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From the cabin

The VC10 was designed to carry passengers and to take them to distant places. This page collects those stories that are somehow related to that experience as a passenger, either from the passenger's viewpoint or from the cabin crew who looked after them.



The Voice-controlled Throttles

This story was told to me by an ex-flight engineer whom I met when he visited the Brooklands Museum. I'm afraid I can't recall his name, and I may not remember all the details of the story correctly so if you recognize this and can offer corrections, please mail me.

"During a long flight, a respected business man and his wife were travelling in first class. At some point during the flight the wife, an upper class lady, visited the flight deck where she found the crew hard at work, monitoring the instruments. Probably prompted by a remark made by the lady about the aircraft's vintage, the flight engineer told the lady that the newest technologies were incorporated in the aircraft: voice-controlled throttles. Now, for the non-initiated, the VC10 has two sets of throttles, one set on the pedestal in between the two pilots, and a second set, which is mechanically connected to the first one, on the corner of the flight engineer's station. It is fairly easy for a flight engineer to keep his set of throttles hidden from view by leaning an elbow on that corner of his station, with his arms crossed he can then operate his throttles without the unsuspecting visitor noticing this. Obviously the flight engineer got an incredulous look both from the lady and the pilots, who figured they would let the flight engineer have some fun and quickly went back to staring at their instruments. The flight engineer went on to explain to the lady that all the pilots had to have their voices recorded for use with the system as it was quite sensitive. Still getting a questioning look, he asked the pilot to demonstrate the system. The pilot, not wanting to interrupt the ploy, only uttered: "number two, throttle back", and to the lady's astonishment the number two throttle on the pedestal moved back an inch. The flight engineer then asked her to try it, and strengthened by the demonstration she cautiously said: "number two, throttle back", but unfortunately nothing happened. The flight engineer explained that she had to get a bit closer to the pedestal, as the system probably didn't pick up her command. A second try didn't get a result either, and now the flight engineer suggested that she lowered her voice a bit to better emulate the pilot's voice as the system was obviously set up to recognize masculine voices. The pilots by now were staring intently outside, not to look for other aircraft but to keep the visitor from seeing their faces as they were doing their best not to laugh out loud at the image of the lady, on her knees behind the pedestal speaking to the throttles in as low a tone as she could. This of course only got worse when she became ecstatic at the first sign of a throttle moving under her command.

It must have been the combined shaking and muffled sounds of laughter that emanated from the crew that finally made her realize that something was wrong on the flight deck. The end result being an angry visitor storming back to the cabin, leaving the flight deck filled with laughter."

It's been years since I typed up this story, and even longer since it was told to me. I recently heard that the flight engineer in question may have been disciplined over this prank. I guess that is one of the inherent risks of pulling stunts like these, you never know who the lady might be married to...

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If it's Super VC10, it must be right

This little snippet was found in a brochure that features a reprint of Aircraft Engineering's special on the Super VC10.

"The passengers were comfortably settled in a Super VC10 at Kennedy Airport preparatory to departure for London when a red-faced steward hurried down the aisle and made the following announcement: 'Will Mr. Hucklebaumer please come forward since he is on the wrong aircraft.'

Quick-as-a-flash representative from British Aircraft Corporation: 'Correction, right aircraft, wrong flight.'"

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The BOAC Junior Jet Club

Jerry Lister sent in these images from one of two flights that he made with his family on BOAC's VC10s in the 1960's. He also became a member of the BOAC Junior Jet Club, as you can see from his logbook.

"I was the child in the family, just 9 years old in Late Dec1966 when we (Mother 'Mary', Father 'Stanley' and Brother 'Nicholas') flew out to India on a standard VC10 G-ARVM, we stopped at Bahrain and Tehran. We have no photos of that one unfortunately.

Coming back we did a stop-off tour (a day or so overnight at Delhi, Athens, Rome).

The VC10 was special. Something about it's curves!  We caught a Super VC10 G-ASGI on July 12th 1968 in Rome."

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Super VC10 G-ASGI at Rome when the Lister family boarded for the last leg of their journey to London

Photos J. Lister

 

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The other pages in the logbook (up to page 12) are similar to page 3 shown here on the left

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The BOAC Junior Jet Club Badge and Logbook, with skilfully coloured illustrations by the owner!

Photos J. Lister

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The VC10 from the cabin

Geoff Hall sent me this account describing his career on the VC10, with accompanying photos.

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Super VC10 G-ASGH, BA190 31.12.78. New Year's Eve, Washington-LHR, (4 pax on board!) sunrise over the Atlantic
Photo G. Hall

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Super VC10 G-ASGF has just arrived from LHR at Blantyre, Malawi (via Cyprus and Tanzania) and the crew (including Std2 Geoff Hall) disembark for a few days on the town!
Photo G. Hall

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Super VC10 on engine test rig at Hatton Cross maintenance base. Taken from top of building, Nov '79
Photo G. Hall

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'Queen of the skies' - Super VC10 G-ASGD on approach to LHR - Jan '78
Photo G. Hall

"I started off my Cabin Crew career on VC10 / B707s - both classics in their own right. As everyone else was going onto the B747 this was the last course on 'Mini's' - we trained in late '76 and went on line in early '77.

