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C/n 801/2 - Test Specimen
C/n 803 - G-ARTA
C/n 804 - G-ARVA - 5N-ABD
C/n 805 - G-ARVB
C/n 806 - G-ARVC - ZA144
C/n 807 - G-ARVE
C/n 808 - G-ARVF
C/n 809 - G-ARVG - ZA141
C/n 810 - G-ARVH
C/n 811 - G-ARVI - ZA142
C/n 812 - G-ARVJ - ZD493
C/n 813 - G-ARVK - ZA143
C/n 814 - G-ARVL - ZA140
C/n 815 - G-ARVM
C/n 819 - G-ASIW - 7Q-YKH
C/n 820 - G-ASIX - A4O-AB
C/n 823 - 9G-ABO
C/n 824 - 9G-ABP
C/n 825 - G-ATDJ - XX914
C/n 829 - XR809
C/n 839 - XV109
C/n 853 - G-ASGC
C/n 881 - 5X-UVA
C/n 882 - 5H-MMT - ZA147
C/n 883 - 5Y-ADA - ZA148
C/n 884 - 5X-UVJ - ZA149
C/n 885 - 5H-MOG - ZA150

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C/n 820 - G-ASIX - A4O-AB

A4O-AB pictured at Brooklands in 1998

Picture by J. Hieminga

 


G-ASIX with BUA at Gatwick in 1969

..and later in British Caledonian colors
Photo via www.british-caledonian.com

VC10 construction number 820 first flew from Weybridge on 17 October 1964 as G-ASIX. The plane was built as a Type 1103 for Freddie Laker's British United Airways. The Type 1103 incorporated several 'upgrades' compared to BOAC's 1101s, some of which are: a 4% wing chord extension on the inboard section to improve the cruise drag, a large cargo door in the forward fuselage side, downturned 'Kuchemann' wingtips which helped to cure an instability in the stall. It flew with BUA for several years (during which it was involved in the Andes incident described here) alongside it's sister ships G-ASIW and G-ATDJ until in 1970 BUA merged with Caledonian Airways to become British Caledonian. In their new colors the VC10s flew on, joined by the VC10 prototype which had been converted to airline standard in 1969. As BCal had already ordered 707s the VC10's days were numbered and in 1974 they were sold off with G-ASIX going to the Omani Government for the Sultan's Royal Flight.

This change of ownership initiated it's second career, but not before some redecoration took place inside the aircraft. The Sultan of Oman appreciating some level of comfort on his personal transport, after a registration change to A4O-AB (fitting in nicely with the Sultan's Gulfstream G-II: A4O-AA), the aircraft was moved to Hurn to be suitably converted and decorated. This saw the aircraft emerge as a very luxurious transport indeed, with a lounge incorporating two large swivel chairs, a comfortable couch and walnut tables, two bedrooms, an extremely large galley and a section for staff members seating 32 which may just have been a bit more comfortable than a business class seat is today.


G-ASIX with the short-lived Caledonian/BUA titles which were applied just after the merger
Photo British Caledonian via J. Downey

G-ASIX seen in British Caledonian livery at Las Palmas in 1972
Photo via Aviation Photography of Miami collection

Shortly after conversion for the Sultan, still in BCal colors (1974)
Photo by Paul Robinson

The conversion at Hurn was quite extensive, and after this the aircraft was repainted in a quite attractive white livery with a red and green cheatline. For the next 13 years the aircraft would be a regular visitor to the United Kingdom for visits, maintenance at Dan-Air's facilities at Lasham as well as many other purposes. In 1982 the aircraft went to Basle where the interior got an upgrade which created the two bedrooms with twin beds and some other changes. The story goes that the VC10 would occasionally be sent to the UK when someone in the Sultan's household would get a craving for fresh strawberries, the crew doing a quick round-trip flying an otherwise empty aircraft back with a few trays of strawberries on board. Another popular story involved one member of the Sultan's crew, known as the 'flying spanner' to his colleagues. Although trained as a Ground Engineer, he travelled on board the aircraft and was responsible for sorting out any snags that might occur whilst in flight or on the ground. One of the Sultan's favourite destinations in the VC10 was India where he would go with a retinue of hawks and their handlers. They travelled in the passenger cabin which would usually leave some tell-tale traces on the floor. As it was the engineer's job to keep the aircraft looking pretty, after these regular outings his job may just have been a bit less attractive than on other days. Not knowing the usual wages Sultans pay, we can of course only guess at his salary except to say that it must have been sufficient.


Pictured at Lasham in 1985

A4O-AB landing at Brooklands after her last flight on 6th July 1987
Photo by A. Pruden

After enjoying the use of his VC10 for 13 years the Sultan felt it was time for something different. As it held sentimental value the Sultan decided that the aircraft should be preserved somewhere. The by then newly established Brooklands Museum was interested, and in the end a deal was struck in which the VC10 would return to its birthplace to remain there as a tribute to all the VC10s that were built at the site. One slight problem remained though: although every VC10 built was flown out from Weybridge, flying one back was something on which little experience was available. It is known that the prototype went back to be converted to airline standard, and there is a picture in existence of a BOAC Standard (G-ARVK) on a very low approach to the Weybridge runway but there the available information ended (although Brian Trubshaw remarks in his book 'Test Pilot': "The return of both VC10s and BAC 1-11s into Brooklands became a regular event"). At least everyone agreed that it could be done, and even though the runway hadn't been used for a while all of it was still there, and all was done to facilitate the crew of the Sultan's aircraft.

