The de Havilland DH100 Vampire was a jet-engine fighter commissioned by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War. Following the Gloster Meteor, it was the second jet fighter to enter service with the RAF. Although it arrived too late to see  combat during the war, the Vampire served with front line RAF squadrons  until 1953 and continued in use as a trainer until 1966, although  generally the RAF relegated the Vampire to advanced training roles in  the mid-1950s and the type was generally out of RAF service by the end  of the decade. The Vampire also served with many air forces world-wide,  setting aviation firsts and records.

The Vampire was considered to be a largely experimental design due to  its unorthodox arrangement and the use of a single engine, unlike the Gloster Meteor which was already specified for production. The low-powered early  British jet engines meant that only twin-engine aircraft designs were  considered practical; vamp cockpitbut as more powerful engines were developed,  particularly Frank Halford's H.1 (later known as the Goblin), a single-engined jet fighter became more viable. De Havilland were approached to produce an airframe for the H.1, and their first design, the DH99, was an all-metal, twin-boom, tricycle undercarriage aircraft armed with four cannon. The use of a twin boom (similar to that of the Lockheed P-38) kept the jet pipe short which avoided the power loss of a long pipe that would have been needed in a conventional fuselage.

The final Vampire was the T (trainer) model, the T11, a two-seat training version for the RAF. Powered by a Goblin 35 turbojet engine; 731 were built by DH and Fairey Aviation. First flown in 1950, the T models remained in service with the RAF until 1966. There  was a Vampire trainer in service at Central Flying School RAF Little Rissington until at least January 1972.

3,268 Vampires were built, a quarter of them under licence in other countries. The Vampire design was also developed into the de Havilland Venom fighter-bomber as well as naval Sea Vampire variants


The Lockheed L-1011 TriStar, commonly referred to as the L-1011 (pronounced "L-ten-eleven") or TriStar, is a medium-to-long-range, wide-body trijet airliner. It was the third widebody airliner to enter commercial operations, after the Boeing 747 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10. The aircraft has a seating capacity of up to 400 passengers and a range of over 4,000 nautical miles (7,410 km). Its trijet configuration places one Rolls-Royce RB211 engine under each wing, with a third, centre - mounted RB211 engine with an S-duct air inlet embedded in the tail and the upper fuselage. The main visible difference between the TriStar and its similar trijet competitor, the McDonnell Douglas DC-10, is the middle / tail engine: the DC-10's engine is mounted above the  fuselage for simplicity of design and more economical construction,  while the TriStar's No 2 engine is mounted to the rear fuselage and fed  through an S-duct (similar to the Boeing 727) for reduced drag, improved stability, and easier replacement. The aircraft has a sophisticated autoland capability, an automated descent control system, and also available, dependant upon airline specifications, a lower deck galley and lounge facilities.

The L-1011 TriStar was produced in two fuselage lengths. The original L-1011-1 first flew in November 1970, and entered service with Eastern Air Lines in 1972. The shortened, long-range L-1011-500 first flew in 1978, and entered service with British Airways a year later. The original length TriStar was also produced as the high gross weight L-1011-100, uprated engine L-1011-200, and further upgraded L-1011-250. Post-production conversions for the L-1011-1 with increased takeoff  weights included the L-1011-50 and L-1011-150.

Between 1968 and 1984, Lockheed manufactured a total of 250 TriStars, compared to 446 DC-10s, partly because of the TriStar's delayed introduction but particularly because a larger version with a longer range was not initially offered. The aircraft's sales were  hampered by two years of delays due to developmental and financial  problems at Rolls-Royce, the sole manufacturer of the TriStar's engines. Under state  control, costs at Rolls-Royce were tightly controlled. The company's  efforts largely went into the original TriStar engines, which needed  considerable modifications between the L-1011's first flight and service entry. The competition, notably General Electric, were very quick to  develop their CF6 engine with more thrust, which meant that a heavier  "intercontinental" DC-10-30 could be more quickly brought to market. The flexibility afforded to potential customers by a long-range DC-10 put  the L-1011 at a serious disadvantage. Rolls-Royce went on to develop the high-thrust RB211-524 for the L-1011-200 and -500, but this took many  years. After production ended, Lockheed withdrew from the commercial aircraft business due to its  below-target sales. As of 2014 there were only 17 Tristar aircraft operational in the world.


