Vickers Vanguard

The Vickers Vanguard was a British short/medium-range turboprop airliner introduced in 1959 by Vickers-Armstrongs, a follow-up to its successful Viscount design with considerably more internal room. The Vanguard was introduced just before the first of the large jet-powered airliners, and was largely ignored by the market. Only 44 were built, ordered by Trans-Canada Air Lines (TCA) and British European Airways (BEA).

Invicta International Airlines Vickers 952 Vanguard.jpg
Role Airliner
Manufacturer Vickers-Armstrongs
First flight 20 January 1959
Introduction 17 December 1960 with British European Airways
Retired 17 October 1996
Primary users British European Airways
Trans-Canada Air Lines, Air Canada
Number built 44
Developed from Vickers Viscount

After only about 10 years' service TCA experimentally converted one of its Vanguards to a freighter configuration, calling it the Cargoliner. This was considered successful, and in the early 1970s most were converted to freighters, those from BEA becoming the Merchantman. These freighters remained in service for many years, with the last one not retiring until 1996.

Design and developmentEdit

The aircraft was designed to a BEA requirement for a 100-seat aircraft to replace its Viscounts. The original Type 870 design was then modified when TCA expressed its interest in the design as well, and Vickers offered the updated Type 950 that filled both requirements. The main difference between the Viscount and Vanguard was the construction of the fuselage. The Vanguard started with the original Viscount fuselage, but cut it off about halfway up from the bottom, replacing the top section with a larger-diameter fuselage to give it a double bubble cross-section (similar to the Boeing Stratocruiser). The result of the larger upper portion was a roomier interior, with increased cargo capacity below the floor.[1]

With this larger, and heavier, fuselage came the need for a new engine to lift it. Rolls-Royce delivered its new Tyne design with a nominal 4,000 hp or 3,000 kW (compared to the Viscount's Rolls-Royce Dart of about 1,700 hp or 1,300 kW). This allowed for a much higher service ceiling and cruising speed. The Vanguard was one of the fastest turboprops ever and was faster than the present day Saab 2000 or de Havilland Canada Dash 8. A pilot report describes maintaining 10,000 ft altitude with three engines feathered and the port outer at maximum cruise power; weight at start of that flight was about 112,000 lb (51,000 kg).[2]

The first Type 950 prototype G-AOYW flew on 20 January 1959[3] The flight, a transfer to Wisley 3 miles away, had been planned for December but the engines were returned to Rolls-Royce for minor work. Proper flight testing was then carried out from Wisley.[4]

Operational historyEdit

Vanguard 952 of Air Canada at Toronto Airport in March 1971, with a Douglas DC-9-32 in the background

The Vanguard entered service with BEA and TCA in late 1960. BEA operated its first Vanguard schedule on 17 December from Heathrow to Paris. Following delivery of its full fleet of six V951 and 14 V953 aircraft by 30 March 1962, the type took over many of BEA's busier European and UK trunk routes. The aircraft received names of famous Royal Navy warships; the first (registered G-APEA) was named "Vanguard", however by the time that the aircraft were delivered, BEA had adopted its new "red square" livery, which saw the end of naming and none of the Vanguards actually carried a name. Initial seating was 18 first-class at the rear and 108 tourist, but this was changed to 139 all-tourist, in which configuration, the Vanguard had very low operating costs per seat/mile. On flights up to 300 miles (480 km), such as from London to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, the type could match the block times of the pure jets which were being introduced in the early 1960s. The remaining BEA fleet passed to British Airways (BA) on 1 April 1974 and the last BA passenger flight with the type was on 16 June 1974.[5]

TCA initiated Vanguard schedules on 1 February 1961 with two flights from Toronto and Montreal via intermediate stops to Vancouver. The fleet was also used on services from Toronto and Montreal to New York and Nassau, Bahamas.[5]

Cargo operationsEdit

In 1966, Air Canada removed all the seats from one of its aircraft and refitted for pure cargo work, in which role it could carry 42,000 lb (19,050 kg) of freight. Known by the airline as the "Cargoliner," it was the only such conversion, but survived to be the last Canadian Vanguard to be retired in December 1972.[6]

