Wednesday, November 25, 2009
FLYING THE VC-10
I always liked the lines of the VC10 I wish I could have seen one while in service.
Listed below are two great articles on the flying of and the introduction into service of the Vickers Armstrong VC10.
Both articles are copied from the Flight International May 7, 1964 Magazine archives. Courtesy of the FlightGlobal website which has every issue of Flight Magazine published between 1909-2005, digitally scanned and fully searchable. A valuable resource for old aviation articles and technical stuff.
PART ONE ..VC10
FLYING THE VC10
Flight International May 7, 1964
By Captain R. E. Gillman B.E.A.
ONE'S first impression on entering the flight deck of the VCIO
is that it is spacious, well laid out, and generously provided
with window area. For a modern jet, pressurized to a high
differential, the all-round view for the pilot is excellent, and additional
ports are provided in the roof so that one's intended flight path
during a turn may also be scanned.
On the starboard side is the engineer's station, with a second set
of throttles and a panel with switches, gauges and warning lights
laid out diagrammatically. The navigator sits on the port side,
facing aft, at a table backed by his instrument panel, but both the
engineer's and the navigator's seats can be swiveled to face forward.
The pilot's instrument layout is comparatively simple, being
confined to flight instruments including a Bendix integrated flight
system, twin RMIs, brake pressure gauge, course deviation indicator
and clocks. The only engine instruments on the centre
panel are h-p r.p.m. gauges calibrated in percentages of maximum
r.p.m.; there are also such essential indicators as undercarriage
lights, flap and slat position gauges, tailplane incidence and trim
The broad pedestal between the pilots' seats has, at the front,
trimming levers (tailplane incidence), flap and spoiler controls,
and a set of throttles; behind these come the station boxes, radio
gear, rudder and aileron trim controls, autopilot and h-p cocks.
The particular aircraft I had the pleasure of flying during a
C of A handling test was G-ARVB. Eight VClOs had so far
flown. BAC's method of developing a number of aircraft simultaneously
while inviting the participation of a development team
from the customer has proved most effective. BOAC pilots and
engineers have been working with BAC since three months after
the first flight; a number of suggestions and modifications have
been agreed virtually on the spot, and as the date of each aeroplane's
inception into service approached it was modified up to
the customer's agreed standard. This healthy co-operation between
manufacturer and customer has long been a feature of the Vickers
and BAC scene, the thoroughly commercial aircraft which result
being justification enough.
The Conway by-pass engines are normally started by low-pressure
air supplied by a ground truck via a connection in the main undercarriage
bay, and thence through the aircraft thermal de-icing ducts
to each engine starter which drives the h-p compressor via the
engine wheelcase. Alternatively, starting can be by a combustor
fitted to Nos 3 and 4 engines, h-p air being supplied from *n
external source on BOAC aircraft and from internally carried air bottles
in BUA and RAF machines. A third method—
a direct start from an I-p source—is also available.
The flight engineer carries out the drill by setting the master
switch to LP START and checking the pressures on the airframe
anti-icing duct pressure gauges. The START/RELIGHT switch
is then held to start and the starter and ignition lights checked on.
As the shaft-rotation light flashes, the h-p cock on the pedestal is
moved to START, and when the h-p r.p.m. reach 32 per cent the
START/RELIGHT switch is released. At 58 per cent r.p.m. the
h-p cock is set to RUN. On the flight deck the engines are heard
as a remote hum, barely noticeable above the noise of the ground
On many conventional aeroplanes the pilot is restrained by an
interlock from opening up the throttles to take off when the control
locks are engaged. On the VC10 there are no control locks as
such, but a warning horn will blow intermittently if the throttles
are advanced more than 50 per cent of their travel when the flaps
and slats are not at the take-off position, the tail incidence is not
within the take-off range, the aileron upfloat is not armed, and
any one of the power control units is not operating.