I'd already trained as a 'General Apprentice' with BOAC since 1973 and I'd already clocked up quite a few hours on VC10s. My first trip was a training flight on Standard G-ARVJ - we flew up to Bedford for night circuits; I sat in the jump seat and the flight lasted 45 mins. My longest passenger flight was BA 891 26.9.74 Hong Kong - Calcutta - Beirut - Frankfurt - Divert Prestwick - LHR: 18hrs 45mins - and there was no In Flight Entertainment fitted to VC10s!

My first Op was to Abu Dabi via Jeddah on G-ASGP, 31.1.77 and my last was Larnaca - Dar-es-Salaam - Blantyre on G-ASGF, 20.2.81 (the last few weeks of operation). In those 5 years I flew everywhere you could on the VC10 (all Supers apart from 3 trips on a leased Gulf Air Standard and a few training flights).

The SVC10 was used mainly on African routes towards the end (what she was originally intended for!) but we used to do an interesting cross-country route spanning Africa to the Far East and calling at, variously, JNB (Johannesburg) - NBO (Nairobi) - SEZ (Seychelles) - CMB (Colombo, Sri Lanka) - BSW (Brunei) - HKG (Hong Kong) - TPE (Taipei) - HND (Tokyo Haneda). We also flew to E.USA, Canada, Indian, Pakistan, Ceylon (where we regularly got pissed with RAF VC10 crews in the same hotel), Middle East, Bermuda; Prestwick and Manchester to USA Canada.

Although the SVC10 was renown as being the whispering jet, I can assure you that as a lowly steward two, seated right down the back in the galley sandwiched between four Rolls-Royce Conways screaming at full power on take-off, it was anything but! The cockpit was huge and I enjoyed many take-off's and landings (Hong Kong being memorable) up there  - I think I even flew it once!

I'm still with BA as Cabin Service Director on B747, B767, B777's - it's not the same!"

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Cabin Crew

Steve Frampton also has some fond memories of the VC10 as both he and his wife used to work as cabin crew for BOAC in the early seventies. The photo below is a reminder of those days.

UPDATE: There is now a sequel to this story, have a look here: Cabin Crew - Again?

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VC10 on Times Square

Anyone who has been to New York has seen the neon lights on Times Square. If you were there in 1965 like Jim Ferris, you would have seen a BOAC neon advertisement there, as his son Robert tells us.

"My father's name is Jim Ferris and he was going to the US as part of his job working for Kodak. He flew into JFK on a BOAC 707 and then on to Rochester NY where the main Kodak factory is located.  He was formerly in the RAF and always did, and still does, like aircraft. On the return leg of the journey he and his colleagues got to spend a couple of days in New York City. At the time BOAC was making much of the passenger appeal of the VC10 and as he was taking pictures of the Broadway and Times Square area the BOAC advert caught his eye, knowing that he would be flying home on one in the next day or so. He commented that although the VC10 was quiet and smooth he missed the fact that there was no in-flight film like there was on the 707!

We later visited New York as a family in August 1978 and I remember seeing a BA VC10 arrive at JFK. I think BA still ran a daily London - NY schedule with the VC10 in amongst the 747 schedules due to its lasting passenger appeal. The VC10 was obviously a favourite on that particular route."


G-ARVC seen from a 707 at LHR before departure.

Times Square in 1965.

BOAC advertising the Super VC10 in the middle of Times Square.

The tail of G-ASGE before the return journey.

Super VC10 G-ASGE with BOAC Cunard titles in gold.

A view over the wing while in flight over the Atlantic.

All photos J. Ferris

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Taste of the high life

Former photographer Sue Chapman found herself photographing VC10s or being transported to photo shoots by VC10s. Now that the aircraft has been retired she wrote down her memories for Eynsham online and they e-mailed me about it. Follow the link below to read her recollections.

Taste of the high life - Eynsham Online

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A Mig interception during dinner

In November 2013 ex-VC10 steward Ian Middleton passed away after a brief struggle with cancer. He was an active contributor to the Classic British Flight Sim forums and at one point shared this story about a Soviet Mig intercepting a BOAC VC10. I felt that having this story on my site would also help us remember Ian.

"...of course, Lightning/Bear intercepts were happening regularly but this was a civil passenger aircraft on a scheduled flight. It was a bit scary at the time, though.

I didn't keep a record of the flight but it was mid-70s and we were in a VC10 en-route to London somewhere near Sofia about lunchtime. I was silver-serving some greens to a First Class punter on the starboard side. In a terribly British restrained manner he nodded his head out of the window and said, "I suppose the chaps up front know about this?". I bent down to look out of the window and nearly dropped my brussels sprouts because there was an armed, silver Mig with a red star on the tail flying parallel to us about 200 ft from the wingtip. You need to have lived during the Cold War to appreciate the concern as the Russians were our enemies and we had lived for many years with the expectation of a nuclear war breaking out.