BEA operated nine Vanguards modified to the V953C "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. A large forward cargo door measuring 139 by 80 inches (350 by 200 cm) was incorporated. The Merchantmen continued in service with BA until late 1979 when the remaining five were sold.[5]

Air Bridge Carriers purchased several of the Merchantmen and operated them until 1992, when it changed its name to Hunting Cargo Airlines. Hunting Cargo operated its last V953C flight on 30 September 1996 and donated the aircraft, registered G-APEP, to Brooklands Museum on 17 October 1996.[7]

Accidents and incidentsEdit


Type 950
Prototype, one built and two fuselages were used as static test airframes.
Type 951
BEA, 20 ordered, six delivered. All in 127-seat, mixed class configuration (18 first and 109 economy).
Type 952
TCA, more powerful engine and stronger fuselage and wing for higher weights, 23 delivered.
Type 953
BEA, Same engines as 951, but the stronger airframe of the 952. Mostly operated as 135-seater, all economy, but some configured as 127 mixed class the same as 951. A total of 14 delivered replacing an order for 951s.
Type 953C Merchantman
Nine Cargo conversions from Type 953.


These airlines operated the Vickers Vanguard:[13]

♠ original operators

A Merpati Nusantara Vickers Vanguard 953 in 1977
United Kingdom
Invicta International Vanguard G-AZRE at Pisa Airport in 1974.

Aircraft on displayEdit

Vickers Vanguard 953C Merchantman Superb at Brooklands Museum, Weybridge.
  • Type 953C Merchantman Superb (formerly registered G-APEP) at the Brooklands Museum, Surrey, England. The only intact airframe in existence.[14]
  • Type 953C Merchantman Swiftsure (formerly registered G-APES) on static display at East Midlands Aeropark (nose section only)

Specifications (Type 952)Edit

Data from Vickers Aircraft since 1908[15]

General characteristics

  • Crew: 3
  • Capacity: 139 passengers
  • Length: 122 ft 10 12 in (37.452 m)
  • Wingspan: 118 ft 0 in (35.97 m)
  • Height: 34 ft 11 in (10.64 m)
  • Wing area: 1,527 sq ft (141.9 m2)
  • Empty weight: 85,000 lb (38,555 kg)
  • Gross weight: 141,000 lb (63,957 kg)
  • Powerplant: 4 × Rolls-Royce Tyne RTy.11 Mk 512 turboprops, 5,545 shp (4,135 kW) each (eshp)


  • Cruise speed: 422 mph (679 km/h, 367 kn) at 15,000 ft (4,600 m) (high speed cruise)[16]
  • Range: 1,830 mi (2,950 km, 1,590 nmi) with maximum payload

See alsoEdit

Related development

Aircraft of comparable role, configuration, and era



  1. ^ Swanborough 1962, p. 99.
  2. ^ Aviation Week 14 September 1959, pp. 57, 59.
  3. ^ Wright Air International April 1997, p. 242.
  4. ^ "Vanguard Maiden Flight." Flight, 30 January 1959, p. 150.
  5. ^ a b c Davis 1981, pp. 87–88.
  6. ^ Davis 1981, p. 88.
  7. ^ Wright Air International April 1994, pp. 240, 245.
  8. ^ "Accident description: Vickers Vanguard G-APEE, 27 October 1965." Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved: 20 October 2010.
  9. ^ "Accident description: Vickers Vanguard G-APEC (2 October 1971)", Aviation Safety Network; retrieved 20 October 2010.
  10. ^ "Accident description: Vickers Vanguard G-AXOP (10 April 1973)" Aviation Safety Network; retrieved 20 October 2010.
  11. ^ "Accident description: Vickers Vanguard F-GEJF, 29 January 1988." Aviation Safety Network; retrieved 20 October 2010.
  12. ^ "Accident description: Vickers Vanguard F-GEJE, 6 February 1989." Aviation Safety Network; retrieved 20 October 2010.
  13. ^ "Database: Vickers Vanguard". Aeroplane, January 2012, pp. 169-183; ISSN 0143-7240.
  14. ^ "Vickers Merchantman (Vanguard) 1969." Brooklands Museum. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
  15. ^ Andrews & Morgan 1988, p. 461.
  16. ^ Green 1967, pp. 62–63.


External linksEdit