VICKERS

In 1908 Vickers Sons & Maxim Ltd, one of giant shipbuilding, engineering and arms conglomerate's companies, built airship Mayfly for Admiralty, but it suffered structural failure. Built further airships, most notably R.100 designed and built 1924-30 at Howden, Yorks, by team led by B.N. (later Sir Barnes) Wallis and N.S. Norway (later novelist Nevil Shute). In 1910 Capt. (later Major) Herbert F. Wood recommended licence for REP, and Vickers built 8 REP monoplanes 1911-12. On 28 March 1911 Wood became manager of Vickers Ltd (Aviation Department), commercial and design office at Imperial Court, Basil St (near Harrods store), manufacture at existing works at Crayford, Bexley Heath and Erith, and testing at aerodrome at Joyce Green, all on SE outskirts of London. Monoplane No. 1 flew Joyce Green July 1911, original REP design being carefully altered by company designers A.R. Low, G.H. Challenger, pilot/designer Howard Flanders and pilot F. Macdonald. Late 1911 company opened flying school at Brooklands (Weybridge), where Vickers monoplanes trained 77 pilots 1912-13 and 36 in first half 1914. Own designs included EFB (experimental fighting biplane) pusher with Maxim gun in nose cockpit designed by Low/Challenger for Admiralty and exhibited Olympia February 1913. This led to numerous armed pushers, including FB.5 of which 241 supplied to front-line RFC (who nicknamed it Gunbus) plus 99 built by SA Darracq et Cie (France) and others by S/A Nielson & Winthers (Denmark), and 95 faster FB.9s, latter being first Vickers aircraft built in former Itala car factory at Brooklands (December 1915). Growing works built large numbers of BE.2 series, SE.5a and Sopwith 1½-strutter, plus over 25 different prototypes during First World War, design office moving to Crayford on outbreak of war, with former apprentice R.K. 'Rex' Pierson in charge. Little production of own designs until FB.27 twin-engined bomber flown (30 November 1917), later named Vimy and over 230 built with various engines 1918-20. This led to big-bodied Vimy Commercial (43), Vernon (55 for RAF), Victoria/Valentia (125 for RAF) and Virginia bomber (124 for RAF in 10 versions). After Armistice Pierson designed Viking amphibian (275-hp pusher RR Falcon), built in Weybridge dance-hall and towed to Brooklands, leading to 37 similar aircraft. All had Consuta hull of mahogany sewn with copper wire by S.E. Saunders, then Vickers subsidiary. Competition with Supermarine resulted in Aviation Department being elevated to status of company as Vickers (Aviation) Ltd August 1928, which 3 months later took over Supermarine, latter retaining its identity. B.N. Wallis used airship stressing in devising Geodetic metal-basketwork construction for aircraft, used in Wellesley bomber (19 June 1935), 176 for RAF, and in B.9/32 twin-errgined bomber (15 June 1936) which, after much redesign, led to Wellington (11,461 built by October 1945, more than any other British aircraft except Spitfire and Hurricane). Wellington followed by larger Warwick (845) and 4-engined Windsor (3). Between wars company built further 43 prototypes, both it and Supermarine being taken over by parent Vickers-Armstrongs October 1938, further reorganization December 1954 resulting in Vickers-Armstrongs (Aircraft) Ltd being formed effective January 1955 to take over all Vickers and Supermarine aviation business. Viking airliner (22 June 1945) with 2 x 1,675-hp Hercules, 163 built, led to RAF Varsity transport and crew trainer (262) and Varsity crew trainer (160). Type 660 (18 May 1951) led to 107 Valiant bombers (4 x RR Avon), but much larger V.1000 transport was shortsightedly cancelled by RAF and BOAC November 1955. Viscount V.630 (16 July 1948) led to more capable V.700 and V.800 series, 444 built. V.950 Vanguard (20 January 1959) arrived just as turboprops appeared obsolete, only 43 built. Likewise VC10 (29 June 1962) tailored to foolish short-runway BOAC specification, so only 56 built. February 1960 Vickers became 40% shareholder in British Aircraft Corp., losing identity, in order to have half-share of TSR.2.

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