why the first edition was never released...). Apparently the Dart engine is very reliable and economical, and to have appeared in so many variations, from the smaller two-engine to the heavier four-engine Britannias, CL-44s etc, which were/are based in various cities around the world. Although the Shorts 330/360 are not English, I flew both and liked them-nice instruments, fairly quiet, spacious in c0ckp1t and cabin (tall people can walk around without stooping!), and they were forgiving in gusty crosswinds too.

And the many types of Rolls Royce engines just might be the best, along with Pratt & Whitney JT8-Ds :D .

9th Apr 2005, 07:54
Nice post Ig Over. At the risk of thread creep. Someone mentioned earlier the steepness of climb out of the Comet 2.

I have been told by two people who were around in those days, (I'm only 40) that the Comet's deck angle was impressive and I have always wondered what it was. Rotate and accelerate? It was also mentioned that the hydraulic fluid, vegetable based I think, was a real fire worry!

And Ig, I have also flown the box the Shorts came in. Got to love low tech solutions like the FO emptying both FEs down a tube into the cargo lockers.

Dirty Mach
9th Apr 2005, 18:01
shorts did pretty well with the 360 and 330 too!

9th Apr 2005, 18:44
I've been a pax on RAF VC10s several times, both in the cabin and on the flight deck. I have also refuelled from VC10Ks many, many times when I was an FJ pilot in the RAF. I can attest to what has been said about it. Furthermore, it is quite simply the most beautiful airliner/military transport/tanker ever built. It is the only aircraft which truly merits the handle " Queen of the Skies". Some failure.

9th Apr 2005, 20:40
And if you are talking about production airfields..just around London... Radlett,Dunsfold,Langley,Hatfield,Leavesden,Woodley,White Waltham(open..but Fairey has gone)Hayes,Brooklands,Weybridge...Stag Lane!!

Not forgetting Handley Page at Cricklewood and Percivals at Luton

10th Apr 2005, 03:38
Dunno about English aeroplanes...never flew one.

Ah, but the RR engines, specifically the Dart and RB.211...what a joy.:ok:
Simply the best, IMO.

Ignition Override
10th Apr 2005, 04:33
Wingswinger-The VC-10 looks graceful and powerful, but in my opinion, although not a tanker/transport, the Avro Vulcan has such an aerodynamic (despite thick wings?), impressive shape for a heavy bomber or whatever the mission.

As for small civilian jets, although foreign, the original Dassault Falcon (or a Lear) makes me want to climb right up and fly it, but it would cost too much. And a cherry red Let-39 Czech-built tandem seat trainer jet.... :ugh:

10th Apr 2005, 13:51
Now were talking about small civilian jets.... what about the HS/BAe-125?

Most successful Biz jet in history.... FACT

10th Apr 2005, 14:29
You mean the aaahh - de Havilland 125, surely?

Wingswinger, glad you liked the aesthetic appeal of the dear old Vickers FunBus as well as appreciating our One-oh-Wonderful AAR service!

10th Apr 2005, 15:40
I wonder just what thought process the originator of this thread was going through when he/she began it?
I'm an American and we rule the world!
I'm an American and I am pi**ed of with Airbus being better than Boyyng.
I'm a Brit but ashamed of it.
I'm just posting this to wind up other Brits.
Just what is the point of it all I wonder?

10th Apr 2005, 17:07
What about the TSR2?!
OK it didnt quite get into production, but again this was due to government interference. Some say if it was continued, it would still be a tough act to beat by many jets to this day.

10th Apr 2005, 20:40
Having done my Nav course on the VC10, I can only say that it was a cow to navigate. Bullet on the tail meant that you couldn't shoot anything lower than about 10 degrees above the horizon. The sextant hole was positioned over the central pedestal, so anything in the rear 180 degree sector meant a limbo dance and hang on for grim death for 2 minutes. The Nav station on the Super was about six inches wide, which meant folding or cutting the plotting chart to fit. Anything more than 50 miles of track and you fell of the edge of the known world!
Having said that, it was a wonderful A/c to be a passenger in. During the early seventies, when the 747 was having all sorts of troubles, the VC10 made BOAC bucketfulls of money on the N. Atlantic.
I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a much bigger version either building or at the design stage, holding something like 260 pax? I believe it was going to be called the Superb.
One thing is for certain, Sir Charles Guthry, head of BOAC at the time, killed the VC10. He insisted on buying 707's and the rest of the world said, If the VC10 is not good enough for BOAC, it's not good enough for us.