The Vickers - Armstrongs Valiant was a four-jet bomber, once part of the Royal Air Force's V bomber nuclear force in the 1950s and 1960s. Since the Valiant was part of an entirely new class of bombers for the RAF, 232 Operational Conversion Unit was established at RAF Gaydon in 1955. The Valiant aircraft were originally assigned to the strategic nuclear bombing  role, as were the Vulcan and Victor B1s when they became operational. The first operational RAF unit to be equipped with the Valiant was 138 Squadron, located first at RAF Gaydon, later at RAF Wittering. At its peak, the Valiant equipped nine RAF squadrons.

A Valiant B1 (WZ366) of No 49 Squadron was the first RAF aircraft to drop a British operational atomic bomb when it performed a test drop of a down-rated Blue Danube weapon on Maralinga, South Australia, on 11 October 1956.

On 15 May 1957, a 49 Squadron Valiant B(K).1 dropped the first British hydrogen bomb, the "Short Granite" (AKA "Green Granite Small"), over the Pacific as part of Operation Grapple. The test was largely a failure, as the measured yield was less than a  third of the maximum expected and while achieving the desired thermonuclear explosion the device had failed to operate as intended. The first  British hydrogen bomb that detonated as planned, "Grapple X Round A"  (AKA "Round C1"), was dropped on 8 November 1957. The Grapple series of tests continued into 1958, and in April 1958 the "Grapple Y"  bomb exploded with 10 times the yield of the original "Short Granite".  Testing was finally terminated in November 1958, when the British government decided it would perform no more air-delivered nuclear tests.

Peacetime practice involved the dropping of small practice bombs on  instrumented bombing ranges, also a system of predicted bombing using  radio tones to mark the position of bomb drop over non-range targets,  the bomb error being calculated by a ground radar unit and passed either to the crew during flight or to a headquarters for analysis. When the  Navigational and Bombing System (NBS) was fitted and crews well-trained, bombing accuracies became typical of other aircraft of the time and from high level (say, 40,000 ft), a 100 yd error was not uncommon.

The Valiant was the first of the V-bombers to see combat, during the Anglo-French-Israeli Suez intervention in October and November 1956.  During Operation Musketeer, Valiant aircraft operating from the airfield at Luqa on Malta dropped conventional High Explosive bombs on targets inside Egypt. Although the Egyptians did not oppose the attacks and there were no Valiant combat losses, the results of the raids were disappointing. Their primary targets were seven Egyptian airfields. Although the  Valiants dropped a total of 842 tons of bombs, only three of the seven airfields were seriously damaged. It was the last time any of the V-bombers flew a war mission until the Avro Vulcans bombed Port Stanley airfield in the Falkland Islands during the Falklands War in 1982.

The Valiant was originally developed for use as high-level strategic bomber, but its role, like other V bombers, was changed to low-level attacks. Low-level flying brought a number of serious problems as the Valiant aircraft’s wing spar attachment castings showed premature fatiguing and corrosion traced to the use of an inappropriate type of aluminium alloy. The Valiant had been the first of the V bombers to  become operational, and its role was already shifting to that of a  tanker. Rather than repair or rebuild the fleet, the Valiant was grounded and the Handley Page Victor took over the tanker role.


