Viscount Info & Specs

A Brief History…

Mention aircraft and Southend Airport and the Viscount will usually be the first type that comes to any seasoned, aviation enthusiast’s mind. After all, no other aircraft has come close to maintaining such a long and successful relationship with SEN which began in earnest during 1960 with the first SEN based Viscount G-APZB that joined local airline Tradair. This acquisition would thus herald in an almost uninterrupted presence until the very last airframe G-AOHL was removed by the scrap man in 2004. However, 1960 was not the first time Viscounts had visited Southend. This honour went to B.E.A. Viscount G-ANHE which first visited the airport in 1957. Also, being one of the few airports that remains open when foggy weather cloaks much of the rest of the U.K. within its shroud, SEN would also receive its fair share of Viscount diverts heading for London during the late 50s.

Developed as part of the Brabazon Committee’s proposal to provide Britain with a number of post-war civil airliners, the Viscount (or Viceroy as it was known until 1947) first took to the air during July 1948 in its 630 series guise, three of which would be built to this or very similar specifications. Ultimately, only one of these aircraft would actually enter service, while the others were used for all kinds of trials which even included the fitting of two Rolls Royce Tay turbojet engines to c/n 2. However, after a period of testing with B.E.A. the production aircraft would end up being slightly longer and was given a series of modifications, not to mention an uprated set of engines and on August 28th 1950, the first of these aircraft was rolled out as the 700 series Viscount, making its first flight on this very day.

It was the Viscount that brought the unique sound of the Rolls Royce Dart not only to the world but also to Southend, a high pitched, whistling turboprop engine which occasionally emitted a distinct growl as the aircraft that they were part of taxied around the airport, a sound that will never be forgotten by those who heard it. Even today, whenever these engines are heard passing overhead, the local enthusiast no doubt looks up hoping to see a Viscount and even when it almost always turns out to be one of the few remaining F-27s or an H.S.748, the noise alone is guaranteed to bring memories of those heady days, flowing back. Indeed, it was these engines that more or less paved the way for the Viscount’s resounding success.

The Dart met with widespread approval within the aviation industry too being as it was like nothing the airlines had ever seen before. This engine offered a smoother and much quieter flight compared to the noisy, vibration prone propliners that were in service at the time. Eventually, this became one of Vickers’ major selling points with passengers being challenged to balance a coin on its edge on a seat back table whilst the Viscount was in flight. Coupled with its large and iconic oval windows and unmatched levels of passenger comfort, Vickers had produced a winner during a time where others were still messing around with piston engines, even into the mid-50s. Thus the Dart would help the Viscount to become the best selling British airliner of all time, an honour it still retains and that is unlikely ever to be matched.

In August 1956, B.E.A. received a further upgraded type with the launch of the 800 series Viscount. The fuselage had been lengthened by 1.2m and the internal bulkheads had been repositioned to provide more internal space. The oval doors were now rectangular and a whole range of structural, electrical and mechanical modifications were made including yet again, an even more powerful set of engines. One final model would appear in the form of the 810 series Viscount, although most of these would be sold overseas. This particular range of aircraft had been produced with short sector operations in mind and entailed a good deal of further strengthening and the fitting of four of the most powerful Darts ever fitted to a Viscount which in theory, gave these aircraft an effective cruising speed of almost 320kts.

Quite naturally, with no direct competition the Viscount became rather popular in Australia, Canada and the U.S. where they were ideal for the short hops between major cities and industrial centres and as such, they would continue to fly with most of the major airlines of the period through until the mid-60s. Even in the Viscount’s home country of Britain, these aircraft would soldier on with their first owners until the early-80s and in many cases, found a second and even a third lease of life with other, independent airlines. With the exception of Heathrow (London Airport) where most of the B.E.A. (later British Airways) fleet was based, Southend would become the second busiest airport in the country where the number of aircraft and Viscount operations were concerned.

In fact over the years, around 50 individual Viscounts have been based at Southend with close to 25% of the entire production run having probably visited the airport at one time or another. Tradair and Channel Airways would operate a total of 23 during the ’60s and early ’70s while regular visitors included B.K.S., B.M.A. and B.U.A. with a number of smaller visitors (both British and foreign) venturing into Southend. Finally, from 1981 onwards, BAF would procure a further 26 of the type, a dozen of them surviving into the last decade of the 20th century. But sadly, the end for these iconic machines could not be held back forever with most being scrapped during the mid-90s, while a handful were sold overseas to various African countries where they would effectively end their working lives on trooping flights and cargo runs.

The final flight of a Viscount from Southend came on 17th June 1999, when G-OPFI left for Malta en-route to South Africa. However, one long-term resident would persist for another five years before being stripped of all useful spares for another ex-Southend Viscount (G-APIM) that had previously entered preservation and as a result, she could no longer escape the fall of the scrap man’s axe which came in April 2004. Sadly, no Viscounts are flying anywhere in the world as of 2017 although several former Channel Airways and BAF Viscounts still exist or have entered varying states of preservation both in the U.K. and overseas.

For more information on individual, Southend Viscounts, please click on the links on the main menu above.

 

Vickers Viscount Variants

From the 700 Series Viscount onwards, various combinations of Dart engines and passenger cabin configurations were offered and as a consequence, each customer was given a specific number – For example B.E.A.’s 800 Series Viscounts were given both the 802 and 806 designation. However, for the sake of brevity, only the main variants have been listed below.

630 Series

Prototype models with short 32 passenger cabin – Dart- 630/Tay – 663/Naiad – 640 NTU

2 built plus 1 partially built although c/n 3’s parts were donated to c/n 4

700 Series

First production model with a longer fuselage seating up to 63 passengers

291 built

800 Series

Second production model with a 1.2m fuselage extension seating up to 72 passengers

67 built

810 Series

Uprated and strengthened, longer range version of the 800 series aircraft – Rear lounge fitted to some aircraft – Up to 80 pax

84 built

 

Vickers Viscount Specifications

(810 series aircraft)

Number Built

445

(444 completed of all variants)

Type

Short to Medium Range Turboprop Airliner

Length

93ft 8in (28.56m)

Wingspan

85ft 6in (26.06m)

Configurations

For passenger cabins, see variants above

Standard 812 Viscount

7750kg of cargo

Cruise Speed

305kt – 350mph (563km/h)

Ceiling

28,000ft

Range

c.1,600nm

Engines

4 x 1,910shp Rolls Royce Dart 525 Turboprops

 

If you have something of a soft spot for Viscounts or like myself, a rather unhealthy obsession with them, then you can find all the information and pictures you should ever want or need on the Vickers Viscount Network – a virtual museum set up by enthusiasts for other Viscountophiles like ourselves…..

Just click on the link below to enter Viscount paradise….

www.vickersviscount.net