seen at the RAF Museum Cosford in February 2000
It was through BOAC's many changes in their orders that G-ARVM became the last of the BOAC Standards. When production of the VC10 commenced the order book listed 15 Standard VC10s and 30 Super VC10s for BOAC, both numbers that had already changed many times. In December 1961 the contract was once more amended to reduce the numbers to 12 Standards and 20 Supers (treasury intervention over capital expenditure being largely responsible for the three cancelled Standards), and this meant that BOAC would never receive Super VC10s with a cargo door, 8 of which had originally been ordered. But another result of this change was that the already planned c/n's 816, 817 and 818, to be registered as -VN, -VO and -VP, would not be built which automatically made G-ARVM the last Type 1101 Standard VC10.
On July 8, 1964 G-ARVM made its first flight from the Weybridge runway, looking smart in the 'Golden Speedbird' scheme that was then the current paint scheme for BOAC VC10s. Entering service not long after, -VM was soon earning its keep on the different routes that the VC10 serviced in those days. Pilot training on the VC10 was usually carried out in Prestwick. Up there pilots converting to the type could practice take offs, standard approaches, and especially circling approaches. On the airfields in Africa, in those days, an NDB was a luxury, and therefore many approaches could only be flown towards one end of the runway, necessitating a visual circuit below the cloud ceiling after the instrument approach if the wind was blowing in the wrong direction. At some point during its career -VM ended up as the preferred training aircraft, and could often be found at Prestwick to train the new and also the experienced pilots that came over for some practice.
North of Prestwick is the Hansel Village for Handicapped Children. To many, the VC10 is not a quiet aircraft and its crews, mindful that they were no longer flying over uninhabited land, decided to pay a courtesy visit to the children. This they did and, later that evening, they reflected on how impressed they had been by the work going on at the Village. On the bar was a collection box for the home and, there and then, one of the Captains resolved to keep all loose one penny coins for the home which amounted to about £25 each year. Further talk turned to further action and a tie club was set up. G-ARVM, Victor Mike, was the VC10 most closely associated with flight training - it consequently gave its name to the Victor Mike Tie Club. Specially designed ties were sold at £2 per tie and the proceeds went to the Hansel Village. The ties were popular not only among the flying crews, but all of the departments concerned with VC10 operations. The Hansel Village children were most grateful and expressed their thanks over the years by sending photographs to BA of the ex-BA VC10s which were stored at Prestwick prior to their sale to the RAF.
By 1974 BOAC had merged with BEA to become British Airways, and with the merger came several changes, one of which was the introduction of the Boeing 747. BA decided that the Standards were no longer economically viable, a situation that had its origins in the higher seat-mile costs of the Standards when compared to the Super VC10s, but which was only worsened by the 747's introduction. The result of this was that the Standards were withdrawn from service in 1974, five airframes going to the expanding operation of Gulf Air, one to Nigeria Airways and one to each of the governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. This left four aircraft, and of these G-ARVM got the best treatment. During the negotiations with Boeing BOAC had offered the three remaining VC10s as part payment on the purchase of several 747s, and Boeing had accepted this clause, but unfortunately not with the purpose of selling the aircraft on to another operator. Boeing immediately sold the aircraft to a scrap dealer in 1976, who scrapped the aircraft where they stood: on the tarmac in front of BA's maintenance base on the east side of Heathrow Airport. Many an employee was heartbroken at the sight of the three proud airliners being wrecked in front of their eyes. G-ARVM was spared this fate, and actually flew on for several years as a standby aircraft for the Super VC10 fleet. In 1979 the Super VC10s were also nearing the end of their BA career, and because of this G-ARVM was now also due for retirement. In October 1979 she made her last flight to RAF Cosford, where she was preserved in the 'British Airways' collection at the RAF Museum, joining other famous airliners at the site.
For years 'VM was parked next to the only preserved Short Belfast, which was flanked on the other side by the VC10's main rival, an ex-British Airtours Rolls-Royce Conway powered Boeing 707. Unfortunately the interior of G-ARVM was completely bare of furnishings, these will probably have been removed before its flight to Cosford. The flight deck was complete, except for one exception: the control wheel buttons with the Vickers logo on them had been removed at some point. They probably serve as a reminder of those wonderful VC10 days in someone's private collection of memorabilia.
In 2005 the development of 'Divided World:Connected World' got underway at RAF Cosford. The major change includes a new building housing an extensive Cold War exhibition, including all three V-bomber types. Because of this aircraft began to be moved about and, once the new building sported a roof, more aircraft were moved indoors. Unfortunately in 2006 news began to emerge that the aircraft at Cosford known as the 'British Airways Collection' were facing an uncertain future. After leaked press releases, cries of outrage on various forums and lots of discussions the final decision for the VC10 was that it could not remain at Cosford and the intention was to move the forward fuselage to Brooklands. During the summer work got underway on the other aircraft, with the Trident 1 and 707 being reduced to a cockpit and forward fuselage section and the 1-11 and Viscount being dismantled for their move to Edinburgh. With the future of the VC10 still officially undecided, contractor ASI started removing the outer wings and engines from 'VM in September, and shortly after that the classic VC10 tail was also taken down and scrapped. Behind the scenes all parties were still discussing various options and in October this resulted in the move of the complete fuselage to The Brooklands Museum. In the end the fuselage was parted just in front of the wing at one of the original manufacturing joints and the resulting loads were just within the limits for the trip down south!
So why did the complete aircraft not make this move I hear you ask? After many years outside with no structural corrosion prevention program in place the airframe had suffered a lot. Technically corrosion can be dealt with, but this takes a lot of effort and money, which was just not available. Also limitations on the size of the final transport meant that moving the entire airframe was just not possible. Finally the museum obviously is also the home of ex-BUA and Omani Standard VC10 G-ASIX/A4O-AB and having a complete second VC10 next to it taking up space, time and money was hard to sell.
On 29 June 2012, 50 years after the first flight of G-ARTA, a new exhibition was opened in the refurbished fuselage of G-ARVM by Sir George Edwards' daughter Mrs. Angela Newton. The exhibition shows a section of restored airliner cabin, artefacts and a timeline of the VC10's development. Along with the interior refurbishment the fuselage of G-ARVM has been repainted and the wing root and engine stub wing remains have been covered, also many cabin windows have been replaced.
the interior of G-ARVM has been removed at some point. Picture taken
1-2. David Lee visited Cosford in 2003 and
took these photos, very aptly he named them "The classiest piece of tail the
world has ever seen". We can only agree with that of course.
The dismantling of G-ARVM started at the end of August 2006.
1. The engines and wing sections were
dumped next to the airframe.
1. The grass area next to the airframe was
beginning to fill up with aircraft parts by now.
1. This photo taken on 17th September
shows the fuselage from the other side, the cradle standing next to it will
probably be used to support the fuselage at a later stage.
1. The gear itself was lying on the grass,
where many other parts had by now been reduced to rubble. The item next to the
skip is a small inboard wing section with the large airflow fence on it.
1. Early in January 2007 cranes were fired
up again to reposition the front fuselage section.
1. This photos shows that the two fuselage
halves have been riveted back together again. Also the fuselage is now supported
on its own wheeled cradle, similar to one which was used to move assembled
fuselages around the Weybridge site during VC10 production.
1-2. During the 'VC10 at 50' event on 29 June 2012 a new exhibition was opened in the fuselage of G-ARVM. This was done by Sir George Edwards' daughter Mrs. Angela Newton.