The first contact was ATC who said they could do nothing about it, so the flight crew contacted Ops in London who patched them through to the Foreign Office who immediately contacted Moscow. Meanwhile, to our relief, the Mig slipped behind, only to re-appear a couple of minutes later on the Port wingtip. It also slid underneath us at one stage and popped up on the other side. The poor pilots didn't know which way to look next. The most important thing was not to change course!

It stayed with us for around 20 minutes and then disappeared - I assume that the diplomatic hotline call had done the trick. It sounds quite fun now but in the tensions of that time it was easy to imagine it turning ugly."

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Hong Kong to London, via Prestwick

Graham Perry sent me the photo below and the story behind it. In it, he explains how a trip from Hong Kong to London ended up with a Scottish breakfast.

Hong Kong was on the TV news tonight and something made me look in my logbook. Sure enough, it was 50 years ago, 29th September 1964, that I was lucky enough to be a passenger on the inaugural VC10 service from Hong Kong to London, on G-ARVF. I took this picture from the roof terrace of Kai Tak's terminal shortly before boarding.


G-ARVF in early Golden Speedbird colours at Kai Tak airport, Hong Kong, on 29 September 1964.
Photo Graham Perry

Presumably the aircraft had been through Hong Kong the day before and had done a Tokyo rotation - I am not sure. The route back to London was via Rangoon (first ever visit by a VC10, so presumably it had flown via Bangkok on the way out), New Delhi, Karachi, Cairo, and then Zurich before London. However, Zurich was fogbound and we carried on to London, where we attempted 2 approaches in fog before diverting to Prestwick. After a superb Scottish breakfast, courtesy of BOAC and presided over by the captain (Captain N.F. Eagleton), we took off at 1115 BST (just before crew duty time expired) and stacked over Bovingdon until the London fog cleared, landing at 1240. Over breakfast, Captain Eagleton was asked about fuel, given that we had over-flown Zurich, had two goes at Heathrow (London Airport then) and diverted the length of the UK. He replied that if Prestwick had been unavailable, he had enough fuel for Copenhagen...

A year before, in 1963, I had worked on the VC10 production line at Brooklands during the summer, on a university vacation training placement. G-ARVG, 'VH, 'VI and 'VJ were in the final assembly 'Cathedral' shed in the summer of '63, as was the first Super VC10 G-ASGA, into which I helped fit the nose undercarriage leg. But I had seen 'VF there, even though it had flown; it was the first aircraft to return from Wisley (they said it couldn't be done...) to be assessed for the drag-reduction modification of tilting up the engines. So it was an especial pleasure to fly in it back home a year later, looking very smart in its new colour scheme, after a summer spent visiting my parents in Hong Kong.

For more on Graham's experiences on the production line, see here.

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BOAC Takes Good Care of You

Never was BOAC's motto more true than when a lady became ill on board a VC10 sometime during the last days of 1967, or the first days of 1968. Nev Boulton was on board and remembers it well.

50 years ago (on 3rd December 1967) the first heart transplant took place in South Africa under Doctor Christiaan Barnard. About a month later, I was operating the northbound VC10 out of Nairobi when one of our lady passengers keeled-over with a suspected heart attack. The chief steward got onto the passenger address system and asked if there was a doctor on board. We immediately got about 20 heart specialist surgeons who had been to a heart implant conference in South Africa including himself - Christiaan Barnard!

After all the kerfufle was all over, I went back to the toilet and found the lady passenger lying (on a blanket) on the floor in the forward galley drinking a cup of tea with the 'A Lady' fussing over her. Apparently she had been diagnosed with 'Wind'. I enquired how she was feeling and she told me that she felt much better. I responded that I was pleased to hear that - and that she must admit that BOAC really was taking very good care of her by rustling up the world's number one heart surgeon and all his friends to attend her! We had a little laugh and I got on with the job.

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London to Beirut - February 1965

John Downey had to travel to Beirut in February 1965, which meant two flights on BOAC's still relatively new VC10s. He took plenty of photos and on the way back he was fortunate enough to be invited to the flight deck when they overflew the Alps. Here are the photos from those trips.


On the flight out to Beirut, the weather over the Alps was good enough to enjoy the impressive views.
Photo J. Downey

The Standard VC10 (it might be G-ARVK) at Beirut after the flight from London Heathrow.
Photo J. Downey

On the way back John was able to enjoy the view from the flight deck. The aircraft is approaching Mont Blanc.
Photo J. Downey

During a turn, the mountains appear close enough to touch.
Photo J. Downey

Approaching Heathrow, the shadow of the aircraft shows a 'brockenspectre', a circular rainbow.
Photo J. Downey

Rolling out at London Heathrow with flaps fully down and spoilers extended.
Photo J. Downey

G-ARVE on the ground at Heathrow after arriving from Beirut.
Photo J. Downey
 

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