Vickers Type 96 Vanguard G-EBCP Lion engines
The Vickers Type 96 Vanguard as originally flown with Napier Lion I engines.
Following interest from Instone Airlines, Vickers Aviation commenced the design of a commercial airliner which made use of Vickers Virginia and Vickers Victoria components and assemblies married to a new civil passenger fuselage. The scheme soon attracted official attention with the result that Vickers were invited to tender for the design of a 23-seat commercial aircraft built to Specification 1/22.
The name Vickers Vanguard was agreed upon and the aircraft was allocated a service serial (J6924) together with a civil registration (G-EBCP).  
The Vickers Type 96 Vanguard made its first flight at Brooklands, Weybridge on 18th July 1923 and it was immediately found to be very tail heavy. This problem was quickly solved by adjusting the tailplane setting angle whereupon the aircraft’s handling was subsequently described as 'very satisfactory'.
The aircraft was initially flown with Napier Lion engines, mounted directly on the lower wing (as on the Vickers Victoria I and II prototypes).
However, during the manufacturer’s trials, the decision was taken to improve the performance by switching to the Rolls-Royce Condor III engine, which had already been trialed on Vickers Virginia I (J6856).
Vickers Type 96 103 Vanguard G-EBCP Condor engines port front
The Vickers Type 103 Vanguard G-EBCP with Rolls-Royce Condor III engines.
At the same time, dihedral was introduced on both wings as the aircraft had initially flown with it on the lower wing only. The final configuration corresponded to that of the Vickers Virginia Mk VI, fitted with Rolls-Royce Condor engines, and in this arrangement the type became the Vickers Type 103.
When trials were conducted at the Aeroplane and Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE) Martlesham Heath, it was described as a 'delightful flying machine' and ‘a fine aircraft for such a size’.
The Vickers Type 96 Vanguard was delivered to Imperial Airways in May 1928, entering service immediately on the Croydon to Paris Service, where it proved to be very reliable. It also demonstrated excellent performance when operating in and out of the relatively small, intermediate landing ground at Berck Sur Mer, on the French north coast.
One Imperial Airways pilot (Captain Jimmy Alger) commented that the Vickers Type 96 Vanguard compared favourably with the contemporary Handley Page W.8 and W.10 variants, which were in use on the same routes (alongside the Vickers Vulcan). Captain Alger flew the type for some 129 hours on these routes over a five month period, experiencing very few problems.
Vickers Type 96 103 Vanguard G-EBCP side view
A side view of the Vickers Type 103 Vanguard G-EBCP.
Having proven its performance and reliability, the aircraft was transferred on to the London to Brussels to Cologne route. It was returned to Brooklands for a modification in late 1928.
Unfortunately, the aircraft met with tragedy on 16th May 1929, when it suffered a structural failure in flight, the crew being fatally injured. The aircraft (now designated the Vickers Type 170) is believed to have been fitted with the ‘fin-less’ rudders that had proved very successful on the Vickers Virginia and Vickers Victoria. It was speculated that it was these that caused the rear fuselage to have been inadvertently over-stressed during this flight, causing the catastrophic failure of the airframe.

Variants & Numbers Built

Vickers Type 96
Vickers Vanguard with two Napier Lion engines
Vickers Type 103
Vickers Vanguard with two 650 hp Rolls-Royce Condor III engines
Vickers Type 170
Vickers Vanguard with modified rudder system
Number built
One aircraft (J6924 / G-EBCP)

Specification (Vickers Type 103 Vanguard)

Two 650 hp Rolls-Royce Condor III engines
87 ft 9 in
Maximum Weight
18,500 lb
Two crew and 20 passengers
Maximum Speed
112 mph at 3,000 ft




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