The Nimrod was arguably the best antisubmarine and Maritime Reconnaissance aircraft of the Cold War era. It was designed as a Royal Air Force maritime patrol aircraft, its major role being antisubmarine warfare   (ASW), although it also had secondary roles in maritime surveillance, air-sea rescue and anti-surface warfare. It served from the early 1970s until March 2010 with 6 squadrons; 42 and 236 at RAF St. Mawgan; 120, 201, and 206 at RAF Kinloss; and 203 at RAF Luqa, Malta

The development of the Nimrod patrol aircraft began in 1964 as a project to replace the Avro Shackleton. The Nimrod design was based on that of the Comet 4 civil airliner which had reached the end of its commercial life. The Nimrods were not modified Comets; rather they took the design of the Comet, modified it extensively, and then built new aircraft, which became the Nimrods. The Comet's turbojet engines were replaced by Rolls-Royce Spey turbofans for better fuel efficiency, particularly at the low altitudes required for maritime patrol. Major  fuselage changes were made, including an internal weapons bay, an  extended nose for radar, a new tail with electronic warfare (ESM) sensors mounted in a bulky fairing, and a MAD (Magnetic anomaly detector) boom. After the first flight in May 1967, the RAF ordered 46 Nimrod MR1s. The first example (XV230) entered service in October 1969

The Nimrod was the first jet-powered Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA). Jet engines are most economical at high altitudes and less economical  at low altitudes; the aircraft travelled to the operational area at high altitude, which was economical on fuel and fast compared to earlier  piston aircraft. On reaching the patrol area the Nimrod descended to its working altitude, often as low as 200 feet (or 100 feet in wartime). Once on patrol at high weight all four engines are used, but as fuel is  consumed and weight is reduced first one and then a second engine is  shut down, allowing the remaining engines to be run at an efficient RPM  rather than running all engines at less efficient RPM. All engines were used for travel back to base at high altitude.

The Nimrod gave sterling service during the "Cod Wars" between Iceland and the UK over fishing rights in the 1970’s. During the Falklands war (Operation Corporate), several Nimrods combed the sea for enemy submarines. The Nimrods took part in Operation Granby (the Gulf War 1990 / 1991), the NATO operations against Serbia in 1999, Operation Telic (the Iraq war in 2003 and beyond), the campaign in Afghanistan, and over Libya in 2011. They also were a routine component of British Search and Rescue (SAR) operations in the North Sea. The Nimrod had an impressive range for a Maritime Patrol aircraft of nearly 6,000 miles, and also had the longest bomb bay of any military aircraft flying. Under the wing it could carry air-to-air missiles (Sidewinder AIM-9, during the Falklands War) and air-to-surface missiles (Nord AS12, Martel, Maverick or Harpoon). In the bomb bay it could carry air dropped torpedoes, depth charges, nuclear depth bombs, naval mines, sonobuoys, and survival equipment.

This was Pete Finlay’s first operational aircraft during his RAF service and he flew the aircraft on 120 Squadron at RAF Kinloss from 1975 to 1979. He took part in the Cod Wars around Iceland in 1975 and 1976 as well as antisubmarine and reconnaissance operations, mainly over the North Sea. He also took part in many Search and Rescue operations, including the Fasnet Yacht Race disaster in August 1979.


The McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 is a three-engine widebody jet airliner manufactured between 1971 and 1989. The DC-10 has sufficient range for medium to long-haul flights, capable of carrying a maximum 380 passengers. Its most distinguishing feature is the two turbofan engines mounted on underwing pylons and a third engine at the base of the fin. The model was a successor to the McDonnell Douglas DC-8 for long-range operations, and competed in the same markets as the Lockheed L-1011 Tristar, which has a similar layout to the DC-10.

The series 30 was the longer range "international" version of the original medium range DC-10-10.  One of the main visible differences between the models is that the  series 10 has three sets of landing gear (one front and two main) while  the series 30 has four sets of landing gear (one front, one in each wing and one in the centre fuselage). The centre main two - wheel landing gear (which extends from the centre of the  fuselage) was added to accommodate the extra weight of the -30 variant by distributing the  weight and providing additional braking. The series 30 had an absolute maximum range of 6,220 miles, which came down to a maximum range with a full payload of 4,604 miles. 

