Before the Boeing 747, there was another queen that ruled the skies – arguably the most elegant airliner to have ever been created. Of course, this is none other than the Vickers-Armstrong’s VC10. The VC10 first took flight in June of 1962, later entering service as a commercial airliner for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) in 1964. This aircraft was designed with long distance routes in mind. With the ability to perform on short runways, in hot temperatures, and at high altitudes, this queen was fit for just about any situation you threw at her. The VC10 held the record for the fastest Atlantic crossing by a subsonic airliner for 50+ years, which was only recently beaten by a British Airways Boeing 777. Despite her elegance and perfection, the VC10 was not deemed as economical as her counterpart the Boeing 707, which sold 1000 units – with the VC10 only selling 54.
With not many VC10’s existing today I was very fortunate to be in the presence of one earlier this year when I traveled to the Royal Air Force Museum in Cosford. There sits Type 1180 C1K XR808, also known as “Bob.” While I stood with my camera in awe, little did I know that later I would be given the opportunity to review this great aircraft in my hobby of flight simulation. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the VC10 Type 1101 by JustFlight.
I want to start by taking you around the flight model which is supplied with 10 stunning liveries that will take you through the history of this aircraft’s commercial service. Sometime next year, more liveries will be released – geared towards the tanker used by the Royal Air Force. Just Flight has also provided a PSD paint kit allowing you to create your own liveries. The included liveries are:
British Airways G-ARVM (circa 1976)
British Airways G-ARVM (red tail)
BOAC G-ARVF (circa 1964)
BOAC G-ARVC (circa 1966)
BOAC G-ARVC (circa 1974)
Gulf Air A40-VI
Gulf Air A40-VK
Just Flight house livery
Nigeria Airways 5N-ABD
Government of the United Arab Emirates G-ARVF
Today I will be using the BOAC G-ARVF livery from 1964. From afar the aircraft model looks accurate in every way and just as impressive as it looks in real life. I moved in a little closer to perform the walk around and that’s when things really come to life. As I inspect around the landing gear undercarriage and tires I was astounded by the detail put into this. I believe this to be one of the most realistic undercarriages/landing gears that I have seen on a flight sim aircraft. Having parts on the aircraft modeled to this quality motivates you to get out and look around the exterior of the plane before flights. I continued on to the flaps which also showed their little blemishes when extended. Next, I moved on to the rear mounted Rolls Royce Conway engines which were placed at the rear to reduce noise in the cabin. They look great all around from the front, back, and underside which left me with even more anticipation to get them started. For the last check I re-entered the cockpit to turn on the windshield wipers. To my pleasant surprise, they operate on the outside of the aircraft and not just the inside.
With the walk around complete, it was time to begin boarding the plane for our flight to Amsterdam. This aircraft comes with its own ground crew featuring two air stairs, and baggage carts. This can be activated by the ground crew jack located on the rear bulkhead panel or using the Add-ons tab in Prepar3D/FSX. The ground equipment has been modeled with the same attention to detail as the rest of the plane making it worth deploying while I begin to perform the cockpit preparation.
Before I get into the cockpit, I want to explore the night lighting. The lighting on the outside of the aircraft looks great! Unfortunately I cannot say the same for the inside. The lighting only appears when it gets to a certain level of darkness outside. There is no gradual effect meaning it just seems to suddenly show up – much like the outside lighting around airports and towns. When comparing the cockpit lighting to the real aircraft lighting, there is no comparison. I would like to see this improved upon as doing night flights would look fantastic with the lighting as on the right.
Now that it’s time to begin working in the flight deck, I want to comment on the manual that JustFlight provided. I found the manual to be very helpful, coming complete with clear step by step instructions and photos that show you where everything is located. For the most part, pictures are a rarity with these manuals. They really help in identifying the location of everything you need to manipulate. The manual is also written to pair up with the tutorials that are provided. To access these tutorials you will find them when you load the flight plan or scenario. But you can always load up your own flight and follow along with the instructions just as easily.
As I entered the cockpit right away there was much to see. The VC10 is an aircraft about teamwork, therefore aside from the normal flight deck there is a near fully operational flight engineer station, and a navigation station to which only the ADF radios are functional at the moment. Crews often consisted of 3-4 depending on the flight. As I started to explore around I noticed that the textures look nice and accurate. In between these areas you will notice stains on the floor – presumably coffee from one of the many long hauls. As I sat down in the flight engineer seat, I prepared to turn the batteries on. Upon flicking the switches I heard the aircraft instantly power up, but it felt like something was missing. I moved onto the generators and hydraulics, only to notice none of the switches on this aircraft have sound as you flick them. This is currently being worked on by the developer, so expect them to work soon.