The powered flying controls are designed on a split-surface
philosophy, with duplicated power supplies. For example, control
in pitch is obtained by the use of four discrete electrically powered
elevator sections, and these are supplied in pairs from two entirely
separate sources. One source is derived from the outputs of the
generators on Nos 1 and 3 engines, and the other from engines
2 and 4. Should an engine or a generator fail, then the two main
busbars are automatically connected together, the three remaining
operative generators providing adequate power. However, it
was considered that during the critical take-off and landing phases
two separate power sources should be maintained regardless of
fault conditions, and to this end an override switch is provided to
prevent the coupling of the power sources should a fault occur
near the ground. In addition to these safeguards the variable incidence
tailplane is operated by hydraulic pressure and, again,
two entirely different systems are involved. The control levers on
the pedestal are also split, one operating an arming valve (electric),
while the other operates the rate selector valve. Release of either
lever will stop the tail moving; thus, should a fault occur on either
valve causing a runaway, the returning of the levers to the neutral
position will stop it.
The rudder is divided into three sections and each aileron into
two; again, the split supply principle obtains. In the rolling plane,
spoilers supplement the power of the ailerons, and these are
hydraulically powered in opposition to the electro-hydraulic
In the event of total electrical failure, an emergency power source
is provided by a ram-air driven alternator (ELRAT) which can be
dropped into the air stream. From this two elevator sections, two
aileron sections and one rudder section can be operated. Should
no electrical supply from any source be available (though such
circumstances are difficult to visualize), then the aircraft can be controlled
in pitch by the hydraulically operated tailplane, and in roll
by the spoilers.
The aileron upfloat switch, referred to earlier, relates to a
device aimed at relieving outer wing panel stresses at weights in
excess of 299,0001b. When this circuit is armed, and the flaps are
raised, both ailerons are set up by a further 5' over and above the
normal 2£° upride.
There being only one set of throttles available to the pilots on
this rather wide flight deck, the reach is such that it is not possible
to get one's elbow behind them; thus the tendency is to push them
from in front or from behind with the flat hand. As there is a
built-in friction device which is smooth and nicely loaded, this
does not appear as a disadvantage.
At our weight of 230,0001b only a modicum of power was needed
to start the aircraft rolling, and almost immediately it became
necessary to throttle back again to keep taxying speed down to
something reasonable. The nosewheel steering control is of the
spade-grip type, and through the initial movement the hand load
was light as steering systems go, while the nosewheel followed up
smoothly and without backlash. There is little nosewheel rumble,
and the suspension results in a very comfortable ride. Once again,
one is struck by the lack of engine noise on the flight deck.
Not too heavily loaded, the toe brakes have sufficient feel to
facilitate smooth and positive braking. Despite the long wheelbase
and the bogie undercarriage it was possible, using 40' of the
available 73 nosewheel travel, to turn the aircraft round within
the width of the Wisley runway in readiness for the take-off.
The wind was calm, the temperature was plus 4°C, and the e.g.
was set fully aft. For our weight of 230,0001b I was given a Vr of
Full power was applied against the parking brake, and on its
release the aircraft accelerated away rapidly. One was very conscious
of the 82,OO01b of thrust available. There was no tendency
to swing, and on feeling out for the rudder the foot loads were
found to be nominal.
I had been warned that a very positive stick movement was
necessary to rotate, but at Vr the stick loads were found to be
much lighter than expected, and the fully aft e.g. resulted in a
high rate of rotation and a clean unstick opposite the perimeter
track junction, a distance of 3,300ft. Admittedly the aircraft was
comparatively light and the temperature was down; but for a
machine of such a size this was most impressive.
Settling into a climb with the maximum continuous power of
94.5 per cent h-p r.p.m. at 300kt, the VSI was hard against the
4,000ft/min stop, and this rate continued to 10,000ft.
The elevator was reasonably light and positive, with no suggestion
of backlash, but trimming in pitch with a variable-incidence
tailplane demands a technique different from that used in conjunction
with tabs. The amount of displacement of the trimming
levers varies the rate at which the tailplane incidence changes.
There is some lag between moving the levers and sensing the result.
With conventional elevator trim-tabs one can feel the effect on
the hand loads immediately, and fine trimming is thus easier; but
this is merely a case of adjusting one's technique to the equipment
and no criticism is implied.