Footless Halls
10th Apr 2005, 20:58
What did the originator of the thread mean by 'failure'?

Very few post-War aircraft were so badly designed or built as to be dangerous, but does that mean that none of them were a 'failure'? Surely what is meant is 'commercial failure'. And, for better or worse, aesthetics is pretty irrelevent.

I always thought a DH121 Trident, even when elderly, looked an awful lot better than a Boeing 727. But if I was dependant on the manufacturer earning enough money from selling the things to pay my pension, I'd plump for the B727 every time.

Looked at this way, it's remarkable that British aviation managed to be so technically, and aesthetically, competent, yet such a commercial failure. It is in this sense that aircraft like the VC10 and the Vanguard were unambiguously commercial failures.

Golf Charlie Charlie
11th Apr 2005, 00:19
One thing is for certain, Sir Charles Guthry......

Sir Giles Guthrie, to be precise......

I wonder just what thought process the originator of this thread was going through when he/she began it?

Rubik and anyone else. Don't worry about this guy - he turns up on other aviation forums at times under the name "Contrail". All he does is make belittling remarks about the UK, the royal family and other aspects of the nation. He never comes back with any sort of reasoned response to comment and criticism. You're all wasting your time with these otherwise fine responses. I have a feeling he's Canadian actually, not American and certainly not British.

Loose rivets
11th Apr 2005, 05:25
What about the TSR2?!

I can not imagine what use it would have been without modern electronics to make it hug the contours, but it was so beautiful that I had to be surgically removed from it and carried off the airfield. :ooh:

twenty eight
11th Apr 2005, 11:18
How many different web forums have you posted this thread unmanned transport or should I call you Contrail
link (http://airdisaster.com/forums/showthread.php?t=72392)

11th Apr 2005, 12:27
Slightly off topic, but I have an old Air Pictorial mag in the loft that says the VC-10 was originally conceived as first a bomber (84 * 1000lb bombs in wing pods & fuselage bomb bay), then for maritime patrol then a tanker before one last shot as a pax aircraft. Then again the mighty Vulcan was going to be marketed as a Pax aircraft (the Avro Altlantic) carrying 60 pax oh & wasn't the Trident was also put forward in competition with Nimrod for an MPA?

11th Apr 2005, 13:05
...and I used to work in the design building that's now left standing at Hatfield.

It really was a crying shame when hatfield closed down. I never really understood why production was, first shared, then moved totally to Woodford, economics I suppose.

British aircraft were not disasters, they were the victims of circumstance. Just when you thought you'd got it right, something would come along and bite you in the a$$.

11th Apr 2005, 15:07
Only just caught up with this thread but my best memory of the VC-10 was at Embakasi (Nairobi). I was waiting for a UK visitor on the "waving-base" in the early 70's when an Ethiopian Boeing 720 waddled out for take-off. Bearing in mind that it was mid-day at 5500 feet on the Equator the density altitude was probably around 9000 feet. Off went the 720 emitting filthy black smoke and used just about all of the 3000 metres of runway.(Built courtesy of the Mau Mau but that's another story!). It had just about got enough flying speed to miss Ol Donyo Sapuk about 15 miles away when an East African VC-10 taxiied out and blasted off from the intersection, using way less than half the available. This was exactly what it was designed for so the Vickers engineers got that right but BOAC let them down by not backing it.
Great to fly in too.

11th Apr 2005, 15:34
Cor, memories of the same location Ozplane! Don't recall any hairy take offs, but I do remember the viewing gallery there. Ngong Hills off one end and the Buffalo's Head off the other, and High Density...

Flight out to Nairobi in '69 in a BOAC Standard VC-10, back to UK in '71 in an EAA Super (I think). Lovely aeroplanes...

11th Apr 2005, 15:38
Treadigraph, you may be interested in a thread on "African Aviation" on pprune called Ugandan Thunderbolts which leads to a series of pictures taken at Nairobi in the 60's. Fascinating

11th Apr 2005, 16:24
Brilliant! Thanks for the lead... I guess those might be the Ngongs in the background of the Vulcan and Hunter pic (and one or two of the others, but they seem much more levels than I recall, not at all the "giant's knuckles" of legend. The finals shot including Ol Donyo Sapuk in the background takes me right back across thirty years!



