First flown in December 1957, the Lockheed L.188 Electra was a rival to the Vanguard. It faced several technical problems early on and production amounted to 172. The L.188 was primarily tailored around the needs of American Airlines. N6101A ‘Flagship New York’ was delivered in November 1958 but became the first Electra to crash when it plunged into the East River on approach to New York’s La Guardia on February 3, 1959.
An intensive sales campaign was initiated to move the Vanguard beyond its two launch customers, but it was unsuccessful. The third aircraft, Series 951 G-APEB was first flown on July 23,1959 and made an appearance at the 1959 Farnborough show before departing for tropical trials in the Sudan and South Africa, in October. It joined BEA on March 17,1961, serving until 1973 when it was broken up.
Merchantman G-APEP in her final resting place at the Brooklands Museum
At rest, ‘Superb’ reflected in a puddle on the hardstanding at Brooklands in the stark light of a February 1997 day.
TCA Series 952 CF-TKB, the second for the Canadian customer, made its first flight on July 25, 1960 going on to demonstrate at the SBAC show at Farnborough that September. It entered service on April 14, 1961.
Merchantman 953C G-APEP ‘Superb’ hard at work in Belfast, September 1996 with the freight door open. ‘Echo Papa’ was converted to freighter status at Heathrow in 1971. It was acquired by ABC in December 1979 and went on to be the last of its breed to fly.
Merchantman ‘Echo Sierra’ wearing the white with blue tail colour scheme and Hunting Cargo Airlines titles finally operated by the type, December 1996. It is currently in storage at East Midlands Airport awaiting an uncertain future.
One of the most colourful of Vanguard schemes was that worn by Sweden’s Air Trader. SE-TKI started life as TCA CF-TKU in April 1962. It was sold to Air Holdings in November 1969, becoming G-AZNG, being delivered to Air Trader on brief lease April to December 1972. It was with Merpati in Indonesia as PK-MVC briefly, before going to EAS in France as F-BVUY in November 1974. It was back with Merpati (this time as PK-MVA) and retired in 1984.
On June 1, 1964 TCA became Air Canada and the fleet was repainted. CF-TKB, fleet number ‘902’ was disposed of to Air Holdings in August 1969, becoming G-AYFN. It joined Thor Air Cargo of Iceland as TF-JES in 1971 and then to Air Trader of Sweden as SE-FTK in 1972. Back as G-AYFN, it served with Invicta from 1973 until being sold to Europe Aero Service of France as F-BXAJ in 1975 before being finally retired in 1979.
G-APEP ‘Superb’ at work on Coventry Airport’s ramp, September 20, 1996. The impressive size of the cargo door is evident. (Author)
After the last-ever flight, Captains Moore and West disembark having shown Sir Peter Masefield (at top of the airstairs) around the type he first enquired about 44 years ago.
Series 953C Merchantman G-APES ‘Swiftsure’ in the definitive Air Bridge red/black/white colour scheme applied in 1980 on a rain swept ramp at Manchester. Converted to freighter status at Heathrow in 1970 - note the outline of the cargo door. It was acquired by parent company Field Aircraft Service for ABC/Air Bridge in 1979.
The prototype Vanguard, Type 950/1 G-AOYW in ‘house’ colours. It was first flown by ‘Jock’ Bryce and Brian Trubshaw on January 20, 1959. With the brief life of the Vanguard programme, ‘Yankee Whisky’ was scrapped at Wisley in late 1964.
G-AOYW was rolled out at Brooklands/Weybridge on December 4, 1958 and started a series of ground runs on the RR Tyne engines. The personnel give scale to the ‘Super Viscount’.
The ‘double-bubble’ cross-section fuselage gave the Vanguard two large under cabin floor freight holds, offering 1,360ft3 (38.5m3) of space. The doorways (front and rear) were 5ft 6in by 3ft 10in (1.6 x 0.94m) and either freight bay could take a Tyne engine.
Series 951 G-APEA was the second Vanguard to fly, doing so on April 22, 1959. It was the first for BEA and the only one to be painted in the ‘pin-stripe’ BEA colour scheme, the remainder of the fleet helping to pioneer the new black cheatline with red BEA ‘square’ logo. With the fleet name ‘Vanguard’, G-APEA was retired and scrapped at Heathrow in 1973.
CF-TKB of TCA showing off its passenger appeal at Brooklands, the twin integral airstairs were a ‘first’ at the time. Note the fleet number ‘902’ carried both on the nose wheel door and fin.
G-APED was used in the intensive route proving programme undertaken by BEA from March 1960 and in October of that year was used in the joint BEA-Vickers-RR ‘shake-down’ flights for the Tyne. It was officially delivered to BEA on January 30, 1961 and was retired in December 1961, being finally broken up in 1973.
The flight deck of Merchantman G-APEP, September 1996.
Vickers 953C Merchantman.