Eventually, the DC-10 became the best known and most popular of the three-engined airliners. They eventually built 446 of these aircraft in their different variants with the last and final DC-10 being rolled off the production line in December 1988 destined for Nigeria Airways in July 1989. Biman Bangladesh Airlines was the last commercial carrier to operate the DC-10 in passenger service and their last regularly scheduled DC-10 passenger flight was on December 7, 2013. The airline flew the DC-10 on a charter passenger flight on February 20, 2014, from Dhaka, Bangladesh to Birmingham, UK. Local charter flights were also flown until February 24, 2014. As of July 2013, there were 69 DC-10s and MD-10s in airline service as dedicated freighter aircraft with operators FedEx Express (62 aircraft), Kelowna Flightcraft Air Charter (4 aircraft), and 3 freight aircraft with smaller airlines.


The Vickers VC10 was a long-range airliner designed and built by Vickers - Armstrong (Aircraft) Ltd, and first flown at Brooklands, Surrey, in 1962. The airliner was designed to operate on long-distance routes from the shorter runways of the era with a high subsonic speed, and demanded excellent hot and high performance for operations from African airports. The performance of  the VC10 was such that it achieved the fastest London to New York  crossing of the Atlantic by a jet airliner, a record still held to date  for a sub-sonic airliner - only Concorde was faster. The VC10 is often compared to the larger Soviet Ilyushin Il-62, both aircraft having a rear-engined quad layout, the two types being  the only airliners with such a configuration (a configuration that they  shared with the earlier, but smaller Lockheed JetStar). Although only a relatively small number of VC10 aircraft were built (54), they provided long service with BOAC and other airlines from the 1960s to 1981. They were also used from 1965 as strategic air lifters for the Royal Air Force, and former passenger models and others were used as aerial refuelling aircraft. The 50th anniversary of the first flight of the prototype  VC10 aircraft, G-ARTA, was celebrated with a 'VC10 Retrospective' Symposium and  the official opening of a VC10 exhibition at Brooklands Museum on 29 June 2012. The type was finally retired from RAF service on 20 September 2013.

The VC10 was a new design but used some existing production ideas and  techniques, as well as the Conway engines, developed for a previous Vickers design. It had a generous wing equipped with wide chord Fowler flaps and full span leading edge slats for good take-off and climb performance and its rear engines gave an  efficient clean wing and reduced cabin noise. The engines were also  higher up from the runway surface than an underwing design minimising damage from items like stones or debris on the runway - of importance considering the nature of the African runways. Technology included structural parts milled from solid blocks rather than assembled from sheet metal, which gave this aircraft immense strength. The following incident that occurred to a British Caledonian VC10 in June 1971 gives a good idea of the inherent strength of the design.

During a flight across the Andes from Buenos Aires, Argentina to Santiago in Chile, British Caledonian aircraft e G-ASIX got caught in a patch of clear air turbulence above the mountain peaks.  The aircraft was thrown up on to its side at a 90-degree-plus back angle and then tossed, headlong, nose down towards the peaks a few thousand feet below  (The mountains reaching up to 27.000 feet placed them close at hand) reaching speeds up to Mach 0.96 during the event. The severity of the upset caused the PCUs (power control units) on several flying  control surfaces to be knocked out of action leaving the crew with an airplane  plummeting downwards with speeds varying between the stall and high-speed buffet.  With very little control authority the crew managed a recovery, resetting the other PCUs along the way. The  airplane landed safely at its destination and after a thorough ground check was despatched on its next flight back home to Gatwick via Freetown. During  the Freetown - Gatwick leg an unusual vibration was noticed in the  airframe which increased in severity. On landing it became clear that a  part of the leading edge of the stabiliser had detached and the leading  edge spar of the fin was broken. Furthermore the wing torsion box turned out to be distorted with the wing tips bent upwards some four feet. The combined damage required a lengthy repair and only after several months in the hangar did G-ASIX fly again. The incident proved the strength of the VC10 airframe as other aircraft in previous similar situations had lost structural integrity and crashed. On an airliner with wing mounted engines the engine mounting pins would probably have snapped as the aircraft was spun around. 