11th Apr 2005, 20:21
Ah, East Africa and VC10's.............flew regularly on BOAC, BUA (all 3 of them), and EAA Supers, to & from Entebbe, visiting the flight deck on every occasion. Which means that 2 weeks ago at Brooklands I entered the cockpit of G-ASIX for the first time in 40 years. I must say that despite now looking like a Bessarabian brothel the aircraft has weathered the years far better than I have.

12th Apr 2005, 10:25
Off went the 720 emitting filthy black smoke and used just about all of the 3000 metres of runway. East African VC-10 taxiied out and blasted off from the intersection, using way less than half the available
Perhaps the 720B was loaded and the VC-10 empty ?

Also, Addis is a pretty high airport so why did Ethiopia buy 720Bs and not VC-10s ? Perhaps costs (purchase and running) had something to do with it ?

I agree the VC-10 was a beautiful and well engineered aeroplane, but no matter how you cut it, it was a commercial disaster.

12th Apr 2005, 14:19
Argonautical, I guess the reasons why Ethiopian bought 720s were that 707s wouldn't have got out of Addis and allegedly the Boeing "baksheesh" budget was bigger than BAC's. However I think we all agree that BOAC's lack of backing for the VC-10 was what stopped it's commercial success. Ironically it was probably the connection with BOAC that led to East African buying it. I can still remember the sound of them taking off around 2300 on a still African night and I lived about 10 miles away!

Shaggy Sheep Driver
12th Apr 2005, 17:01
A couple of years ago an RAF VC10 took off from Manch, on 06. He turned right 180 degress after take off, and commenced a climb downwind eventually passing quite close to chez SSD, the four Conways ripping the summer afternoon air to the tune of what seemd like several hundred decibels.

I'd forgotten just how noisy 1960s airliners used to be. :eek:


12th Apr 2005, 23:02
Noisy? The VC-10? Shaggy me old mucker, you should have been inside it...! :ok:

13th Apr 2005, 08:41

Noisy? The VC-10? Shaggy me old mucker, you should have been inside it...!

end quote

Never flew in one but I am surprised that it was noisy inside. What was the point in having the engines at the back then ?

13th Apr 2005, 09:04
Sorry, I meant it was quiet inside... perhaps I should rephrase to "had you been inside..."

Jump Complete
14th Apr 2005, 17:41
A few years ago I stood at the side of Bournemouths runway (near the Channel Express buildings) and watched a hush-kitted European 1-11 take off. Even with the hush-kits on it was painfully noisey!

14th Apr 2005, 18:31
In response to a previous post, there was (I believe) a successor to the VC-10 called the V1000 in design at Weybridge. I seem to remember pictures of fuselage frames in jigs but it was cancelled and destroyed like so many others...

Dan Winterland
15th Apr 2005, 12:00
The VC10 was a good aircraft so perhaps commercial failure rather than total failure is more apt. It suffered by being a later in service than it's main competitor, the B707. it was designed to cope with the 6000' runways round the world which the 707 couldn't use, but the US governemnt paid for many runways to be extended so that 707s would be sold.

Also, BOAC didn't want the VC10 in preference to the 707 - higher operating costs were quoted. Boeing's PR people picked up on it and publicised the fact to great effect The truth was that when BOAC were forced to operate an fleet of about 18 of each, the VC10 was much quicker so the cost of a pond crossing was the same. And the passenger enjoyed the VC10s speed, its quiter cabin, it's bigger seats and the fact it didn't dutch roll its way across the Atlantic - as did the 707!

Also, the pound was strong at the time.

The 10 was (is still!) a great aircraft. Just a victim of circumstance.

15th Apr 2005, 17:05
PT6ER, I think the V1000 pre-dated the VC-10 as it was designated the VC-7. It was a sort of grown-up Comet still with buried engines which might not have been a good idea.

15th Apr 2005, 18:49
Thanks ozplane,

I've had one of those senior moments when I know I have a picture or two in a pile of junk somewhere if I could only......zzzzzz :D

I suppose getting older beats the alternative though!


