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'Queen of the Skies' lands with a roar at Dunsfold Park

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Dunsfold Park Ltd and Brooklands Museum were delighted to welcome the last Vickers VC10 to its new permanent home today (Tuesday 24 September 2013) at the famous Surrey airfield. The VC10, which carries the RAF serial number ZA150, was the very last VC10 of 54 built at Brooklands in the 1960s and was one of the last two flying with the RAF from Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and retired this week after completing a total of 43,400 flying hours.

The aircraft landed on the airfield at 13:43, flown by Sqn Ldr Tim Kemp with his aircrew, co-pilot Fl Lt Shane Stiger, engineer Fl Flt Kevin Booth and Navigator Flt Lt Bruce Thompson. Over 160 visiting public joined members of the aviation teams from Dunsfold Park and Brooklands Museum to witness the final flight. Also in attendance were Lord Trefgarne, Chairman of Brooklands Museum Trust, Trustee Penelope Keith and Angela Newton, daughter of Sir George Edwards, the Managing Director of BAC while the VC10 was developed and built.

Much to the delight of the watching crowds, the VC10 did an impressive full throttle flypast down the runway ensuring everyone felt the power and enjoyed the noise of its engines one last time. Banking around the aerodrome she faultlessly landed before being towed to her final resting place.

Jim McAllister, Chief Executive of Dunsfold Park Ltd, comments, "We are absolutely delighted to have worked with Brooklands Museum to provide a new home for the Vickers 'Queen of the Skies' VC10. The Aerodrome has an illustrious aviation history which we are keen to remember and celebrate so this is a welcome addition to the Hunter, Sea Hawk and 747 which currently reside here."

ZA150 was originally built as 5H-MOG for East African Airways as a "Combi", based on the Super VC10 but with a large forward freight door – which, incidentally, greatly eased the conversion of this variant into a tanker aircraft, allowing five huge fuel tanks to be installed on the main deck. After its airline service was completed, this aircraft was stored at Filton for several years before making its first flight as a tanker in 1984.

Allan Winn, Director of Brooklands Museum, says, "It is hugely important for us to have saved this aircraft as the last heavy airliner ever to be completely built at Brooklands – and indeed in the UK. But it is also significant as its retirement marks the end of an unbroken century of front-line service by Brooklands-built aircraft with the British armed forces. That is a unique record, unchallenged by any other factory-customer relationship anywhere in the world. We are delighted that Dunsfold Park has made it possible for us to house this symbolic aircraft back in Surrey."

Longer-term arrangements for public access to the VC10 at Dunsfold Park and Wings & Wheels will be confirmed in due course.

The RAF bought 14 new VC10s in the 1960s for strategic transport and later went on to purchase aircraft retired from the commercial market, converting a further 14 into air-to-air refuelling tankers during the 1980s and '90s. In total, the RAF has operated 28 VC10s of differing variants, and the aircraft conducted a range of tasks from troop and VIP transport, aero-medical missions and air sampling after nuclear tests. In recent years the VC10s have been used solely for air-to-air refuelling, with their last missions in this role having been completed on Friday 20th September. The VC10 becomes the second longest serving type in the RAF's inventory with 47 years of service just narrowly eclipsed by the English Electric Canberra which was withdrawn in 2006.