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Is it possible? A modern VC 10

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Is it possible? A modern VC 10

Old 2nd Dec 2020, 19:53
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I have family in Canada. In the late 1970s/early 1980s, whenever they went back home to Montreal/Toronto, their flight from Manchester was always on a Brutish Airways VC10. Never a 707 or TriStar. Not even a 747. I believe BOAC once operated these flights with the Bristol Britannia, but that's way before my time.

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Old 2nd Dec 2020, 19:57
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Originally Posted by tdracer
I think you'll find there are very good reasons why no clean sheet design in the last three decades has put the engines on the tail.
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Old 2nd Dec 2020, 23:32
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Some random jottings, guys...

A twin-engine, stretched Super VC10 might employ the Trent 500s developed belatedly for the A340-600/500, which may not be too different in size and weight from that asymmetric RB211 installation on G-AXLR? I guess the thick wing-root and reduced wing-bending relief of rear-engine jets is less of a penalty on short-haul, Dave?.

On our (BUA/BCAL) VC10 Type 1103s (Standard, combi, with super wing), which lacked the Super's 4 tonnes of fuel in the fin, the forward CG when the centre tank was full resulted in an inefficient TPI (THS) setting. Iinitially, it was nearly 2 deg nose-up trim, if memory serves. That exacerbated the high fuel flows of the thirsty Conways, mitigated only slightly by the Type 1103's ability to climb to at least FL330 after take-off at max weight.

Re speed, MMO was M0.886 indicated (M0.86 true), and that's how they flew them in the early days when fuel was cheap. After the fuel crisis of 1972/3, we reduced our normal speed from M0.86 indicated to M0.84 or less.

The Air Malawi VC10 had been the first of our 1103s (G-ASIW). It was also the last of them to go (1974). Air Malawi presumably chose it because, unlike the otherwise excellent B707-320 with underslung outboard engines, it could operate into Blantyre-Chileka's narrow (90 ft) runway, which was also fairly short. And its WAT performance out of aerodromes with long runways at high altitude in the region, like Lusaka and Nairobi, was superior to the relatively underpowered "Seven-oh". BHX/BLZ would certainly have been pushing it. What sort of load was it carrying, aeromech3? The Type 1103 had a ceiling of FL430, but I guess in those days on that route FL410 would have been the final available cruise altitude. We never had to top up the hydraulics in flight...

As chevvron says, the VC10 at RAE Bedford would have been another of our Type 1103s: G-ATDJ. (G-ASIX went to the Sultan of Oman, who kindly donated it to Brooklands Museum in the end, where it still resides and is well worth a cockpit visit.)

The One-Eleven-200 was a jet trailblazer on short-haul in 1965, Gipsy Queen. Preceded the DC-9 and B737 into service by several years. Handled like a fighter in roll and - as others have pointed out - had nothing whatsoever to do with BEA! Had BUA (the launch customer) been allowed to operate out of LHR as well as LGW, it would have emptied BEA's ponderous, shuddering Vanguards in 1966 on the Glasgow and Edinburgh routes. Later, however, the Spey engines could not be uprated much for the stretched 500 series, which was underpowered and struggled against the DC-9 and (particularly) the B737 with their JT-8D turbofans in the charter market. We often had to resort to water injection, which made a difference of only one or two pax out of a hot Spanish runway.
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Old 2nd Dec 2020, 23:44
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
The Chinese were new at the game and didn't (yet) know why it's a bad idea - basically just doing a "Chinese Copy" of the DC-9/MD-80/MD-90/MD-95/717, a design that dates back to the 1960s...
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 01:45
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Originally Posted by Una Due Tfc
Difference being the two cars you mention were successful, whereas the VC-10 was a commercial failure.
The Mini was a remarkable piece of engineering, a fashion icon, and the object of massive nostalgia. Unfortunately, whether it was a commercial success is open to debate. And if you have to debate whether or not a product was profitable, it's a fair sign that it probably wasn't. So, quite like the VC-10. And I probably couldn't fit in a Mini now. What width were the seats in economy on a VC-10 typically, anyone know?
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 02:53
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Rumour was that on a good day the factory profit on a mini was 4 BPS. Of course they made more in spares.
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 05:05
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Originally Posted by DaveReidUK
You call that a 'clean sheet' design ?!
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 06:25
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Noting Gipsy Queen's comments,

Shrewd observation regarding "Off the peg" designs, Trident was another that could (and should) have been more of a commercial success, if only BEA and HMG hadn't scaled down the original proposal.

Boeing knew a winner when they saw one and promptly brought out the 727 which was about the size of the original DH proposal.

