08 October 2009

In 1960 the British aircraft manufacturer Vickers gave an extensive contract proposal to Pan American World Airways on a custom-tailored version of the VC-10 airliner for the airline's centerpiece trans-Atlantic routes. Pan American was in need of a prestige jetliner for its transcontinental and Pacific routes as well. What was needed was a 200-seat jetliner with nonstop capability across the Atlantic in all but the most severe winter conditions.

With an American-designed interior (by Butler of New York), the Pan American VC-10 featured a developed version of the Rolls-Royce Conway engine with 24,000 lbs of thrust designated the Conway 7 as well as prominent leading edge root extensions on the wings that housed more fuel as well as increasing the wing area. Wingtip fuel tanks were also a part of the design for a total fuel capacity of over 24,000 US gallons. An underfloor compartment could be used as a passenger lounge or a crew rest area and, in a prescient move, Vickers developed a two-crew flight deck using cathode-ray tube displays in one of the first proposals for a glass cockpit. There was a third crew member in the flight deck referred to in Vickers' proposal as an "engineering and systems manager".

Also part of the proposal was an all-cargo version of the VC-10 that featured straight-in loading via a swing nose developed for the unbuilt VC-10 F4 freighter. A roller-bearing loading floor would ease the loading of palletized cargo long before palletized cargo became a reality.

Although the negotiations never bore fruit, it was considered very serious business by Vickers as a copy of the proposed contract is in the Vickers archive at the Brooklands. It was a proposal ahead of its time, a fleet of highly efficient passenger and cargo variants that would have provided a common fleet without having two totally different aircraft types.

Source: Vickers VC-10 by Lance Cole (Crowood Aviation Series). The Crowood Press, 2000, p93-95.

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