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VC10: Icon of the Skies (Hardback)

BOAC, Boeing and a Jet Age Battle


By Lance Cole
Imprint: Pen & Sword Aviation
Pages: 224
ISBN: 9781473875326
Published: 2nd March 2017



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Other books have charted the VC10 in airline life, but this book blends that story with a well-researched tale of corporate and political power play. It asks; just what lay behind the sales failure of the VC1O?

Politics played an important part of course, as did BOACs tactics, and a who dunnit cast of politico-corporate events and machinations at the highest level of society during the dying days of Empire in 1960s Britain. Key players in the story, from Tony Benn to famous test pilot Brian Trubshaw (Concorde), are cited and quoted.

The VC10 was the nations biggest jet airliner of its age and regarded as the worlds best looking airliner. It was safe, fast, and designed to take off from short runways in Africa and Asia, at the request of its main operator BOAC - the airline that would later go on to become todays British Airways.

The VC10 and the larger Super VC10 were beloved by pilots and passengers alike and became icons of the 1960s. They were hugely popular all over the world; East African Airlines made its name with Super VC10s, and so too did Freddie Laker with his famed VC10 fleet.

Yet the VC10 was eclipsed by Boeings 707 which sold by the hundreds, despite the fact that the 707 was less capable and could not initially operate from the runways of the Commonwealth and old British Empire routes, as the VC10 undoubtedly could.

The men of the Vickers Company who created the VC10 would later go on to engineer Concorde and, of course, the rest is history. But the era of the VC10 was pivotal and, by exploring this historical period in depth and highlighting all the various impediments that stood in the way of success for the VC10, Lance Cole adds an important layer to our understanding of twentieth century history.

An interesting breakthrough on the aeronautical world and the British society of the 1950s and '60s,

JP4, November 2017 - reviewed by Marco de Montis

This is an enthusiast's book written by an enthusiast - albeit a well-informed and diligent researcher.The technical evolution of the VC10 is superbly detailed and full of insight.

Aerospace October 2017

An enjoyable and interesting book that gives a clear picture of the British air transport world since ‘20s to ‘60s.

Click here to read the full review

Freelancer, Marco de Montis (review via Amazon)

I enjoyed this book very much, it is an entertaining and stimulating read – not just for VC10 enthusiasts but also for anyone interested in the history of aircraft manufacturing and airline operation in Britain.

Ulster Airmail magazine – reviewed by Guy Warner

This well-written and readable book tells two parallel and frequently-intertwined stories. One concerns the design and development of an aircraft; the other, the machinations, confusions and incompetency’s which repeatedly altered, stalled and frustrated the development of that particular machine. The author well-summarises the situation when he states that ‘This is the story of not just an airliner, but also the airline industry, an airline and the nation and society it served’.

NZ Crown Mines

British flag carrier BOAC, later BA, effectively and deliberately sabotaged the commercial success of the VC10 because it
wanted to buy Boeing airliners. The author has provided an excellent account of the political battles and the commercial skulduggery, the
impressive service of the VC10s with those airlines that had the wisdom to buy it, and its outstanding service as a transport and tanker with the RAF. Much Recommended.

Read the full review here.


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.

Read the full review here.

Airport Spotting Blog

Enjoyable and informative.

Lance Cole’s latest book tells the story of the VC10. An aircraft that had it all, speed, power, comfort for its passengers and stunning good looks. An aircraft that did everything that was asked of it and more. So then, just why when compared to its main rival the Boeing 707 did it sell in such small numbers? The answer simply put was that both the aircraft, and the talented, dedicated men who worked on it where betrayed by men of power. But I am not qualified to tell that story, Lance Cole is and I believe he has. Not only told the story, but told it in a way that is both engaging, readable and thoroughly enjoyable. The text is complimented with a good selection of photographs and diagrams. If your interest in aviation extends to just how far the decisions of corporate power, and inept politicians can reach, then I can’t recommend this book enough.

Anthony Hart

About Lance Cole

Lance Cole (48) has been a journalist and author for over 25 years. He was the 1983 Sir William Lyons Scholar and has written features and news items for all the major automotive and aviation titles. Syndicated worldwide, he has also been a columnist with The Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The South China Post, and numerous imprints. He is a regular broadcaster – including with BBC Radio 4. He is the author of 8 books - notably Vickers VC10 with a Foreword by Brian Trubshaw, and Heavies – voted by Alan de Botton as one of his favourite books. Lance is well known for his regular opinions in Flight International magazine. He is a glider pilot and trained designer.

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