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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 08:43
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Originally Posted by smallfry
What would it take to dust off the old blue prints, modernise the avionics, engines and systems, get them through certification and build them?
I'll bite.
  1. Dusting off the blueprints. That's the first hurdle as the manufacturing industry doesn't use a lot of drawings these days, non-digital ones that is. But the drawings are not the big problem here, it's the lack of any jigs, moulds, formers, special tools etcetera. Those milled items were produced by copying a 'master' mould for that particular item and those are not available anymore. It would have to be converted to a digital master and for that all the drawings would need to be digitised, all the parts converted to CNC ready digital formats and then you would run into the fact that the old drawings used tolerances based on 1960s production skills and techniques, these would all need to be converted and adjusted to 21st century standards and this would throw up a completely new set of challenges. Does everything still fit?
  2. Modernise the avionics. That means a completely new design for everything electronic within the airframe. None of the old boxes are compatible with modern day avionics (which led to a very expensive refit for the RAF just to get things like a single FMS or TCAS into the airframe) so you would need to start from scratch here. Every sensor in the airframe, every bit of radio or navigation kit would have to be different, loads of new sensors would be needed just to have a 'normal' warning system, a databus architecture would need to be used to ensure some forward compatibility, I could go on. The flight deck would need to be completely changed as the Flight Engineer's station and the old Navigator's station are no longer needed. The whole avionics bay would need to be redesigned to allow for modern rack-mounted components. In flight entertainment would need to be added, along with onboard WiFi, all of which, combined, would lead to a much increased draw on the electrical system and the generators. Keep this in mind as we need those electrics for something else as well.
  3. Change the engines. Yes, there have been thoughts in the past about changing the engines on a VC10. Bolting an RB211 to one side was a one-off project that required a special engine beam with loads of steel (partially because it needed to mimic the Tristar's installation). Redesigning the stub wing and engine mounting beam for modern engines is a significant project. If you go for four new engines, it leads to all sorts of problems in how to deal with the inboard engines' fan ducting and their interference with the mounting for the outboard engines. If you go for two engines (that would be the logical thing, right?) you could have a simpler engine beam design but you would have halved your sources of secondary power. All the VC10's systems and their redundancies were designed for four sources of power (independent of each other). If you change that to two engines, the whole thought behind having four bus bars for electrical power is useless as a single engine failure will still halve your available bus bars. Bending the fuselage wouldn't be such an issue as long as you have similar powerplant installations on both sides of that fuselage. By the way, the VC10's benign stalling characteristics (it had a nose-down pitch tendency in all but a few cases) were partially caused by the engine installation, as the four engines on the stub wing acted as a low-set tailplane in high AoA situations. Changing that to a twin-engined installation may lead to very different stalling behaviour, with all the associated risks.
  4. Modernise the systems. One thing you should think about in this respect is what to do with the PFCUs? The VC10 flight controls need electrical power to run, each PFCU being a miniature self-contained hydraulic system (with an electrically driven pump) that moved the associated surface. These PFCUs are not ideal as they run constantly, needing power and incurring wear. So what to do about them? Change them to a 'modern' electro hydraulic actuator? Can be done (see A380 and its flight controls for an example), but this choice is very much related to the safety issue. The VC10 flight controls have several layers of redundancy based on these individual PFCUs, the distribution of electrical power across different bus bars and the four independent generators on the four engines. If you modify the aircraft to use two engines, you significantly lower the level of safety within this architecture, something that you will need to correct for in another way. You also need to think about the increased need for electrical power within the rest of the aircraft (the new avionics, IFE, WiFi, etcetera) as this will be drawing on those same generators and you will then need to think about priorities in case of problems. Is it still a smart thing to have electrically powered flight controls in this situation? Perhaps changing them to hydraulically powered would be safer as that would separate them from the power needs in the cabin and avionics bay (the 787 also uses hydraulics for its flight controls). Anyway, that would drive the need for new hydraulic systems, perhaps a minimum of three? Where to put the extra piping, accumulators, reservoirs, etcetera? Also, we need to think about systems cooling with all those new avionics on board.
  5. Not mentioned in your list, but what about the structure? The 'milled from solid' statement is always used to show how very sturdy the VC10 is, but what about its drawbacks? There are a number of locations around the airframe that show an increased risk of intergranular corrosion because of those milled planks being used. The joints between the planks on the lower wing surface are one, the window surrounds another (just look at the number of reinforced window surrounds on RAF VC10s). Also, the VC10 was designed with a fail-safe structure, which is one of the reasons that it was relatively heavy (along with the choice of rear-mounted engines, but the trick here is to be careful what you compare it to, as the 707 was also, at least partially, a fail-safe structure). To keep the economics somewhat reasonable in relation to modern designs, you would need to change this to a safe-life structure which means a complete redesign of the whole structure, taking out all the extra metal, doubled frames and such, so slimming down the structure weight. Just design it for a set number of cycles (75,000 for a 737) so that we can scrap it afterwards, which is what we are doing with modern airframes. That is a complete redesign in its own right along with the needed analysis and testing programme. While we're at it, the VC10s freight doors and bays are not sized for a standard pallet size or LD container AFAIK. Should we deal with that while we're redesigning anyway?
  6. Certifying the new design. The resulting aircraft would need to comply with current CS-25 regulations (and/or FAR-25) or the UK equivalent once Brexit is sorted out. A VC10 needed to comply with 1960s UK regulations for four-engined types. A new VC10-like twin would need to comply with modern regulations and this is a different ballgame. Certifying it as a derivative of the old design would be doubtful based on the points I typed up above (also, keep in mind that the 737-MAX didn't do very well, partially because it is a 1960s design modified to fit 21st century needs), so you would need to go through a clean-sheet certification programme.
The bottom line is that you would be designing a completely new airliner that would happen to look like a VC10. The startup capital to get something like that going is massive and just getting new jigs and moulds, along with the needed production and testing facilities is something that is beyond most companies' reach. So in my view, it is not the easy, quick fix that it may appear to be.

