During the early 1950s, Vickers-Armstrongs began consideration of a successor to their popular Viscount design.
Discussions naturally centred on the needs of British European Airways (BEA) but it soon became apparent that Trans-Canada Airlines (TCA) would also be interested in such a project. The presence of two interested customers enabled Vickers to launch the design on a private venture basis.
The BEA requirements for the design were to carry more than 100 passengers over a range of 1,000 miles with reserves at a cruising speed of 370 knots. Trans-Canada Air Lines joined with BEA in developing the specification for the Vickers Vanguard although they later called for modifications.
A low-wing four-engine layout was adopted based on the new Rolls-Royce Tyne turboprop engine. A fuselage shape known colloquially as a ‘double bubble’ cross-section was adopted to provide good space in the passenger cabin akin to that of a Boeing Stratocruiser, whilst allowing the carriage of significant under-floor cargo, this being an important consideration for both airlines.
A range of project studies were carried out before settling on the Type 950 Vanguard and two variants were envisaged. The Type 951 for BEA and the Type 952 for Trans-Canada.
In July 1956, BEA contracted for 20 Type 951.
Trans-Canada however, found that the Type 951 could not meet their freight payload requirements with a full passenger loading on their longer-range routes. They required a modified variant (known as the Type 952) which featured a maximum weight increase from 135,000 lb to 141,000 lb, accompanied by airframe strengthening and a maximum ‘coach class’ seating capacity of 139 passengers.
The Type 952 subsequently used the more powerful 5,545 ehp R-R Tyne 512 engines, rather than the 4,985 ehp Tyne 506 engines of the BEA Type 951.
The prototype Type 950 (G-AOYW) was first flown from Weybridge to nearby Wisley on 20th January 1959. The only change in configuration that arose as a result of flight testing was the introduction of a dorsal fin of increased size to replace the small fin-to-fuselage fillet initially used on prototype.
The Type 952 Vanguard entered service with Trans-Canada at the start of February 1961 which was followed one month later by the Type 951 entry into full scheduled service with BEA although the aircraft had actually been used on an ad hoc basis during the 1960 peak Christmas travel period, flying between London and Paris.
In the interim, BEA had realised that they could benefit from some of the features of the TCA Type 952 and it was therefore decided to request a new variant, the Type 953 specifically for BEA.
The Type 953 had all the structural modifications required to increase its maximum weight to 141,000 lb and was typically configured with 135 seats even though it still retained the lower powered Rolls-Royce Tyne 506 engines. Subsequently, the BEA production order was amended, resulting in the purchase of six Vanguard Type 951 and fourteen Vanguard Type 953.
A number of aircraft found their way into independent airlines with notable operators including Invicta Airlines, Air Bridge Carrier (ABC), Europe Air Services (France), Merpati Nusantara (Indonesia) and Air Trader (Sweden).
BEA still operated nine Vanguards which were modified to the ‘Merchantman’ all-cargo layout from 1969, with the first two conversions being designed and carried out by Aviation Traders Engineering Ltd (ATEL) at Southend Airport.
BEA modified the remainder at Heathrow, using kits from ATEL. This included a large forward cargo door measuring 139” by 80”. These Merchantmen continued in service with BA until late 1979 when the remaining five were sold.
Air Bridge Carriers Limited purchased several of the Merchantmen from BEA and operated them through until 1992 when it changed its business name to Hunting Cargo Airlines.
Hunting Cargo Airlines operated their last Merchantman flight on 30th September 1996 which is the last recorded flight of any Vanguard. They donated the aircraft (G-APEP) to Brooklands Museum in Weybridge in October 1996 where it can still be seen today.
Variants & Numbers
|Type 950||One only G-AOYW|
|Type 951||Six for BEA, 127 seat – 18 first class, 109 economy class|
|Type 952||23 for TCA, 141,000 lb maximum weight, 139 seats maximum|
|Type 953||14 for BEA, 141,000 lb maximum weight, typically 135 seats|
|Merchantman||Two all-cargo conversions by Aviation Traders, seven by BEA|
|Total||44, including prototype|
|Vanguard Type 952 (TCA)||Vanguard Type 953 (BEA)|
|Powerplants||Four 5,545 ehp R-R Tyne 512||Four 4,985 ehp R-R Tyne 506|
|Span||118 ft 0 in||118 ft 0 in|
|Maximum Weight||141,000 lb||141,000 lb|
|Capacity||3 crew, 2 stewards, 139 passengers||3 crew, 2 stewards, 135 passengers|
|Maximum Speed||425 mph||425 mph|
|Cruising Speed||412 mph||412 mph|
|Max Range||3,130 miles, 412 mph, 20,000 ft||3,015 miles, 412 mph, 20,000 ft|
|Range (max payload)||1,830 miles, 412 mph, 20,000 ft||2,020 miles, 412 mph, 20,000 ft|