The VC10 aircraft has been used by the RAF since 1966, initially as long range transport, and since 1982 as an air-to-air refuelling aircraft, supporting fast-jets in UK operations and around the world. The VC10 story goes back to when the Vickers-built aircraft, designed as a long-haul jetliner, flew for the first time on June 29, 1962. To mark this 50th anniversary, and also to celebrate the 95th anniversary of 101 Squadron who operate the aircraft from RAF Brize Norton, a VC10 (aircraft XR808) has been given a special paint-job which was proudly on display at the Royal International Air Tattoo.
The VC10 continues to trail-blaze though, and recently the first flight-cleared component to be produced using Additive Layer Manufacturing was installed on the aircraft. The process, which in essence is 3-Dimensional 'printing', proved quicker and cheaper than traditional manufacturing techniques.
An obsolescence issue had arisen with a system used to communicate with the air crew. A casing from an off-the-shelf product that was the right size and shape, but not of a material that met exacting safety standards, was laser scanned. This provided manufacturing data that allowed the object to be ‘printed’ using a material that met the required fire, smoke and toxicity requirements.
The resulting manufactured part has been installed on XR808 and has been cleared for flight. This modification, using Additive Layer Manufacturing, is now planned for the other VC10 aircraft in the fleet. So after 50 years of flight, the VC10 is still achieving aviation firsts and helping VC10 achieve the highest standards of safety and care.
BAE Systems provides support to the VC10 fleet, and this will continue until Voyager, the military derivative of the Airbus A330, becomes able to provide air-to-air refueling for the RAF next year.