That's just my two cents of course.
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 09:06
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My late-lamented uncle had business for a while with BAC and brought me a stack of marketing and engineering sales literature about the VC-10 and BAC 1-11, which as a 9 yr old I absorbed avidly. Both sets majored on the adoption of QUIET 'by-pass' jet engines, the Conway and Spey respectively! The bumpf really went to town on this aspect. Eee! Nimbys t'day don't know they're born!
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 09:09
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My Favourite aircraft, but I never flew on one, seen the one at Duxford in BOAC livery, beautiful
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 09:45
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A modern VC 10 would have to have a record/CD/wire loop player just to play the Conway clackerty-clack as the engines windmilled when parked.
Wouldn't be a VC 10 without that racket.

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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 10:29
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Many lovely trips on tens and Supers among them LHr-Barbados-LHR LHR-Nicosia Khartoum Addis Seychelles , JFK-Antigua Barbados , SeychellesMauritus. A a lovely comfortable aeroplane -but that doesnt sell, witness the wonderful A 380 ,and re engining it would do nothing for the over heavy wings (no cantilevering balance from poddied engines, no huge tail for lack or moment arm and no Forth Bridge at the rear of the fuselage to hang the engines on.

As for the age demographics well to have been a pax on VC10 you have to be pretty old or flown on one as a small child, to have actually flown a civil one possibly older still.

Noise-unparalleled altho somehow a Caravelle with only two smaller engines sometimes seemed to rival them. The strange moaning noise as it taxied to the threshold and then the howl as it spooled up for full take off power remains a great memory from my childhood spotting days, pretty cool on approach too.

I lied the Trident as well, always seemed to zip along nicely much to the delight of the crews it seemed who more than once on trips I was on took great pleasure in pointing out a Scandi DC9 we were overtaking on the way to Stockholm and a VC10 we passed from Rome to LHR
Also very quiet inside but not outside , the 3 and a half engine version being the noisiest but I think the 1A version the fastest and trickiest.

Quiet planes , A 380 top of the league and biz class on an MD80 left you with the feeling there were no engines at all.

Interesting the relatively derided 1-11 which I didnt like much preferring the quieter and indeed better selling DC 9 - actually did sell pretty well and to airlines in all parts of the globe . But then thats us brits again always preferring the glamour to the practical

So there you go-the past is another country and they do things differently there.

(UK second biggest aersopace industry ? well USA of course but surely Airbus which has no British ownership anymore does it is huge and the French element probably bigger than ours . Whatever I do so hope RR sort out their problems and the Brexit calamity doesnt see the Airbus Industrie Uk elements which are critical gradually get moved to the rest of Europe . We dont do much in manufacturing hi tech engineering line and it would be a tragedy to lose even one of these enterprises . Not World Beaters to use that idiotic jingoistic phrase thats been the bane of so much of Britains recent history but genuinely highly regarded global enterprises of which we have very few that involve actually doing anything in terms of long term investment , employment and preservation of engineering and technology skills.

