And Then There Were Three...

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Earlier today, another one of the U.K. Royal Air Force’s fleet of Vickers VC10 air-to-air refueling tankers ended its operational service.

The retirement of aircraft XR808 also known to crews as “Bob” on July 29 leaves just three of the elegant British-built airliners left in service. 

Tony Osborne - AW&ST

Today’s flight was also significant as it heralded the last flight of an original Type 1101 VC10. The remaining three RAF VC10s are conversions of the Standard and Super VC10 variants.

The fleet, due to retire this September will mark the end of a long era for the RAF which has been flying the aircraft since late 1966. The aircraft will be replaced by the fleet of Airtanker-operated Airbus A330 Voyager multi-role tanker transports which are currently being delivered. 

While the A330 is significantly more capable than their 1960s predecessor, it is fair to say that the modern Airbus doesn’t quite have the presence of the VC10. The Vickers design has always been more than capable of making its presence felt with the scream of its four Rolls-Royce Conway engines and an inevitable trail of black smoke on landing and departure.

With an impressive 43,865 hours on the clock, XR808 was flown from its home at RAF Brize Norton where it served with 101 Sqn and was taken to the former USAF bomber base at Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire. It had been earmarked for preservation at the RAF Museum in Cosford, but now its future is less clear.

The VC10 made its last public airshow appearance at the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford on 20-21 July, but a retirement ceremony is planned at RAF Brize Norton, home of the VC10 fleet, during September.

The RAF has flown 28 VC10s in several different configurations. Once all the VC10s have gone, 101 Sqn will become the second squadron to form on the Voyager.

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