This involved pulling down some trees and lamp-poles on the road beyond the approach end, flying the crew in a helicopter down the approach so they could hover there to study the view they would have from the aircraft, but also going round Byfleet to explain to the citizens that there would be an aircraft flying low over their neighborhood and that this should not pose any danger, all was under control. Many questions were asked by the insurance company: would there be a fire crew available? Yes, they would be there. Would there be police to control the crowd? Yes again, and for the same reason as the fire crew: they wanted to see this event with their own eyes! And so it happened that on 6th July 1987 the VC10 flew its last ever flight from Heathrow to Brooklands, first performing a fly-by and after this touching down smoothly on the same runway it left 23 years before. It met with a tremendous reception, with Sir George Edwards amongst the invited guests, and to this day the aircraft is still appreciated at this historic site.

To read more about the arrival of A4O-AB, as seen from the flightdeck by Captain Richard King, see here: The first and last VC10 flight of Captain Richard King.

In 1991 a request was received to remove the registration A4O-AB from the airframe. Up until that point the aircraft was still registered in Oman, but the Sultan wanted to be able to use the markings on a new aircraft and so in December 1991 the registration was painted over on the VC10.

From 1998 on the Brooklands Museum Summer Project made it possible to get a lot of restoration work done on the outside of the aircraft. For more info on the project have a look here. Since then the VC10 has also had some worse days, as in 1999 a large crack was discovered in the left main undercarriage which needed repairing. To add a further indignity, the fall of 2000 saw the river Wey burst its banks and this left the VC10 in a large pool of water as can be seen from the photo below. Fortunately the undercarriage was repaired in 2002, for the full story visit this page. In 2004 developments at the museum meant that the Vanguard and VC10 had to be moved inside the museum grounds, this page shows how they crossed the river Wey.

For the curious: What does a Sultan buy after donating a VC10? A Boeing 747SP of course, have a look here for an impression.

Small note: In December 2006 a visitor pointed out that the official prefix for Omani registrations is A4O- and not A40- as I had been using. The difference is in the letter 'O' instead of the number zero. All the registrations listed here should now be correct as set down in ICAO Annex 7.


More Info

The first and last VC10 flight of Captain Richard King

Brooklands Museum Summer Project

The Old Lady needs a Hip Replacement

Transport - Sultan Style

Moving Aircraft at Brooklands


Timeline

Date  
31 May 1961 BUA announces order for four VC10s, contract signed on 3 January 1962 for two aircraft with an option on two more.
29 May 1963 Registered as G-ASIX to British United Airways.
17 October 1964 First flight from Brooklands to Wisley, captained by Lew Roberts.
30 October 1964 Certificate of airworthiness issued to BUA (ARB ref. A7930).
31 October 1964 Delivery to BUA as G-ASIX.
2 November 1964 Ferried from Wisley to London Gatwick.
June 1966 Features in the movie 'Born Free'.
11 August 1966 Carries out the first service in the new Blue-Sandstone livery, from London to South-America.
11 September 1966 Participates in Farnborough Air Show, both in the static and flying displays.
30 November 1970 Ownership changed to Caledonian-British United Airways due to merger.
1 March 1971 First Caledonian/BUA VC10 to be repainted in the 'Golden Lion' scheme. Named 'Loch Maree'.
18 June 1971 Sustained substantial damage in Andes incident.
1 September 1971 Caledonian-British United Airways renamed to British Caledonian Airways, fuselage titles soon changed to reflect this.
2 October 1974 Aircraft sold to Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said of Oman for use in the Royal Flight.
10 October 1974 Re-registered as A4O-AB.
11 October 1974 Rolled out at London Gatwick with new registration.
15 October 1974 Delivered to Bournemouth Hurn.
23 October 1974 Seen at London Stansted during a crew training sortie.
9 November 1974 Noted taxiing at Bournemouth Hurn in basic BCal livery minus titles and with plain dark-blue fin with registration. First VIP interior fitted at BAC Hurn.
1975 Repainted in first Royal flight livery at BAC Filton.
22 September 1975 Visit to London Heathrow in new livery.
1982 Interior changed to second VIP version at Jet Aviation Basle.
5 July 1987 Left Seeb, Oman for the last time, flown to London Heathrow.
6 July 1987 Carried out last ever flight of a civil VC10. Flown from London Heathrow, via a flypast at Farnborough, to Brooklands where the runway was reopened for this occasion. Preserved at Brooklands Museum, having been donated to the museum by the Sultan of Oman.
December 1991 Registration on the aircraft painted over as the Sultan wanted to re-use it on a new Gulfstream.
September 1999 Left undercarriage damaged when an old stress crack caused a fracture of the main trunnion.
14-16 June 2002 A team of volunteers from RAF St. Athan repairs the damaged undercarriage, replacing the main trunnion.
7 June 2004 The VC10 was moved across the river Wey into the main aircraft park of the Museum.

