End of An Era: Last Ever VC10 Flight Completed

Alan Kenny was at Bruntingthorpe Airfield to witness the sad retirement of an iconic all-British aircraft. Words by Dave Allport.

ROYAL AIR Force/101 Squadron VC10 K3 ZA147 ‘F’, the last of the type airworthy anywhere in the world, completed its final on Wednesday 25th September. After being delayed by lingering fog, the aircraft finally took off from RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, for Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire, where it landed safely. The aircraft will now be reduced to scrap.

Group Captain Steve Lushington

Station Commander RAF Brize Norton

Former OC 101 Squadron

3,500 hours on VC10

Four tours on 101 Squadron

On landing ZA147 at Bruntingthorpe on September 25:

“It’s like putting on your favourite pair of shoes – it’s lovely. How do I feel? It’s very poignant – I feel very privileged. It’s an honour. I’m just delighted we’ve got the aircraft to Bruntingthorpe – this aircraft, ZA147, has such a fantastic history. It’s a world record holder, it’s been involved in operations around the globe. There were a few weepy eyes on the flight deck. But this should be a celebration of the VC10 – it’s an incredible aeroplane. Flying for 47 years – wow. It’s been involved in everything. In my retirement I’ll look back big a big smile and fond memories – I’ve been very lucky.”

The type is being replaced in RAF service by the new Voyager, provided by the Air Tanker consortium. Pending entry into service of the full complement of Voyagers, some of the VC10′s tasks are being undertaken by the RAF Tristars of 216 Squadron, which are also scheduled for retirement shortly. A tentative date of March 14, 2014, has been set for Tristar withdrawal, although this could be extended by up to six months.

One of the VC10 taskings most recently taken over temporarily by a Tristar is that of providing air-to-air refuelling support to the four Typhoon FGR4s of 1435 Flight at RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falkland Islands. No 1312 Flight at Mount Pleasant had previously operated a detached VC10 K3 for this role, but this has now been replaced by one of 216 Squadron’s Tristars from Brize Norton. Ultimately, it is planned to detach a Voyager to 1312 Flight, after the Tristar fleet is retired.

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