RAF to retire VC10s after 50 years
The Vickers VC10 is going out of RAF service this month after more than 50 years of crucial work around the world, replaced by the UK's largest ever military aircraft, the Voyager.
The VC10 was used wherever British forces were in action, and also to carry members of the Royal Family and politicians to foreign destinations.
The prototype of the plane, G-ARTA, made its maiden flight on June 29, 1962, and the VC10 went on to be used heavily by commercial airlines and the military.
At the time the RAF added it to its fleet, it was the heaviest and most powerful aircraft it had used and provided a new global transport capability.
The last of the planes were in service with 101 Squadron, based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, pending their retirement.
Over the last half century the VC10 has been involved in many major international crises.
It was used to bring British troops back from Aden, Yemen, in 1967 - the biggest operation of its type since the Berlin airlift.
In February 1979, RAF VC10s and C-130s flew 650 men, women and children out of Iran in four days - moving the Daily Express to comment: "RAF ... the airline you can trust."
In the Falklands War in 1982, the first task of the VC10 was to fly the islands' governor, Rex Hunt, and the 61 Marines of the Naval Party 8901 from the airport of Montevideo in neutral Uruguay.
The VC10 was soon involved in the evacuation of the seriously wounded from Montevideo. Two VC10s were painted with the international markings of the Red Cross and permitted to carry 65 wounded. The aircraft carried more than 400 casualties by this route, which involved a 24-hour flight with a refuelling stop at Ascension Island.
During the first Gulf War, VC10s flew air-to-air refuelling missions and more than 5,000 hours of supply and medical duties.
The VC10 has also been involved in operations in Afghanistan, refuelling British and US aircraft.
The first royal flight by an RAF VC10 was the journey to Australia and back by the Prince of Wales, Harold Wilson and Ted Heath in 1967 for the memorial service for the Australian premier Harold Holt, who drowned while swimming.
The flight from London to Melbourne took 21 hours, 46 minutes including two stops at Muharraq in Bahrain and Gan in the Indian Ocean. Civil aircraft took 36 hours at that time to complete the journey.
The VC10 was used for the Queen's bicentennial tour of America. On July 3, 1976, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh embarked on a tour of the USA with the first stop in Bermuda.
Prime minister Tony Blair was on board the last VC10 to complete an approach to Kai Tak airport in Hong Kong on June 29, 1997. He was attending the handover ceremonies of the British colony to China.
Politicians have had varying opinions of the VC10 - Margaret Thatcher always insisted on using the aircraft, but John Major hated its outdated air-conditioning system, preferring Concorde or a Boeing 747.
In 1998 a set of divan sofa-beds were added to a VC10 used by Mr Blair at a cost of £50,000 so the premier, his wife and aides could sleep during flights.
The VC10 was a great favourite of Mrs Thatcher. Her office on board was curtained off for extra privacy and she had her own steward to pour drinks, whiskey or mineral water, with a glass of red wine with meals.
Denis Thatcher was also often on board. He enjoyed a quiet gin and tonic and sometimes went to the back of the plane to talk to the "reptiles" - his nickname for journalists.
On August 1, 1990, Mrs Thatcher was presented with a log book to commemorate her 1,000 hours of flying on a VC10.
Freed hostages John McCarthy and Terry Waite flew home by VC10 in 1991 after years of being held in Beirut.