15th Apr 2005, 21:32

There are some photos of the V1000 here (http://groups.msn.com/WisleyAirfield/v1000.msnw?albumlist=2)

15th Apr 2005, 21:36

Getting older is definitely better than being young these days I'll aver.

And if anyone else suggests that the VC-10 was crap, I'll 'av to ask you to step ahtside!

16th Apr 2005, 12:53
I was privileged to have flown on all four BUA then BCAL VC10's and for some of the flights actually get paid for it. The fleet was: G-ARTA, G-ASIW, GASIX, and GATDJ.

GARTA unfortunately had to be scrapped after a landing incident at Gatwick and whilst at one stage I had serious bits of 'hardware' in my Garage, time and various moves mean all I have left is a wooden plaque with a VC10 silhouette made from a piece of GARTA (The apprentices made a lot of these).
Then there were three. Eventually they were all sold off, DJ to RAE, SIW (?) to Air Malawi and the other to the Sultan.

Loved by Passengers, Pilots, Cabin Crew, Engineers and Ground Staff, hated by Accountants. Beautifully built to highest standards. If you needed to be flying over the Andes where CAT could ruin your day, or take-off from Airfields hot and high this was the Aeroplane for you. Unfortunately most Airlines didn't need to do these things on a regular basis.

BUA and BCAL pioneered some unusual concepts on the VC10
Radio Teletype for transmitting Passenger Messages (Technical Success, but attracted no real interest). A Bar with Bar Stools (I don't think this got out of ground demonstration).
All the Aircraft were convertible relatively quickly, from Passenger to Freight and back so Africargo would arrive and by evening would be on the South American.

My most exciting flight rotation was a jump seat trip to/from
Fürstenfeldbruck at the end of the Munich Olympics. NO Noise abatement and if memory serves (probably not) immediate clearance to FL42. Brilliant

My worst was going out for a beer one evening and ending up night stopping Palma, diverting inbound to Manchester and having to hitch a lift on a BCAL 707 back to LGW arriving just as the shift I was supposed to be working ended! Whilst the high altitude view of England in Dense fog, almost made up for the concern my career in aviation was about to end (for some reason I wasn't sacked).

I once held a small conference in the under floor avionics bay (3 people) and of course there are several stories concerning the cockpit crew toilet (I don't believe three let alone four could squeeze into that space), but it appears one of these stories was the basis of a Dr Who Episode where the crew are all in their seats one minute and have disappeared the next.

In Air Malawi Service the Crew Loo was used out of LGW purely for Flight Deck Crew Baggage (the Aircraft also had upper deck baggage areas as the hold were always voluming out with cargo and bags).

In fact my last experience of VC10 Operations was awaiting the arrival of the Air Malawi VC10 on a remote stand a LGW with emergency services standing by as the Aircraft had suffered damage on take-off from Blantyre-Chileka Airport and the crew decided to press-on to LGW, but by the time the Aircraft was 30 Minutes from Gatwick the situation appeared to have become very serious. On the flyby the Ram Air Generator was deployed and I was mentally running through my actions and responsibilities it the worst happened. Then I thought it's VC10 it will be OK and of course it was.

Regrets - Never flew on a super, never flew to the states on a VC10 (If I remember the up market charter firm cancelled the BCAL contract rather than have a 707 operate it :-)

The VC10 was as many in this thread to a specification which immediately limited it's worldwide commercial appeal so it must be judged a commerical might have been, but if deemed a failure then what a glorious failure.

Sorry if I have bored you all.

18th Apr 2005, 16:59
And I suppose the Americans invented:
Good beer
Culture !

Gimme a break

18th Apr 2005, 19:30
When I came to the States to live in 1987 I was full of the typical British "we invented this, that and the other" kind of attitude and I remain intensely proud of what has been achieved by the British but what truely matters in the end is what you do with it once you have invented it. (I worked on the VC10, BAC1-11, Tornado, Viscount (all as mature programs of course) and there truely is no better looking airliner than the VC10 IMHO! ).

That is where the British entrepreneur (sp?) / scientists / development engineers have been let down, either by the government of the time or a general lack of drive, which would appear to me now, to be linked to the typical attitude bred into most of us working class lads that perhaps we shouldnt strive above our station in life. I still feel that if you strive to succed in the UK you generally get looked down upon wheras in the States you are encourage.

