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VC10 Icon of the Skies Book Review

by Matt Falcus
VC10 Lance Cole

VC10 Lance Cole

Lance Cole is a well-known author of transport and military books, covering subjects as diverse as the Supermarine Spitfire and SAAB Cars. In his latest undertaking, for Pen & Sword Books, he is tackling one of the true icons of British engineering, and indeed of the skies – the Vickers VC10.

I was really happy to have received a copy of this book to review, having never flown on a VC10 yet spending a lot of time watching them come and go at airfields like Brize Norton. I’ve even been inside a few at museums such as Brooklands and Duxford. Something about the shape and elegance of the aircraft seems to promote the idea of flying being an experience and not a bus journey.


By Steve Fitzgerald [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

VC10 Icon of the Skies – BOAC, Boeing and a Jet Age Battle (ISBN 978-1473875323) is a hardcover title which is more of a personal account of the story of this 1960s airliner, and less of a technical manual.

Beginning with the process leading Vickers and the British aviation industry to the development of the VC10, via earlier projects such as the de Havilland Comet, Bristol Britannia, and the failed V1000/VC7 which was aiming to set the world alight before the Douglas DC-8 and Boeing 707 dominated the world of air travel.

Lance Cole does not hold back in his infuriation over this failure by the British Government and BOAC to realise the potential at their fingertips, instead choosing to order American and be done with it.

In a roundabout way (Cole even admits “I am sometimes accused of being too wordy or too detailed”) the full story of the VC10s development and operational history is told here, looking at how it came about, its service with BOAC, the Royal Air Force and other operators, and the many factors which limited its success and sales compared to other aircraft of the era.

Technical details, particularly around the design, development and operation of the aircraft, are covered. Cole even puts paid to the myth that Ilyushin copied the VC-10 in their IL-62 aircraft.

He summarises his book with these words: “If you never travelled in the brilliant VC10 or Super VC10, or if you never piloted one, you do not know what you missed. It’s as simple as that. It was as superb as that.”




This is a really interesting book and should be on the bookshelf of any civil aviation fan – particularly those interested in early jet development, or British aviation history. It taught me a lot about the VC10 and the politics surrounding the early years of jet aircraft development.


VC10 Icon of the Skies – BOAC, Boeing and a Jet Age Battle is out now from Pen & Sword [https://www.pen-and-sword.co.uk/], RRP £25.00.


It’s also available from Amazon [click here


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1 comment

Vickers VC10s: Where Are They Now? - Airport Spotting Blog April 22, 2017 - 11:39 am

[…] You can read my review of the book here http://www.airportspotting.com/vc10-icon-skies-book-review/ […]


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