Hands up who would like to stand by the threshold of one of LHRs runways and see a ten depart again

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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 10:34
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Love how the English think every plane they made was the greatest. Even the utter piles of crap, were the best utter piles of crap. The yanks are happy to admit they made some good stufff and some bad stuff, but not the Brits. And heaven forbid if someone took a British design and made it better......
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 11:07
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Originally Posted by Jhieminga
I'll bite.


That's just my two cents of course.
Looking forward to your ten cents' worth, Jelle!

Great analysis, and an all-too-pertinent comment on the 737MAX...

For the non-cognoscenti who might nevertheless be interested, re the VC10's electrically-powered PFCUs: the ED (engine-driven) gennies are each 48kVA, compared with 30kVA on the B707 (and One-Eleven). A twin-engine version with Trents would need more than the 90kVA per ED generator that became standard on big turbofans with the advent of the wide-bodies. I take your point on IFE power requirements, but do modern, digital avionics make very high demands? Perhaps so, because the A320 family, for example, use two 90kVA gennies - despite its flight controls all being hydraulically powered.

Don't know about the DC-8, but the primary flight controls of the B707 (and, presumably, the E-3 - still in military service) are assisted by so-called balance-panels in the case of the ailerons and elevators, the only powered control being the single. hydraulically-boosted rudder (with manual reversion). In addition to PFCUs for the ailerons and elevators, the VC10 has three rudders, each with a separate PFCU (and series yaw-damper). So the AC power requirement is much higher and absolutely essential on the VC10, which consequently has an emergency ELRAT (electric ram-air turbine).
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 11:17
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Thumbs down

The VC-10 was so successful, it outsold the American competition in huge numbers.........NOT. Same for the Trident. Complete non-starter. Get over the we-were-once-a-great-engineering-nation nostalgia. Sorry to spoil the party. Reality bites.
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 11:28
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Originally Posted by Checklist Charlie
A modern VC 10 would have to have a record/CD/wire loop player just to play the Conway clackerty-clack as the engines windmilled when parked.
Wouldn't be a VC 10 without that racket.

And you try stopping them so you could inspect them on a check..

I last Worked on them in 89 on leaving the RAF, indeed I did a ground run on my last day.. Last I saw fly was also the last to have air under its wheels as it landed at Brunty.... However, that might not be the last time they fly.

VC10 by Tony Taylor, on Flickr
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 13:22
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Originally Posted by pax britanica
Interesting the relatively derided 1-11 which I didnt like much preferring the quieter and indeed better selling DC 9 - actually did sell pretty well and to airlines in all parts of the globe . But then thats us brits again always preferring the glamour to the practical
Hands up who would like to stand by the threshold of one of LHRs runways and see a ten depart again
What was glamourous about the One-Eleven? One of the reasons it sold fairly well worldwide was that it predated the DC-9

Yes, the soundtrack of the VC10 is unique and impressive, and it looks pretty good too!

Originally Posted by NutLoose
And you try stopping them so you could inspect them on a check.
...partly because the front compressor disc of the Conway is a stator? You don't see many like that today...

Great photo, BTW.
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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 13:47
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About 1971 there was a proposal to build some VC-10s for China. They were going to be twin engined with RB211s and built at Hurn. The 2 large hangars at weybridge, (Cathedral and Vatican), were to be moved to Hurn and assembled as one.
IIRC the deal was to be 50 VC-10s and 200 One-Elevens.
Then Nixon went and made friends with China and they bought a load of Boeings.
Ref. your item 5.
I think you will find that most metal airliner structures are what is now known as "Damage Tolerant " structures. The term "Fail Safe" went out of use after the "Fail Safe" Boeing 707 horizontal stab. failed at Lusaka.
The term "Safe Life" went out of use after the Viscount era I think. We used to re-spar them after so many hours or cycles.
The Design life of airliners is a target not a limitation of hours and cycles. They can carry on indefinitly provided the maintenance, inspection and repair is carried out. There comes a time when it is no longer cost effective to do this.
I don't know about the composite 787 and A350 structures though.


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Old 3rd Dec 2020, 16:43
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Dixi, your comments regarding damage tolerance are not entirely accurate. Since the late 1980s it has been recognised that damage tolerance evaluations are, unfortunately, not “good forever”, they do have certain limitations. It may be possible to reevaluate a design to extend its life with a significant amount of additional analysis and testing, supplementary inspections and modifications, and even then the type certificate holder may sooner or later come a point where it is just no longer economical. There has been a lot of regulatory and industry activity to address continuing structural integrity issues, perhaps most prominently the problem of widespread fatigue damage, see regulations such as the FAA aging airplane and WFD rules and the recently amended EASA Part-26, which e.g. stipulate a limit of validity (LOV).
Apologies for the thread drift, but I felt this had to be clarified.
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