Take a look for a book called - Project Cancelled: Disaster of Britain's Abandoned Aircraft Projects by Derek Wood that should be enough to induce tears.....

Before I ignite a firestorm, I appreciate these are sweeping generalities. I moved to the USA because as an engineer in the UK my future didnt look too good after good old Maggie!

I do allow myself to regress occasionally since you cant beat a pint of Theakstons Old Peculiar nor a decent slab of real Cheddar :ok: Both at extreme cost!

Light blue touchpaper and quickly retire to a safe distance.........

Windy Militant
21st Apr 2005, 11:04
How come no one's mentioned the

Handley Page HP 42

they had an unmistakable aura of grace and safety. The latter characteristic was supreme, for when the H.P.42s were finally withdrawn from service on 1st September 1939 they had recorded almost a decade of service without causing a single fatal accident. from the Imperial Airways web site http://www.imperial-airways.com/ :ok:

Shaggy Sheep Driver
21st Apr 2005, 19:12
A few years ago I stood at the side of Bournemouths runway (near the Channel Express buildings) and watched a hush-kitted European 1-11 take off. Even with the hush-kits on it was painfully noisey!

Ah yes! the hushed 1-11!

I remember standing in the garden of the Airport Hotel (by the 24 hold) at Manchester years ago. Several aeroplanes came and went, landings and take offs both adjacent, there being only one runway 24 back then.

Then a hush-kitted 1-11 taxied out and lined up, the twin dustbins on the back of each Spey promising no crackling roar as we'd come to expect from the non-fitted 1-11s.

The power came on and it was quite loud as he started to roll. Then t/o power was applied and all hell broke loose. Trees bent double, the ground shook, tables blown across the garden, beer blasted out of our glasses. :eek:

OK, I exaggerate somewhat ;) , but as it dispperaed over the hump, still blasting seven bells out of our eardrums, my mate shouted "bloody good job it was a hushed one!"

It lifted off and reappered in the distance as it climbed away to the west, the crackling roar rising and falling and still audible for several minutes after it had gone from sight.

We could not detect that it was one jot quieter than the unfitted Pocket Rocket. Seemed even louder, in fact.


21st Apr 2005, 20:38
A query that might well belong elsewhere, but does anyone know what causes the crackling sound on say, a Ba11?

If you want loud, I thought some of the earlier Caravelles were quite impressive.

21st Apr 2005, 22:44
It was loud wasn't it? And the Avon/Spey crackle; "when shall we we three (in the case of the Trident) meet again?"

Always liked the... well, bubbly whistling noise the PW 707s made. Can't describe it better than that and also can't now recall how the Conways sounded on a 707 - and it's been a while since I saw (heard) a VC-10.

Still not as good as a Merlin though...

Shaggy Sheep Driver
22nd Apr 2005, 08:58
For sheer 'presence' IMHO you can't (or couldn't :( ) beat the Vulcan. That really did shake the ground - I can still recall my chest cavity reverberating and my eyeballs bouncing to the thunderous cacophony of the 4 Olympusses (Olympi?) as one of these pitched up into a full power climb just above the crowd at the Barton airshow many years ago.

I met the crew that night at the post-show party in the Barton clubhouse. The Vulc was at Manchester for the night, and was due to fly back to its base at 10:00 next day, so me and no 1 duaghter (then about 7 years old) went down to the old brickworks (now under the new runway) at Manch to watch. She taxied out to 24, hidden from us by the famous Manchester hump, but her engines clearly audible. Also, she only had a 360 channel VHF radio so was taxying on the Approach frequency (119.4 back then).

She was given t/o clearance, and a sudden column of back smoke rose from beyond the hump before the mighty roar of her engines at t/o power reached us, down by the 06 end.

With that lovely Vulcan howl, she appeared over the brow of the hump, going very fast indeed, and immediatly pitched up into a very steep climb. By now the intake howl had been replaced by that earth-shaking roar as she climbed seemingly verticallty until she appeared to hover above our heads on four columns of black exhaust, still pointing upwards, then she rotated in a graceful wing-over to recover to level flight and then climb away towards the hills to the east - back home to base, as the world around us resumed normality.

