Viking Info & Specs

A Brief History…

With WWII drawing to a rapid conclusion, Britain still possessed a huge number of military types, but little in the way of civil equipment which could be put into airline service directly after the cessation of hostilities. While the Brabazon Committee had been working on several types since 1942, it wouldn’t be until 1947 that the first of its proposed airliners would start to appear. Quite naturally in the meantime, efforts were made to convert several military aircraft into civil airliners, but these proved unsatisfactory for the most part and were quickly removed from service. Meanwhile, Vickers had been working on its own design which drew a number of major parts from the Wellington bomber such as the front wings and undercarriage which were then attached to a brand new fuselage. The Ministry of Aircraft Production thankfully saw potential in this new offering and ordered three airframes.

Needless to say, it wasn’t long before the first prototype was ready for its inaugural flight and approximately 6 weeks before the war in the Pacific was even over, Viking G-AGOK had taken to the skies for the very first time. Trials went well and the all important order that Vickers had been waiting for finally came from B.O.A.C. who ordered an initial batch of 19 aircraft. The first revenue flight then took place on March 23rd 1946 and by August of the same year, these Vikings had been transferred to the newly formed B.E.A. Despite the hull loss of the first prototype on April 23rd 1946, the commercial success of this aircraft had already been assured as yet more orders began to pour in not only from B.E.A, but from other British companies and military concerns such as the RAF which ordered 12 of the type with 4 of these ending up with the King’s Flight.

As with many of these early airliners, a few of their number were also converted or modified and in mid-1947 Viking c/n 158 (the 58th example) became a prototype for the well received military transport version known as the Valetta which eventually went on to outnumber Viking production figures with a total of 262 being built. One year later, a jet version was also trialled. Having been equipped with two Nene turbojets, the Nene Viking as it was known, took to the air on April 6th 1948 and continued to fly in such a configuration until being converted back to Hercules power in 1954. The final development of the Viking came in 1949 with the Varsity, a slightly larger version of its progenitor which was produced primarily for the RAF and then put to use in the role of crew and air navigation trainer, although a few examples were exported abroad.

These aircraft, which had been derived from well trialled and tested war time technology, would admittedly go on to provide sterling levels of dogged reliability and service for their original owners but at the same time, the incessant march of aviation technology would also quickly render the type obsolete and by the early ’50s, the industry’s most serious players were instead looking to turboprop power which had quickly gained the well deserved reputation of being able to offer faster and much more comfortable flights, a fact that was appreciated by both passengers and crews alike. Needless to say, plenty of emerging independents were waiting in the wings to snap up this cheap, hardy and easy to maintain stock, some of which saw extensive use on a multitude of I.T. charter routes that were being operated to numerous destinations within Africa.

Sufficed to say, it didn’t take long until a number of foreign airlines also got in on the act with companies such as Condor Flugdienst, L.T.U. and Karl Hurfurtner buying up a number of Vikings for their German operations. Indeed, it was from March 1956 that Southend eventually became a focal point for most of the world’s remaining Vikings when B.K.S. bought up all of B.E.A’s remaining stock of parts and spares for more than £1/2 million. Needless to say, during the 1950s and well into the 1960s Vikings would become regular visitors to the airport, not only to avail themselves of these spares and SEN’s engineering facilities, but as operational types for SEN based airlines such as Air Safaris, Channel Airways, Continental, Crewsair, Overseas and Tradair. In fact, the Viking along with the Bristol 170 was arguably Southend’s most common visitor during this period.

By the early ’60s most of the remaining Viking operators had disappeared or had finally decided to swap out these aircraft for more modern types and it was only thanks to SEN airline Channel Airways that Viking operations make it into 1965. The very last operational Viking, the former King’s/Queen’s Flight G-APOP would make her final flight between Stansted and Southend on 30th January before being permanently wfu and bringing Viking operations worldwide to a rather sad, but inevitable end. Several Vikings persevered primarily in Holland and the UK until the early 1970s when mass scrappings saw the number of Vikings being reduced to single numbers and as is often the case, Britain was left without a single example to its name. Thankfully though, former B.E.A/Channel Airways Viking (G-AGRU) was returned from Holland and is currently being restored in the U.K by the dedicated aviation enthusiasts at Brooklands.

 

Vickers Viking Variants

490 Series

Early production type for B.E.A. (498) – Also includes the first three prototypes

610 Series

Main production variant for B.E.A. – A small number also produced for Argentina and Central African Airways

620 Series

Built primarily for the RAF and Airwork – A small number are also built for Argentina

630 Series

Initially for export with Hercules 634 engines – Later variants to B.E.A, and the RAF as Valetta C.1s

640 Series

Export variants with either Hercules 630 or 634 engines

650 Series

Designation given to the C.1 Valetta and a number of conversions undertaken on earlier series aircraft

 

Vickers Viking Specifications

(630 Series)

Number Built

163 (All Variants)

Type

Short Range Airliner

Length

65ft 2in (19.86m)

Wingspan

89ft 3in (27.20m)

Configurations

36 passengers

Cruise Speed

185kt – 212mph (341km/h)

Ceiling

25,000ft

Range

1480nm

Engines

2 x 1,690hp Bristol Hercules 634 14-Cyl Radials