More Images


Copyright Columbia Pictures / An Open Road - Atlas (1966)

Copyright Columbia Pictures / An Open Road - Atlas (1966)

Copyright Columbia Pictures / An Open Road - Atlas (1966)

1. In 1966 the movie 'Born Free' was released in which G-ASIX plays a small part. In this shot a BUA VC10 can be seen, this may be 'IX. A dynamic take off shot of a BUA VC10 followes this scene.
2. Later on during the movie the airframe used can be clearly identified from the registration under the wing.
3. Actress Virginia McKenna can be seen here (with white bag) descending the steps from G-ASIX.


Photo collection J. Hieminga

Photo BUA/Vickers via H. de Ridder

Photo BUA/Vickers via H. de Ridder

1. G-ASIX parked, seen in the second BUA scheme of a blue/sandstone cheatline over white.
2. A dynamic promotion shot of G-ASIX taken in 1967.
3. A photo of G-ASIX taken at Nairobi during her career as an airliner. Obviously cargo was also being loaded on the maindeck through the large cargo door.


Photo collection J. Hieminga

Photo collection J. Hieminga

Photo W. Wedrychowski

1. Undergoing maintenance at Gatwick in 1969.
2. A4O-AB still in British Caledionian colors, seen at Gatwick.
3. At its new base: parked in front of the Royal Flight reception building.


Photo W. Wedrychowski

Photo W. Wedrychowski

Photo P. Frei / www.aerpix.net

1. The VC10 parked next to another Royal Flight aircraft: a Gulfstream G-II registered as A4O-AA.
2. Operating a flight on the Sultan's VC10.
3. Ready for departure at Zurich.


Photo P. Frei / www.aerpix.net

Photo P. Frei / www.aerpix.net

Photo P. Frei / www.aerpix.net

1. A4O-AB on approach to land at Zurich-Kloten Airport on 15 February 1981.
2. Another photo at Zurich, this was the first version of the colourscheme on the Sultan of Oman's VC10.
3. This photo taken in 1985 shows the difference with the green stripe on the tail removed and a slightly larger flag instead .


Photo A. Pruden

Photo A. Pruden

Photo A. Pruden

1. Arrival at Brooklands: the aircraft first performed a flypast with gear and flaps still up.
2. Then turned around and passed once more with gear and flaps down.
3. As can be seen from this shot the fire crew was also present. The aircraft is coming to a stop with flaps fully down and spoilers extended.


Photo J. Hieminga

Photo J. Hieminga
vc10.jpg (23821 bytes)
Photo Brooklands Museum

1&2. Two shots of A4O-AB taken at Brooklands in 1999.
3. In the fall of 2000 large areas of Southern England flooded after extremely heavy rains and the river Wey also burst its banks, leaving A4O-AB in this sorry situation. Unfortunately the museum also suffered extensive damage to the clubhouse and other buildings.


Photo J. Hieminga

Photo J. Hieminga

Photo J. Hieminga

1&2. The back end of a VC10.
3. It is quite difficult to get the complete aircraft in one shot from this angle. The first try consisted of five photos taped together, this one uses three.


Photo J. Hieminga

Photo J. Hieminga

1. The flight deck of A4O-AB. In the center are the two Inertial Navigation Systems that were put in during its time with the Sultan of Oman Royal Flight.
2. The flight engineer's station.
3. The Sultan's lounge, looking aft. As you leave the lounge going aft the two bedrooms are on the left side and the rear entrance door is opposite them.


Photo J. Hieminga

Photo J. Hieminga

Photo J. Hieminga

1. Two bedrooms, the rear one being shown here, are situated on the right-hand side, behind the forward lounge. Both bedrooms have twin beds with safety belts!
2. The interior in the aft cabin, seating 32 in comfort. For years some ex-RAF tables were fitted in this area as it could then be used for functions, these were recently removed to restore the area to how it looked in the Sultan's service.
3. Behind the aft cabin is the rear galley, a rather spacious affair with ample storage space and room to work, the port side is shown here.

Colourschemes

BUA Dark blue and red over white with large Union Jack on fin.
BUA Blue and sandstone scheme, white over grey fuselage with large blue/sandstone cheatline sweeping up over the fin. Text on engine nacelles was later removed to match the 1-11 scheme.
BCal Initially titled as 'Caledonian//BUA', white over grey fuselage with dark blue and gold cheatline, dark blue fin with lion rampant. Known as 'Golden Lion' scheme. Titles later changed to 'British Caledonian'. All aircraft were named after Scottish lochs.
Sultan of Oman Variation on BCal scheme, titling removed and fin painted all over dark-blue. White registration on fin.
Sultan of Oman All over white scheme with red and green cheatline. Green line curving up the fin and Omani flag on fin.
Sultan of Oman Same as earlier scheme but without curving green line and with larger Omani flag on the fin.

 

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