The Viscount was developed in response to the Brabazon Committee Type IIb specification in parallel with another Vickers offering, the Viking. It was originally to be called the Viceroy, but Indian independence in 1947 forced a re-think and the name Viscount was selected. Two project had a slow start, with British European Airways (BEA), concerned about the economics associated with four turbine engines, ordering the Airspeed Ambassador instead. Vickers’ fortunes turned shortly afterwards, as the Ambassador began to suffer from developmental delays. The arrival of a more powerful Dart engine allowed Vickers to increase the Viscount’s cabin size and payload, attracting BEA’s interest at last. On 29 July 1950 a prototype Viscount with a special certificate of airworthiness undertook a flight between Northolt and Le Bourget, becoming the first turbine powered airliner to carry fare-paying passengers. Thereafter orders came in thick and fast, with Viscounts being sold not only to BEA but also to Air France, Aer Lingus, Trans Australia Airlines, Trans-Canada Air Lines, British West Indian Airways, Iraqi Airways, the Indian Air Force, Royal Dutch Airlines and Central African Airways before, in 1954, Vickers secured a major coup with an order for 60 Viscounts from Capital Airlines of Washington, DC. By this time, a second production line had been set up to cope with the demand. Ultimately 443 Viscounts were sold, of which 147 went to North American operators. Today, there are no active Viscounts – the last few were operational in the Democratic Republic of Congo until the late-2000s – but a healthy number have been saved for static display.
www.vickersviscount.net contains everything you ever wanted to know about the Viscount, and includes detailed histories for every one built. It cannot be recommended highly enough. Thanks to this site, we have discovered that we may have been a little hasty in writing out a number of Viscounts from the print editions of Survivors, as numbers have gone up from 41 in 2017 to 46.
First flight: 16 Jul 48 (c/n 1, G-AHRF)
Production: 445 in the UK, made up of 166 at Weybridge and 279 at Hurn
First delivery: 3 Jan 53, to British European Airways (c/n 4, G-ALWE)
Last delivery: 16 Apr 64, to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (c/n 466, B-412)
Variants: Viscount 630 - prototype with seating for up to 32 passengers, powered by 4 Rolls-Royce R.Da1 Mk.502 turboprops (2 built);
Viscount 700 - initial production version powered by R.Da.3 Dart Mk.506s, featuring stretched fuselage, greater wing span and seating for up to 43 passengers, (287 built; first flight 28 Aug 50);
Viscount 800 - improved version powered by R.Da.7/1 Dart Mk.525s, with further fuselage stretch and seating for up to 65 passengers, (156 built; first flight 27 Jul 56).