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RAF jets bow out of Brize Norton after five decades’ loyal service
VC-10 from 101 Squadron, based at RAF Brize Norton, completing the air-to-air refuelling of Tornado, Typhoon and Hercules
THE airmen of RAF Brize Norton have said farewell to the iconic VC-10 after 47 years of service in conflicts such as Afghanistan and the Falklands.
In a final mission, two of the Vickers VC-10 aircraft left Brize Norton at 10am on Friday and flew around the UK, past several other RAF bases.
It also staged a final mid-air refuelling with Tornado and Typhoon fighter planes.
Named affectionately as the Queen of the Skies by RAF crews, the jets have transported soldiers, prime ministers and members of the royal family.
Station Commander Grp Capt Steve Lushington said that the VC-10s marked an “incredible chapter” in British aviation history.
He said: “The VC-10 has been a workhorse. It has carried out air transport, VIP flying and pretty much everything in between.”
On board one of the final sortie flights were Sqn Ldr Tim Kemp, Capt Damien Massingham, Flt Lt Kevin Booth, Flt Lt Dave Coombs, Flt Sgt Steve Young and Flt Lt Bruce Thompson.
Flt Sgt Young, 42, from Wantage, said: “It harks back to when all-British planes were still being made. At air shows, people queue for hours to get a look at them and get very sentimental about it. They’ve got character. They may not be as smooth a ride as the modern airliners, but I’d choose it any day.”
Flt Lt Coombs, 55, was the navigator for the final flight and is now retiring himself.
He said: “I have been flying VC-10s for more than 13 years and 4,700 hours. This is my last flight in the air force after 34 years. It’s the end of an era for the aeroplane and for me.”
Margaret Thatcher was also a fan of the VC-10s and clocked up more than 1,000 hours on the planes herself.
“She liked the noise because it used to announce her arrival,” said Flt Sgt Young.
The former prime minister is said to have insisted on using the all-British aircraft and had a special curtained-off section as an office.
The aircraft still holds the record for a flight from the UK to Australia – just over 16 hours – and is second in speed only to the Concorde.
Flt Lt Booth said the send-off had been “fantastic”.
He said: “This aircraft has been a common sight over the skies of Oxfordshire since the late 60s and is genuinely loved by everybody who has had anything to do with it.
“Everyone calls it the Queen of the Skies and that seems fitting because it is a graceful aeroplane.
“It is nice to see so many ex-colleagues, ex-operators of aircraft, family and friends here to see it off.”
Grp Capt Lushington said that one of the planes would now go to Bruntingthorpe Airfield, Leicestershire, and the other to the Brooklands Museum, Surrey.
- Engines: Four RR Conway turbofans
- Thrust: 20,000lb each
- Max speed: 610mph
- Length: 48.36m
- Span: 44.55m
- Max altitude: 43,000ft
- Capacity: 124 passengers and nine crew
- 101 Squadron motto: Mens agitat molem (mind over matter)
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