Today in Aviation: Maiden Flight of the Vickers Vanguard
Today in Aviation

Today in Aviation: Maiden Flight of the Vickers Vanguard

DALLAS – Today in Aviation, the British built Vickers Vanguard took to the skies for the first time in 1959. G-AOYW made a short flight from Weybridge to nearby Wisley, Surrey. The Vanguard was the larger and longer-range successor to the popular Vickers Viscount.

Discussions with British European Airways (BEA) over a successor to the Viscount began in 1953. This was the same year as the latter entered service. BEA required an aircraft that would carry 100+ passengers over a range of 1,000 miles at a cruising speed of 370 knots. Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) also showed an interest in the new airliner, albeit with slightly different requirements.

TCA would join forces with BEA to develop the Vanguard, putting forward its own specifications for the aircraft. (Photo: BAe Systems)

A Tale of Two Aircraft


With two interested parties, Vickers was able to launch the Vanguard formally. Two types would be built to suit the launch customers’ individual specifications. The Type 951 for BEA and Type 952 for TCA had higher seating and cargo capacity. BEA ordered 20 in July 1956, and TCA ordered 20 in January 1957.

Trans-Canada Air Lines would place the Vanguard into service in February 1961, beating BEA by a month. Indeed, TCA’s Type 952’s additional features soon caught the attention of BEA, who approached Vickers to ask for a new variant. This was known as the Type 953, and BEA would change its order with six Type 951s and fourteen Type 953s delivered.

Nine BEA Vanguard Type 953s were converted to ‘Merchantman’ for freight use. Pictured here is G-AEPI. (Photo: BAe Systems)

Retirement


BEA went on to phase out the Vanguard after its merger with BOAC to form British Airways (BA) in 1972. However, the type would remain in service with the carrier until 1979 as a freighter variant dubbed the ‘Merchantman.’

These were then transferred to Air Bridge Carriers, later renamed Hunting Cargo Airlines. They had the honor of operating the last ever Vanguard flight on September 30, 1996. The aircraft, G-APEP, was then donated to the Brooklands Museum, Weybridge.


Featured image: G-AOYW taxiing out on a wet morning for its maiden flight. (Photo: BAe Systems)

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Writer, aviation fanatic, plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.
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