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'Air Vicious'

Old 19th May 2020, 16:00
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'Air Vicious'

No, not the name of a less than passenger friendly airline, or one named in honour of the late bass player with the Sex Pistols, but a term used by a local councillor at the inquest into the deaths of the four crew of Imperial Airways' Vickers Vellox G-ABKY resulting from its crash at Wallington, near Croydon Aerodrome, on 10 August 1936. Councillor H.A.Heath, of Wallington Ratepayers' Association, put the question - to, it appears, the legal representative of Imperial Airways - whether the Vellox was 'air vicious'. It's a term across which I've never come before and an online search against it draws a blank. But evidently it meant something to the Imperial Airways legal representative because, at the inquest, he took great exception to the question and, according to newspaper reports, it caused a scene in the Coroner's Court. In context, it may be Councillor Heath was intimating that the Vellox was not airworthy, that Imperial Airways were aware of this and that this was the proximate cause of its crash. Has anyone else come across the term and/or does anyone know precisely what it means?

Last edited by fauteuil volant; 19th May 2020 at 17:15.
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Old 19th May 2020, 18:31
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I think the simple explanation is that the meaning of the expression existed only on the mind of the councillor who uttered it and who, presumably, is no longer with us.

I've certainly never encountered the expression.
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Old 19th May 2020, 20:01
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Well in Gulf Air we once had a rather unreliable lady, liable to hissy fits and tantrums. She was known to her crews (both cockpit and cabin) as 'TANGO VICIOUS'.

Nevertheless I'm sure you will agree she was a jolly good looker.......


Photo credit Gerhard Plomitzer.
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Old 20th May 2020, 08:42
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK View Post
..... the meaning of the expression existed only on the mind of the councillor who uttered it .....
As I've said already, evidently it also meant something to Imperial Airways' legal representative - which suggests to me that the term was in reasonably common parlance in the thirties.
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Old 20th May 2020, 09:09
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Did you get that from a newspaper archive, fauteuil? I'm just wondering if a hack misheard a term and reported it incorrectly. Wouldn't be the first time and certainly not the last!

It sounds to me as though the Councillor was asking if it was airworthy. Or is there a Latin term apropos of "fit for purpose that might have been misheard?
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Old 20th May 2020, 12:57
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From the Birmingham Daily Gazette, 9 October 1936:

A SCENE occurred at the inquest yesterday on the four victims of the Imperial Airways plane that crashed in flames at Wallington, Surrey, when Councillor H. A. Heath (of the Wallington Ratepayer's Association) asked if the plane was "air vicious."

Mr. A. R. Patterson (representing Imperial Airways), protesting, said that he did not wish to fight on such an occasion, but he objected to the question and allegations that had been made.

There was loud cries of "Hear, hear" in court.
I can't say whether the term was misheard and/or reported incorrectly. I have seen no other newspaper report on the inquest by reference to which I might judge whether this is a possibility.

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Old 20th May 2020, 16:39
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Originally Posted by fauteuil volant View Post
As I've said already, evidently it also meant something to Imperial Airways' legal representative - which suggests to me that the term was in reasonably common parlance in the thirties.
Although you wouldn't need to be a lawyer, or to have heard the expression before, to recognise that the "vicious" part probably wasn't intended as a compliment.
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