The Royal Air Force was the other major operator of this aircraft, initially using them world-wide as transport / passenger aircraft before converting them for an in-flight refuelling role role. Although the aircraft had been retired from commercial service many years before, the final flights of the VC10  in RAF service took place on 20 September 2013 when the final refuelling sortie was followed by a tour of the UK. On 24 September, RAF aircraft ZA150 had its last flight to Dunsfold Aerodrome for preservation at the Brooklands Museum, while aircraft ZA147 arrived at Bruntingthorpe on 25 September.






The Hawker Siddeley HS 121 Trident (affectionately called the “Ground Gripper” in British Airways service ) was a short to medium-range three-engined jet airliner designed by de Havilland and built by Hawker Siddeley in the 1960s and 1970s. The

Trident is notable for its pioneering avionics which enabled it to become the first airliner to make a fully automatic approach and landing in revenue service in 1965 and to be the sole airliner capable of automatic landings in regular service from 1966  until versions of the Lockheed TriStar were also cleared to perform them in the mid 1970s.

Designed very tightly around a British European Airways (BEA) specification, the Trident had modest sales, with only ever 117 produced.  The Trident was a jet airliner of all-metal construction with a T-tail and a low-mounted wing. It had three rear-mounted engines: two in side-fuselage pods, and the third in the fuselage tail cone, taking air in through an S - shaped duct. All versions were powered by versions of the Rolls-Royce Spey engine. The Trident was one of the fastest subsonic commercial airliners, regularly cruising at over 610 mph. At introduction into  service its standard cruise Mach Number was 0.88, probably  the highest of any of its contemporaries. Designed for high speed, the  wing produced relatively limited lift at lower speeds. This, and the  aircraft's low power-to-weight ratio, called for prolonged takeoff runs - hence the nickname “The Ground Gripper”

The Trident was routinely able to descend at rates of up to 4500 feet per minute in regular service. In emergency descents it was permissible  to use reverse thrust of up to 10,000 rpm. The Trident's first version, the Trident 1C, had the unusual capability of using reverse thrust prior to touchdown. The throttles could be closed in the flare and reverse idle set to open the reverser  buckets. At pilot discretion, up to full reverse thrust could then be  used prior to touchdown. This was helpful to reduce hydroplaning and give a very short landing run on wet or slippery runways, while  preserving wheel brake efficiency and keeping wheel brake temperatures low. In total, 117 Tridents were produced, while the Boeing 727, the Trident’s main competitor and built to the original airline specification for the Trident, sold 1,832 aircraft. The largest operator of the type was BEA. BEA's successor, British Airways retired their Trident fleet in the mid-1980s. In Asia, the Trident remained active in passenger service with Air China until the 1990s. As of 2014 it is believed that there are now no airworthy examples of this aircraft anywhere in the world.

Tim Orchard started his career with British Airways flying the Trident, but he has almost recovered now

The Percival P56 Provost was a British ab initio trainer for the Royal Air Force in the 1950s, replacing the Percival Prentice. The Provost was a two-seat, side-by-side low-wing monoplane with fixed landing gear of the tailwheel variety, powered by a 550hp Alvis Leonides 126 radial engine. After a lengthy service career, the design was adapted for a turbojet.

In 1953, the first production P56s joined the Central Flying School's Basic Training Squadron at South Cerney as the RAF's standard basic trainer, called the Provost T Mk 1. It had more than twice the power of its predecessor, the Prentice, with higher performance and manoeuvrability. More than 330 of the aircraft were eventually delivered to the RAF over a period of 3 years, during which time (1954) Percival became part of the Hunting Group. The Provost remained in service until the early 1960’s when they were replaced by a major revision of the design that evolved the P56 Provost into the Jet Provost trainer, which eventually evolved into the BAC Strikemaster multi-role trainer and light attack aircraft in 1967. A few Provosts continued in service until the last example was retired in 1969. Several retired  airframes were renumbered with maintenance serials and used for training of airframe and engine tradesmen. At least five Percival Provost have  survived as civilian aircraft.