The ageing Vickers VC10 fleet now numbers just one following yesterday’s (24 September 2013) delivery of VC10 K3 ZA150/J to Dunsfold Park in Surrey on behalf of Brooklands Museum. Tom Mercer guest reports for GAR.
In 1960, the British government was looking for a new strategic transport aircraft and the RAF issued Specification 239 – this resulted in an order being placed with Vickers in the September of 1961 for five VC10s. This order was later increased to include a further six in 1962, with another three being added in 1964, and since then the VC10 has operated in both the transport and refuelling roles. The type’s operational history has not been entirely related to its original specification, though, having also carried out VIP transport flights and even air quality inspections after nuclear testing had taken place.
ZA150 was the last of the Vickers-made aircraft to be built at Brooklands in the 1960s and Allan Winn, Director of Brooklands Museum, explains why this aircraft is so important to them:
“It is hugely important for us to have saved this aircraft as the last heavy airliner ever to be completely built at Brooklands – and indeed in the UK. But it is also significant as its retirement marks the end of an unbroken century of front-line service by Brooklands-built aircraft with the British armed forces. That is a unique record, unchallenged by any other factory-customer relationship anywhere in the world. We are delighted that Dunsfold Park has made it possible for us to house this symbolic aircraft back in Surrey.”
ZA150 was one of two VC10s to take part in the final operational refuelling sortie off the coast of Scotland last Friday and she certainly went out of service with a bang. Commanded by Sqn Ldr Tim Kemp, with assistance from Flt Lt Kev Booth, Flt Lt Shane Stiger and Flt Lt Bruce Thompson, the aircraft was brought in low over Dunsfold for a missed approach and for the last time ever the coals were poured on as she climbed back into the circuit to land.
Once on the ground, I had the chance to speak to Flt Lt Bruce Thompson to find out how it felt to be on that last flight:
“That was Sqn Ldr Tim Kemp’s final flight in the Royal Air Force so he’s obviously pretty emotional right now. I don’t really know what to say – she’s been a good old girl. She’s been with the RAF much longer than anyone anticipated and has been involved in every conflict since she’s been in service. She’s supported fast jets around the world both in theatre and out of theatre – she’s been incredibly reliable.”
It is not 100% clear yet what the future holds for Brooklands and ZA150 but according to Dunsfold Park, the aircraft will be present at Wings & Wheels 2014 and there is a strong chance that she will be in taxying condition.
For the VC10, all that is now left is today’s (25 September 2013) scheduled delivery of ZA147/F to Bruntingthorpe, after which the end of a great era will have passed.
The author extends thanks to the teams at Dunsfold Park and Brooklands Museum for organising this event and a special thank you goes to Nancy Edwards for making access possible.