The ailerons are light, positive, and with no discernable breakout
force. As the aircraft is not too stable laterally, this combination
resulted in a tendency to over-correct in roll initially. The rate of
roll is high for an aircraft of this size; at 230kt IAS, employing
full spectacle displacement, it was measured as 15/sec. Aileron
trim, applied by the deflection of two switches in series, was more
than adequate in power and range.
Rudder loads became rather high with speed and, having applied
20° of bank, one found that the resulting fractional slip required a
foot pressure of some 301b to eradicate it. At circuit speeds,
however, the rudder loads appeared acceptable.
The roll-yaw couple is quite virulent, as one would expect with
a 32° sweep-back. During side-slip maneuvers considerable
aileron deflection was necessary to keep the wings level. These
were, of course, the extreme cases, applying limiting rudder at
speeds varying from 140kt to 365kt and invoking yaw angles of
10° to 12°.
With the yaw dampers switched out, a dutch roll was initiated
without difficulty. Not alarming in amplitude, it has a cycle of
about 3sec. There was no tendency for it to become divergent, and
it could be damped out manually. A second roll was instigated,
and on switching in one of the yaw dampers was suppressed in less
than half a cycle. Two yaw dampers are normally in circuit together
at any one time; additionally, a stand-by is available in emergency.
At the Stall
At 20,000ft the aircraft was put into a turn at 235kt ISA, and at
this speed the turn was tightened to load the aircraft by reference to
a g-meter. As 2g was approached considerable buffet was felt. This
is the pre-stall buffet which in the "clean" case begins at something
like 1.4 Vs. In level flight this means that some 40kt of buffet is felt
before the stall itself, but under g loading this margin may increase.
As the stalling speed is approached the VC10 becomes sensitive
in roll, but no real vices are apparent. With full flap down, there
is very little pre-stall buffet and the aircraft is stable laterally; on the
threshold a tendency to yaw appears and, as the stall itself is
approached at around l00 kt, a nose-up pitch develops, but at this
stage there are no difficulties in recovering. A great deal of work is
being done by the manufacturer in this area, including the fitting of
fences to induce an earlier breakaway.
A descent was made to a lower level in order to check the engine out
performance, and on selecting the dive brakes the resulting
drag was most marked, accompanied by buffet. When the spoilers
are fully extended they no longer operate with the ailerons, for they
can move in only one direction, which is up. On ailerons alone,
control was crisp and positive. A control-surface indicator above
the pilot's head faithfully reproduces the movements of the surfaces
whenever the powered control units are switched on. Under normal
flight conditions, it can be seen that the spoilers on the inside of the
turn move up with the aileron. When ailerons and spoilers are
disconnected—as can be done by a control in the cockpit should
one system fail—then on spoilers alone the spectacles become very
light as they are now only subject to spring feel. When a rapid
spectacle movement is made, some buffet is felt as a result of the
With the dive brakes in, and the throttles closed, descent was
made through 15,000ft at Vne (365kt IAS), the rate of descent
At 5,000ft No 4 engine was shut down at 190kt, the resulting roll
and yaw moments being slight. Increasing power on the remaining
engines to 90 per cent r.p.m. and keeping the speed constant, the
resulting rate of climb was l,500ft/min. The aircraft weight was
now down to 210,0001b and the speed was reduced to the \i for
that weight (135kt) and full power applied on the other three engines.
Two of the 5° of rudder trim were needed to keep straight under
this extreme condition, and the resulting climb averaged 2,100ft/mill
to 10,000ft. Returning to 5,000ft, No 3 engine was also stopped,
and the other two opened up to maximum continuous power--
94.5 per cent h-p r.p.m. The asymmetric loads were contained within
1° of rudder trim at 190kt indicated, and a climb of 1,500ft/mm
achieved. The inner and outer spoilers were isolated at this stage but
no difficulties in roll were apparent. ,
Back at 10,000ft engines 3 and 4 were restarted and Nos 1 and 2 •
shut down. With turbojet engines mounted at the tail, no one
engine is significantly more critical than the others under asymmetric
Engines 3 and 4 were now opened up to maximum continuous
power and the aircraft held level. The speed built up steadily until
final stabilizing at 400kt IAS just 12kt under Vd, half a division of
rudder trim now sufficing to keep the aircraft straight. Outside
air temperature was —7°C. The top rudder section, left outer
elevator and left outer aileron were then isolated. It was necessary
to increase the rudder trim to 1° and to apply a dash of aileron trim,
but control was otherwise completely normal.
