Your uncle feels moved to make extended comment on the continued operation of the UK's only long-range airliner, the BAC (n‚e Vickers) VC10 as the old girl celebrates her 40th anniversary this Saturday (29 June).

You see, although the last airline VC10s were retired over 20 years ago, the mighty four-engined jet is still going strong with the Royal Air Force. 10 and 101 Squadrons, who fly the VC10 from RAF Brize Norton, are making a bit of fuss about this important birthday. They've been flying VC10s since 1966, and with the latest phase-out plan - a target their airships are constantly moving - calling for replacement within six years, it looks unlikely that she'll be around to celebrate her half century.

Initially 10 Squadron flew its 14 VC10 C1s in the transport role, primarily carrying military personnel, cargo and troops - hence the gentlemen's urinal in the rear toilet - to destinations throughout the world. The "shiny tens" were used many, many times as a VIP transport, carrying the Queen and senior public servants on official tours. The last VIP flights were operated in the mid-1990s as the top neddies now prefer to fly by on Birdseed Airways' new megajets.

The active C1 fleet, which is now grey rather than shiny, numbers 11 aircraft. They all have in-flight refuelling capability and are designated C1Ks. They are operated alongside the eight VC10 K3/K4 tankers of 101 Squadron in the refuelling role, with 10 Squadron aircrew now also qualified to fly 101's tankers.

The C1Ks continue to operate passenger/cargo flights in support of UK forces overseas and military deployments. Sqn Ldr Adrian Dawe of 10 Squadron tells Budgie News that the two fleets have been active in Afghanistan, primarily tanking the US Navy's Boeing F/A-18s and Grumman F-14s and EA-6Bs.

Age is beginning to take its toll on the old girl. Due to concerns about structural stress, the ailerons are rigged up by around 11° to move the wing loading inboard, while maximum cruise speed is limited to Mach 0.866/310kt. However, a recent fight with 10 Squadron confirmed for your uncle that the ride remains as rock solid as it was when BOAC used the "VC Ten-derness" slogan to market its transatlantic VC10 flights in the 1960s.

Source: Flight International