1/20/1959: Maiden Flight of the Vickers Vanguard

1/20/1959: 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.

The first production Vickers Vanguard G-APEA, painted in the earlier livery of BEA. 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 – Type 951 for BEA and Type 952 for TCA, which 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.

TCA Vickers Vanguard Type 952. Photo: BAe Systems.


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 transferred to Air Bridge Carriers, later named Hunting Cargo Airlines. They were honoured to operate the last ever Vanguard flight on September 30, 1996.

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

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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