The requisite part of the test schedule having been completed,
course was set back to Wisley, and I had time during the descent to
check on the radio set-up.
The pilots' station boxes are positioned one each side of the
Pedestal, and the facility selectors are combined ON/OFF-volume
controls. There were three VHF and two HF communicators,
two VOR/ILS and two ADF sets feeding twin RMIs, a 75Mc/s
receiver, Selcal and a transponder. Ekco weather radar is also
fitted, with scopes for both pilots.
On the run into Wisley, all the elevator powered control units
were switched off, and the aircraft controlled solely by the tailplane.
It was perfectly clear that adequate control was available for all
night configurations. The nose-down couple when the flaps moved
to 20° and the slats run fully out was easily contained. With further
«ap extension and undercarriage lowering, the nose-down couple
resulting from falling speed was held; and finally, as a supreme test,
we dive brakes were applied. By this time the speed was down to
140kt, but full pitching control was still available—a comforting
thought. Although one would need to be practiced at fine pitching
control with the tailplane trim, undoubtedly the aircraft could be
landed in this extreme emergency condition, though it would
probably be expedient to make a long, flat approach.
The surface wind had now become 12kt almost along the runway,
and some turbulence had developed. The aircraft rode it well, and
little difficulty was experienced in maintaining height or heading,
though the variable-incidence tailplane still felt strange, and the
direct trim feel was missed. Weight was now 191,0001b and the
threshold speed 120kt.
Take-off flap setting was used down-wind at a speed of 190kt,
for the aircraft "clean" it was found difficult to get the speed back.
Across wind the approach flap setting of 35° was selected, and the
speed reduced to 145kt.
A turn on to finals was made at about three miles. When straightened
up, full flap was selected, and the speed reduced slowly to
130kt. Like most aircraft of its configuration, the VC10 proved to
be a little bit "fidgety" on speed at these angles of attack; but
though I was unfamiliar with the aircraft, and flying it in choppy
conditions, I experienced no undue difficulty in keeping within 5kt
of the desired figure. At one stage, power was opened up to check
the recovery rate. Unlike many pure jets, the aircraft gave an
immediate speed response. During the landing and the take-off
phases this terrific reserve of power is most comforting, and slam
accelerations from idling to 95 per cent h-p r.p.m. can be made
safely in 5sec to 6sec without crossing the surge line.
In deference to a wooded gully just short of the runway I held a
little speed in hand consequently arriving over the threshold 5kt
fast. Elevator control was still light and positive. The throttles
were closed, and the round-out initiated at about 100ft. This felt
more like checking the rate of descent rather than changing the
attitude, and the VC10 was held above the runway as the speed
dissipated. The extra 5kt resulted in a noticeable float and, as the
aircraft finally started to settle, a prolonged hold-off eventually
ended in a gentle rumble from the mainwheels. Reverse thrust,
which is on the outer engines only, was selected on touchdown,
with a resulting nose-up couple, and the nosewheel had to be
lowered on to the ground. Mild application of the brakes was all
that was necessary to kill the speed; the aircraft could, if necessary,
have been stopped in considerably less than 6,000ft. VClOs have
been landed at Brooklands, which offers only 4,200ft; and I am
told that a minimum landing distance of 1,600ft has been achieved
at 180,0001b, though I would hazard a guess that the technique
employed would hardly have appealed to airline passengers.
The undercarriage is particularly kind, for the "hop damper" on
the bogie absorbs the initial impact with the ground, and prevents
pattering of the bogies during taxiing.
A subsequent circuit and landing resulted in a more accurate
threshold speed; but even so, the VClO's tendency to settle was
slow during the hold-off, and there was no difficulty in resisting
this to achieve a touchdown with a minimum rate of sink.
Undoubtedly, this is a pilot's aeroplane. It is well laid out, a
delight to handle and, despite its size and the power available,
extremely docile under all flight conditions. The field-length
performance is also most impressive; this feature alone, will surely
endear it to both passengers and operators.