I moved along to set up the avionics for departure. Our cruising altitude was 23,000 feet so I set the altimeter to reflect that. Next, I set the course and heading. Winds are out of 260 so we planned to be departing runway 27 out of Heathrow. Lastly, I calculated my v-speeds, and went to set them…but the 4 bugs seem to be missing on the airspeed indicator. Without a first officer to call out the speeds, and no bugs, I had to remember them on my own. That’s not really too much of an issue, but it certainly helps having them marked on the ASI as you glance back and forth at the speed while traveling upwards of 130 knots down the runway or on final. This has been reported, and they plan on adding the bugs in a future update.
With the cockpit preparations completed, I moved back to the flight engineer position and prepared to start the engines. In this aircraft, you start the no. 3 engine first, as it provides both electrical and hydraulic power to the aircraft. I turned the no. 3 fuel booster pumps on, HP lever forward and finally the ignition for no. 3. I slowly started to hear the Rolls Royce Conway engine wind up and the gauges come to life. After 3, the nos. 4, 1, and 2 engines follow. Having never actually heard the VC10 engines running at idle in real life, I resorted to YouTube videos as a comparison. With all 4 engines started I am pleased with the sound that I’m hearing both inside and out.
I completed the engine start checklist, and then it was time to taxi over to the runway. I checked the flight controls, turned on the lights, released the parking brake, and slowly advanced the throttles forward. It takes quite a bit of movement on the throttles to get the plane moving. I actually like this because it gives you a greater range of motion to control your speed for taxi. As the engines began to roar we slowly started moving forward, and away from the east maintenance hangers. This aircraft is very easy to taxi as it’s forgiving with the throttle and rudder inputs. Not long after leaving the hangars I approach 27 and hold short to make the final preparations.
As I’m cleared for takeoff, I began to line up on the runway. We’re to perform a full power takeoff today to really hear the power of the engines. I called out “my throttles” and begin to advance the power to full. Once at full power, the pitch of the engine sound changes from a gradual roar to a deeper sound. This also takes place on the real aircraft. Have a listen for yourself here.
80 knots, continuing… Without the v-speed bugs, I tried to eyeball my V1 and rotate speed on the ASI. I gently began to pull back on the yoke and the plane responds in the same gentle manner. The gear came up, and I began to trim the nose down a little bit. I wanted to hand fly for a little while to get a feel for the flight mechanics. We had to make a 180 to join our planned route, so this was a good time to practice. Much like the throttle, it takes more pressure to move into a turn. It definitely gives you a sense that the aircraft is big and heavy.
I completed the turn with ease and began engaging the autopilot. The auto flight system in this aircraft is very sophisticated, much like in real life. It will follow any flight plan you have loaded into the flight planner via the NAV switch. Of course you can also fly by heading or navigate from VOR to VOR. The plane is also equipped with an auto throttle featuring an IAS and MACH mode which both work nicely at maintaining a steady speed. For now, I engaged the NAV, IAS, and ALT. The plane right away turned and lined up on my flight plan while climbing out at 1800 ft. Shortly, I reached my cruise altitude of 23,000 feet, and the aircraft automatically leveled out without any further help. It’s now time to sit back and let the VC10 carry us through the skies.
As time passes, I approach my calculated TOD. I wanted to descend to 7000 ft to start my approach into Amsterdam. When I went to turn the knob on the encoding altimeter, I noticed that it would no longer turn when using the mouse scroll wheel. I discovered the only way that I could get the number to go down was to right click quickly, immediately followed by left clicking quickly. For some reason that would slowly drop the number but it was still difficult to do. I ran into this problem on every test flight that I did. Once I got the altitude on the altimeter down to around 3000 it started to work with the mouse wheel again.
Upon reaching 7000 feet I begin preparing for the approach. The VC10 was one of the first airliners certified for automatic landings in low visibility. On this day, the visibility in Amsterdam was fairly low so that made for some great weather to try out an ILS approach in the aircraft. As I flew through 3000 feet, I slowed to 200 knots and moved the autopilot mode selector from LOC VOR to GS AUTO. This puts the autopilot into the approach hold mode. Soon you will see the glideslope deviation needle move which lets you know the glideslope is approaching. I then slowed to 160 knots and the aircraft began flying the descent on the glideslope.
Passing 1000 feet, I prepared to disengage the autopilot and throttle. After disengaging, the plane remained steady in the final few hundred feet of the approach. I called out 50, 40, 30… and began to flare as I cross the touchdown markers. It took a good amount of input to get the nose up but I soon touched down firmly. I really like the thud you hear as the wheels touch the runway. It sounds very close to the familiar sound of a real life landing when flying commercial. I deployed the reverse thrust and spoilers, and as the plane slows down, I exit the taxiway on my left while applying a little toe brake. The aircraft handled everything beautifully upon landing.