To this day no. 1 daughter has a photo on her bedroom wall of a Vulcan displaying it's massive underside as it pitches into that vertical climb.

Now that's an aeroplane I like to see flying again!


22nd Apr 2005, 09:55
Reference previously mentioned Ethiopian 720B's, there's a description in this nostalgic site (http://www.minormonthly.com/magazine/issue057.phtml?ID=) of how they dealt with the Addis altitude by landing their Convairs in the desert to refuel.

22nd Apr 2005, 11:32
Ahhhh, the Vulcan howl.... (Starfighters did that too, weren't they known as Hooters?)

My sister is nuts about the Vulcan after seeing it flying at Lee-on-Solent in the 1980s... She keeps asking me when it will fly again, and is always keen to impart her knowledge that its air intakes are bifurcated, something her children think is rather rude...

Gosh, this thread has drifted a long way down-wind but then, hey, it's nostalgia!

23rd Apr 2005, 08:00
I was lucky enough to run the engines of Vulcan XM655 up to 80% and then to take it taxying at Wellesbourne Mountford last Saturday. The next run will be on 19 Jun - hopefully a full power run along the RW.

But the best news is that XM558's restoration to flying condition at Bruntinghthorpe aerodrome is going ahead and it should be flying this time next year with luck!

The 'rutting dinosaur' intake howl was a characteristic of the Vulcan at high power and low speed which many remember with affection - as I do the Starfighter afterburner shriek - that sort of "Ah - hwoooooooh - argh" sound often heard in Germany in the mid-'70s.

Then there was the wonderful Hunter 'blue note', of course!

Eric Mc
23rd Apr 2005, 09:03
Note to myself - must visit pprune more frequently. What an interesting topic.

I have always had the opinion that the British aircraft manufacturers were there own worst enemies when it came to commercial promotion of their own designs.

Since the inception of aircraft building in the UK, manufacturers had, by and large, built aircraft to government contracts, whether military or civilian. Look at all the airliners built in Britain in the 1920s and 1930s. Virtually all of them were made to suit Imperial Airways requirements with no thought given to sales to other "foreign" airlines (with the noteable exception of De Havilland). That trend continued into the 1940s and 1950s. Was not the Brabazon Committee just another example of this methodology? Now and then, one of the designs would find a niche for itself in the world market but, most of the time, the designs either flew in prototype form only or were tailored so close to the state airline's requirements that they were unsellable elsewhere - even to other British airlines. Often the state airlines' requirements had changed by the time the plane was ready to enter service so ended up being ordered in miniscule numbers.

The manufacturers found it very hard to break away from this commercial "model" and when, in the 1960s, the need to compete on a world-wide commercial basis became apparent, they found themselves lacking. It took quite a few years for a more marketing based commercial approach to sink in and by then the number of manufacturers had severly reduced.

Old habits died hard. Even in the 1970s Hawker Siddeley were reluctant to go ahead with the HS146 without government backing. They had to wait until BAe was "nationalised" in 1977 beffore the project was resurrected. I wonder how successful the plane would have been if it had gone ahead in 1973 rather than 1978?

23rd Apr 2005, 09:09

A great airliner, flown by a great airline. However I always feel that the claim that Imperial never lost a passanger on HP-42s was a bit disingenious; as one of the '42s was lost with all hands in 1940 in North Africa - Post Imperial Airways of course, but rather spoiling the '42s record.

23rd Apr 2005, 09:16
as I do the Starfighter afterburner shriek - that sort of "Ah - hwoooooooh - argh" sound often heard in Germany in the mid-'70s. Followed by a sickening thump.

23rd Apr 2005, 13:16
The next run will be on 19 Jun

Bu@@er, have an appointment with a bicycle and Brighton that day, otherwise would try and get up there. Glad to hear that '558 should be flying next year... must give my sister a buzz.

Effortless, that reminds me of John Blake's tasteless joke: How does one acquire an ex Luftwaffe F-104? Easy, one buys a field and one waits...

23rd Apr 2005, 15:15
Effortless, that reminds me of John Blake's tasteless joke: How does one acquire an ex Luftwaffe F-104? Easy, one buys a field and one waits...

And I was worried about taste :\