Part two converting to the VC10
TO THE VC10
BOAC's Crew-training Programme
By CAPTAIN N. V. BRISTOW
WHEN it became known that BO AC was to receive no fewer
than 42 VClOs and Super VClOs, a natural topic of
conversation among the training captains was the
problem of the crew-conversion courses needed for such a sizeable
fleet. The aircraft was decidedly modern in appearance and
construction, with rear-mounted engines, and we wondered just
what problems would arise for the pilots who would handle it.
Experience on the 707s and DC-8s throughout the world had
shown that a conversion course to those aircraft was not without its
difficulties. Some pilots found the transition from the slower,
* propeller-type aircraft a tough hurdle to overcome, and for some
the hurdle was too great. Would the VC10 present even greater
problems in training?
The size of the training commitment was also discussed fully.
Working on an estimated requirement of just over five crews to
each aircraft operated, this meant a total of about 230 captains,
350 co-pilots (this an approximate figure which would vary with
navigational requirements, and decisions on the carriage of a third
pilot) and about 230 engineer officers. This posed a formidable
task for the people responsible for planning the organization,
although it is fair to say that a training organization is rather like
a sausage machine; it only needs to be big enough, and complex
enough, to deal with the numbers being processed at any given time.
The BOAC team originally consisted of two captains (Capt
H. J. Field and Capt A. P. W. Cane), who, together with two flight
engineers, worked hand in glove with the manufacturers' test pilots
and design team in the formative years of the VC10. Late in 1962,
the appointments were made of flight manager VClOs (Capt A. S. M.
Rendall), deputy flight manager (Capt F. W. Walton) and officer
i/c training (Capt J. Nicholl) together with various other appointments,
including that of Sen Eng Off G. Sears as chief engineer
officer instructor. Jack Nicholl had long experience of training,
having been a training captain on Stratocruisers and DC-7Cs before
being appointed officer i/c training on the Britannia 312 Flight.
To this team were added, early in 1963, nine other captains and a
similar number of flight engineers, to form the "nucleus," as it was
known. Of these additional captains and engineer officers, a
number were selected specifically for the future task of training on
In 1963 this team of pilots and engineers were themselves the
"pupils," taking courses at the Rolls-Royce training school at
Derby and at the Vickers works of British Aircraft Corporation
at Weybridge. They were trained on the aircraft itself by last
September or October. Thereafter, they carried out l.000 hr of
route-proving and VC10 development work under the watchful
eyes of the BAC test pilots.
Our reactions to the aircraft were swift and most enthusiastic.
We found it delightful in every way. We eulogized its virtues.
We spread the gospel. But our audiences, the future crews of the
VC10, naturally reserved judgment. Now, some months later, our
own delight with the aircraft can be shown to have been well founded,
for at the time of writing over 100 pilots have completed
their own conversion courses on to the VC10 and share our
admiration. As a very senior pilot remarked to me after only his
fourth landing under training, "I took it all with a pinch of salt
when I heard you discussing the aircraft in the hotel, but this really
is a wonderful aeroplane."
The decision to carry out the training programme at Shannon
Airport, on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, was made after carefully
considering all the alternatives. Training on any large aircraft is a
very expensive item indeed, and every minute spent in flight must
therefore produce valuable results. A rough estimate of the cost
of flying a VC10 on training, covering only such items as fuel, oil,
landing fees, maintenance and spares, etc, comes to about £300 to
£360 per hour. To this should be added "standing charges," for
such items as insurance, fixed engineering and administrative
costs, of a further £300 per hour. Lastly, the aircraft on training
is not available to fly down the routes and thus earn money. Considering
only the first of these items, the bare operating costs, the
figure comes to £6 per minute. Prolonged delays, caused by "holding
stacks," extra circuits because of conflicting traffic, or long periods
at the runway threshold awaiting the right to take off, can cost an
astronomical figure over a period of several years.
