Arguably Britain’s most successful airliner, the Vickers Viscount heralded turboprop air travel in a world where airlines were still stuck in the piston era.
Designed in the 1940s, it first flew in July 1948, and entered service in April 1953 with British European Airways.
The turboprop at this stage had not been used on an airliner, and arrived at the same time as Britain was also developing the jet engine for air travel, used in the de Havilland Comet.
The Viscount was designed to offer short haul and regional air travel in comfort and style, with reduced noise and vibrations compared to previous airliners. This was a major attraction to airlines who wanted to offer their passengers something a little bit more than their competitors.
Vickers Viscount Variants
The prototype Viscount was the 600 model. It was smaller than the production variant. One of these prototypes flew with jet engines as a proposed future development!
The Type 700 was the first production variant. It is identifiable by having circular passenger doors.
The Type 800 was the final variant of the Viscount. It was 1.2m longer than the 700, with greater passenger capacity and range. It had square passenger doors.
British Midland and the Viscount
British Midland Airways was established in 1938 as Air Schools Limited.
It later changed its name to Derby Airways in 1959 and began offering flights from airports like Derby, Wolverhampton and Birmingham to destinations in the UK and Europe.
On 1 October 1964 the airline changed its name to British Midland Airways (BMA) when it bought Mercury Airlines.
It was an airline familiar to many through its growth into one of the major air carriers in Britain. Its fleet of jet and turboprop aircraft would be seen all over Europe and the UK as a major rival to British Airways, particularly at its London Heathrow hub.
British Midland introduced the Vickers Viscount in January 1967 and would have a long relationship with the type right until the last example was retired in 1988.
The Viscount was acquired to help the airline on its regional services, particularly on domestic routes in the UK. They would continue to operate alongside more modern jet types to the end.
In all, British Midland operated 29 different Viscount aircraft – both 700 and 800 variants. They flew alongside other turboprop types like the Handley Page Herald, and the Fokker F27.
Later, as the airline grew, more modern turboprops like the BAe ATP, and jet types like the Douglas DC-9 and Boeing 737 took over the services of the Viscount.
British Midland Viscount Fleet List
Here’s a list of every Vickers Viscount British Midland operated:
- G-AOCB, Viscount 755D (cn 92), 1969-1970
- G-AOCC, Viscount 755D (cn 93), 1969-1970
- G-AODG, Viscount 736 (cn 77), 1967-1969 (written off)
- G-APND, Viscount 831 (cn 402), 1969-1973
- G-APNE, Viscount 831 (cn 403), 1967-1972
- G-APPX, Viscount 702 (cn 73), 1969
- G-APTD, Viscount 833 (cn 426), 1969
- G-ARIR, Viscount 708 (cn 36), 1977
- G-ASED, Viscount 831 (cn 419), 1967-1972
- G-AVJA, Viscount 815 (cn 336), 1967-1969 (written off)
- G-AVJB, Viscount 815 (cn 375), 1967-1976
- G-AVNJ, Viscount 812 (cn 361), 1969
- G-AWCV, Viscount 760D (cn 186), 1968-1970
- G-AWGV, Viscount 745D (cn 116), 1968-1970
- G-AWXI, Viscount 814 (cn 339), 1969-1970 (written off)
- 4X-AVA / G-AYOX, Viscount 814 (cn 370), 1978-1986
- G-AZLP, Viscount 813 (cn 346), 1972-1986
- G-AZLR, Viscount 813 (cn 347), 1972-1982 (used as trainer till 1992)
- G-AZLS, Viscount 813 (cn 348), 1972-1986
- G-AZLT / G-BMAT, Viscount 813 (cn 349), 1972-1986
- G-AZNA, Viscount 813 (cn 350), 1972-1988 (briefly registered G-AZLU)
- G-AZNB, Viscount 813 (cn 351), 1972-1986 (briefly registered G-AZLV)
- G-AZNC, Viscount 813 (cn 352), 1972-1986 (briefly registered G-AZLW)
- G-BAPD, Viscount 814 (cn 340), 1973-1981
- G-BAPE, Viscount 814 (cn 341), 1973-1980
- G-BAPF, Viscount 814 (cn 338), 1973-1987
- G-BAPG, Viscount 814 (cn 344), 1973-1981; 1988
- G-BCZR, Viscount 838 (cn 446), 1976-77
- 3D-ACM / G-BFZL, Viscount 816 (cn 435), 1978-1985; 1988
Interestingly, British Midland didn’t operate any Viscount aircraft from new. All were acquired second hand from other carriers, and some only operated for a short time on lease.
British Midland Viscount Liveries
During the period of time in which British Midland flew Vickers Viscount aircraft, the airline went through a number of liveries, as seen here.
The Viscount aircraft were painted in the livery of the time, depending on the period in which they flew for the airline.
Only one Viscount flew in the later ‘Diamond’ British Midland livery from the late 1980s. This was G-AZNA.
As many of the Viscount fleet were leased in to operate for shorter period, it was normal to see them flying in the liveries of their owner or previous airlines, with blanked out logos and British Midland titles.
On 20 February 1969, Viscount G-AODG suffered a heavy landing in snow and fog at East Midlands Airport, resulting in the landing gear collapsing and the fuselage splitting in two. There were no injuries, but the aircraft was written off.
A month later, on 20 March 1969, Viscount G-AVJA was lost on takeoff from Manchester Airport. This was a training flight with four crew and two cabin attendants on board. The aircraft rolled and crashed into the ground not long after lifting into the air after engine number four was feathered, causing a loss of control. Only one person survived.
British Midland Viscount Survivors
Various Viscount aircraft which were flown by British Midland Airways survive in different conditions around the world. These are the known Viscount survivors:
G-APNE (cn 403), survives as a forward fuselage at Aircraft Restoration & Marketing (ARM), Tucson, AZ, USA
G-AWXI (cn 339), survives as a cockpit submerged in a lake at the National Dive Centre, Stoney Cove, Leicestershire, UK (a hard one to see!).
G-AZLP (cn 346), survives as a forward fuselage at the Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, UK. This aircraft was previously used as a training airframe and then passed around a few museums. It is now back at the place it was built!
G-AZLS (cn 348), survives as a fuselage on the fire training ground at Teesside International Airport, Darlington, UK.
G-AZNA (cn 350), survives mounted on poles outside a nightclub at Waarschoot, Belgium, near Ghent.
G-BCZR (cn 446), survives as the Flying Pot Restaurant at Chegutu, Zimbabwe.
G-BFZL (cn 435), survives at Bondo Airstrip in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Thanks to the Vickers Viscount Network for this information.
Sadly there are no Vickers Viscounts still flying, with the last examples in Africa being grounded in the late 1990s.
Did you ever fly on a British Midland Viscount? Let us know in the comments below!
Find out more about the Vickers Viscount and its different variants in Flying Firsts – a month-by-month guides to airliner first flights, with histories, facts, statistics and colour photographs of all airliner types and variants. It’s an amazing airliner reference book for the aviation enthusiast!