Furthermore, delays caused by adverse weather, or local restrictions
on the amount of night or weekend flying (introduced at the
insistence of the local residents' associations, who nevertheless
have my sympathy in their complaints) expensively lengthen the
training programme and prevent the aircraft from earning money
on the passenger routes. Shannon is the best answer to all these
considerations. Indeed, the excellent and friendly co-operation of
the air traffic controllers and other airport authorities at Shannon
have been much appreciated.
Desk Work for a Start
The training programme started at Shannon on December 19,
1963, and has since progressed in parallel with the l,000hr route flying
programme. BOAC have had the use of three aircraft for
these purposes. Prior to flight training, the "nucleus" pilots and
engineers were busy writing-up the flying, navigation and technical
manuals, deliberating on the details of procedures, the syllabus for
various courses, instructional techniques and many other matters.
The course for each pilot consists of three "airwork" periods, as
we call them, the first climbing to 20,000ft and the others to 30,000ft
and 40,000ft. These periods are used for general handling practice,
high-speed runs, rapid descents and other exercises such as the
approach to the stall, and the use of the autopilot (including its
use for the automatic approach). Further periods cover take-offs
and landings on four and three engines, night take-offs and landings,
and what we call "abnormal" take-offs and landings—such as the
two-engined landing, the Sapless or slatless landing, the three engine
take-oft", etc. There follow periods on instruments alone,
and approaches using ILS or VOR, and finally the Instrument
Rating renewal is carried out. We find this syllabus takes between
8Jhr and l0^hr, according to weather and other delays.
I will not deal with the aircraft in detail, nor with its performance,
as these are already being discussed elsewhere
one must mention the various aspects which most impress the pilots
First, they greatly appreciate the cockpit layout. It is orderly and
neat, and it is easy to operate all the controls—in particular, the
autopilot and radio controls—without the necessity of continually
reaching up to the roof as has been their lot on some other aircraft.
Nor are pieces of equipment pinned to any and every few square
inches of available wall or roof space, as appears to have happened
on other aircraft we have known. The windows are large; and this
in itself is a move towards greater safety in the air, for the all-round
visibility is thus greatly improved. One senior executive commented
"there seems a lot of wasted space here," but no company director
could hope to work efficiently in a cramped or inconvenient office,
and the same applies to the "directors" of a large modern aircraft.
Taxying is not the hazard many expected when they saw the
66ft which separates nose wheels and main wheels. However, care
is needed on curving taxiways and narrow runways to avoid running
the main wheels over the grass on the inside of the turns. The crux
of the manoeuvre is to position oneself on the outer edge of the
concrete, or even over the grass (since the nosewheels are about
10ft aft of the pilots' seats) when executing sharp turns, but few
pilots at first relish seeing the grass passing beneath them when
initiating such turns. The VC10 can, in fact, turn on a 150ft-wide
runway using 50° of nosewheel steering, and since up to 70° is
available (55° being the recommended maximum) turning on such
a runway is a comfortable manoeuvre.
Nevertheless, on one occasion a wheel did leave the concrete.
During a turn through 180° after landing on the short runway at
Shannon, a sharp gust caught the tail au moment critique and caused
the nosewheels to continue on to the grass. The training captain
rightly played for safety and requested that the aircraft be towed
back on to the runway, whence it returned to the apron for refuelling
' and to continue on night-flying exercises. (The BBC TV news that
evening reported that the aircraft had "overrun the runway on
landing," and the following morning a national newspaper reported
|- that the VC10 had "crash landed," but that "none of the crew was
' injured." A subsequent cartoon in the BOAC news sheet had one
captain commenting to another: "I think the most dangerous thing
about flying is the Daily —.")
The power of the Rolls-Royce Conway Mk 540 engines is allied
to the low take-off speed to give an impressively short take-off run.
This is the cause of much favourable comment, and one cannot but
compare these aspects with those of the other big jets. The VC10
has approximately 20 per cent more power than its most powerful
nvals, while the use of leading-edge slats gives a rotation speed some
!6kt less than for comparable American aircraft. This means a
much greater margin of safety where there is an ample length of
concrete, or a better performance where the runway is short.
On the approach and landing the speeds are again some 16kt
lower than for the American counterparts. This may not sound
rouch to the layman, but in terms of braking needed the difference
ls considerable. Landing distances are correspondingly less, and all
these considerations add up to greater safety margins in practice.
The admirable stability and ease of handling of the VC10 under
a" conditions has made the transition from earlier types like Britannias 769
and Comets impressively straightforward. From the point
of view of ease of conversion, there has proved to be no apparent
advantage in having flown the jet Comet rather than the turboprop
Britannia. In fact the VC10 circuit and approach speeds favour
the latter, being almost identical.
Previous experience of Flight Director systems, other than the
Bendix on the BOAC 707, is almost a disadvantage. Adherents to
other types of system, on the Comet and Britannia 312, take
marginally longer to adapt themselves to the Elliott system (produced
basically under licence from Bendix) than does the "Basic
ILS, call Zero Heaven" adherent from the Britannia 102. The
Elliott system, incidentally, provides for more leisurely commands
to the captain than was the case with the Bendix on the 707, and this
fact, allied to the lower approach speeds and great stability of the
aircraft, seems to leave the pilots with time to spare on the approach
—surely another very valuable contribution to safety.
The improved stability of the VC10 may stem from several
sources. The close grouping of the engines around the tail means
that a power change on the approach—which can scarcely be made
without some inadvertent asymmetry—will not produce noticeable
yaw, and therefore roll, as it does in other big jets. Furthermore,
the inherent stability in pitch means that trim-changes to the
variable-incidence tailplane need hardly be made at all.
VC10 pilots are most impressed with the "soft" undercarriage.
Checking the rate of descent to about 300ft/min, coupled with
ground-effect, cushions the aircraft on to the ground almost
irrespective of whether it be held back to a fully flared attitude or
checked only lightly. Naturally, as with any other aircraft, failure
adequately to check the rate of descent results in a "loss of face"
for the pilot concerned; but we have nevertheless been most
impressed with the general standard of arrivals during training.
Loss of engines on the VC10 is a minor problem for pilots under
training, because the asymmetry associated with engine failure is
so small, and the reserves of power so great. Exercises associated
with two and three engines are therefore much more a mere
formality on a VC10 course than on earlier conversions with which
I have been familiar.
Training on the Routes
Naturally, the training of VC10 crews does not end at Shannon.
Further flights under supervision take place down the routes,
enabling pilots and engineers to gain experience of the aircraft
operating from airfields at higher altitudes and temperatures, as
well as to become thoroughly acclimatized and "at home" with
both the aircraft and the routes. Our conversion course for ground
maintenance engineers and cabin staff are outside my sphere of
activity; but both are considerable undertakings.
BOAC is scheduled to have two VC10 simulators, with a visual aid
attachment. The first simulator has only been in active use
some five weeks, but will obviously have a pronounced effect on our
flying training, as much familiarization hitherto carried out in the
air will now be carried out in "the box." Savings in aircraft time and
expense remain to be seen. Certainly the visual attachment, by
which a picture of the approach is projected by closed-circuit TV
in front of the pilot, will make this a popular method of training—
at least until the "gimmick" value wears off!
Finally a word should be said of the reactions of such passengers
as we have carried on our overseas training flights. Albeit in old
seating (proper VC10 seats are being installed in aircraft for passenger
services), their reactions have been most favourable. The noise
level has been adjudged markedly below that in the 707 and DC-8,
while the pressurization has been found to be excellent—a boon to
all those who, like myself, hate "popping" of the ears on the climb
or descent. Reactions to flight or turbulent conditions have also
been good, and I was particularly pleased to note the healthy
appetites on one flight immediately following a rather prolonged
"hold" in a turbulent thunderstorm near Beirut. I took this to be a
tribute to the aircraft, rather than to the stomachs concerned.
To summarize the reactions of those pilots who have now completed
their training: a thoroughly delightful aircraft to handle in
every respect, with extra safety resulting from such factors as the
ample power available, the stability, the low take-off and landing
speeds, and the advanced simplicity of the flight-deck layout and
pilots' instrumentation. Today, when extra safety in the air is
being increasingly demanded, we should remember these facts
above all others when assessing the comparative merits of the VC10
in commercial use.