The latest aircraft to join the MotoArt family of planes is the successful and respected Vickers Viscount. In the Spring of 2022, the MotoArt team set off to Tucson, Arizona to recover VX-AVE from its sunny resting place for the past several years.
Vickers Viscount 831 [4X-AVE] flickr photo by HawkeyeUK shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license
The Vickers Viscount was a British medium-range, four-engined turboprop airliner produced by Vickers-Armstrong. Its design was based on requirements for a post-WWII civil aircraft and became one of the most successful post-war commercial aircraft, with significant sales even in North America. The Viscount was the first turboprop airliner to operate passenger service and to offer the first regularly scheduled flights by a turbine-powered aircraft. The revolutionary cabin pressurization provided a quiet, comfortable ride and became a favorite of passengers and airlines alike, and the most popular commercial airliner of its time. 86 countries flew Viscounts. 445 were built, 3 of which were v.831, which featured Rolls Royce Dart 525 engines and 60 seats.
The Viscount came about because of a British Air Ministry request for a medium-range pressurized airline. A board, called the Brabazon Committee, was set up during World War II at Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s request to assess the future requirements of their post-war civilian airliner industry. The committee attempted to study projected advances in aviation technology as well as the potential air transport needs in a post-war British Empire. They found that there would be a vital need for both military and commercial aviation, and the infrastructure necessary to develop and support it.
The committee met several times and finally submitted a report with the recommendation for the adaption of four current military aircraft types for civil use, and five new designs for civil use. These changed between the interim report and final report, but the final aircraft included were:
The new designs were as follows:
Development on Type IIB, originally known as the Vickers Viceroy, began in 1945. Vickers design team, led by Rex Pierson, started designing a turboprop-powered airliner to the Type IIB’s specifications. The first design was based on the Vickers Viking, but other designs were also considered, and scrapped because of the requirement that it be pressurized.
Type 630, the first prototype, was equipped with four Rolls-Royce Dart Mk 502 turboprop engines and came off the assembly line in 1948. The second prototype, Type 663, came out in 1949 and had an increased capacity of 32 passengers. The name was then changed to the Vickers Viscount, in honor of Lord Mountbatten, the Viscount Mountbatten of Burma. The test flight took place on July 16, 1948. Many types, or variants, followed, Type 800 was an improved variant with the fuselage extended by 3 ft 10 in.; v.831 featured Rolls Royce Dart 525 engines and 60 seats. 445 were built between 1948 and 1963.
MotoArt’s Viscount, construction number 403, rolled out of the plant March 9, 1959. It was built as a v.831 for Airwork Ltd and took its first flight from Hurn, Bournemouth, Hampshire, England. Thankfully its life was well documented by Vickers Viscount Network . Read its history here. Over the course of its life it was owned and/or operated by British United Airways (BUA), British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), Central African Airways (CAA), Alia - The Royal Jordanian Airlines, British Midland Airways (BMA), Ghana Airways, Arkia - Israel Inland Airlines, Go Transportation Inc, Pima Community College Aviation School and DMI Aviation (Dross Metals). It was registered as the following:
Photo taken by Norbert Kröpfl. Shared by Munich-Riem Aviation Photos
As G-APNE, it was owned and/or operated by BUA, BOAC, CAA between July 1960 and October 1966. It was also leased to BMA and Ghana Airways under this registration between April 1967 and September 1972.
In October 1966 it was leased to Alia - The Royal Jordanian Airlines and registered as JY-ADA. In November 1966, during a landing run at Kuwait City Airport, Kuwait, Persian Gulf the nose undercarriage leg collapsed, causing curled propeller blades and shock loaded Rolls-Royce Dart engines. No injuries were reported. It was repaired and sold to BMA, and registered as G-APNE once more.
Arkia Viscount 4X-AVE at East Midlands 1979 flickr photo by Harry Clampers shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
In September 1972 the plane was registered again, as 4X-AVE, and delivered to Arkia - Israel Inland Airlines. It was one of nine Viscounts registered to Arkia - Israel Inland Airlines Ltd. Here is a timetable from Summer 1971.
Arkia Israeli Airlines, as it is now called, was founded in 1949 as Israel Inland Airlines, shortly after Israel was established and there became a clear need for an airline to connect its points to Tel Aviv. Arkia is now Israel’s second largest carrier, operating domestic, international, and charter flights to 25 cities in 16 countries.
They began with a De Havilland DH 89 in 1950, connecting northern Israel towns to the southern port city of Eliat. As they grew they upgraded to the DC-3, Viscount, Handley Page HPR-7 Herald, 737, and on. Currently their fleet consists of Airbus A321neo and Embraer ERJ-195.
Following its retirement from Arkia, it was sold to Go Transportation. It was stripped of much of its useful parts then donated to the Pima Community College Aviation School. It remained in Arkia livery as it changed hands, was further broken up, and split into sections. It had been sitting in an aviation scrapyard in Tucson for decades when MotoArt acquired its fuselage material in 2022.
MotoArt PlaneTags owner Dave Hall was thrilled to find 4X-AVE at the airplane boneyard in Tucscon, Arizona. “The Viscount was such a trailblazer,” says Hall. “We were so stoked to add one to our collection.”
The team cut the fuselage skin off the rear of the frame before it was to be scrapped and transported it back to MotoArt Studios in Torrance, California. The front cockpit was moved to the MotoArt Mojave Boneyard storage, in the hopes that it will someday end up in an exhibit.
The pieces were then stamped out, polished, individually laser etched, and assembled - all by hand. “It’s a labor of love. We all work really hard to produce PlaneTags and make a worthy keepsake out of these retired planes,” says Hall.
The Vickers Viscount PlaneTags are now available on planetags.com in a limited series of 3,500. They will initially be offered in the following variants:
As with each PlaneTags release, the more rare variants inevitably sell first. MotoArt recommends subscribing to the PlaneTags mailing list or joining the MotoArt PlaneTags Collections group on Facebook for the fastest updates.
The Vickers Viscount joins the Handley Page Victor K.2 PlaneTags in our small but growing British manufactured aircraft collection. Find out more about XL 191 RAF , a Victor that was part of Walter Soplata’s famed aircraft collection.
Don’t miss out on our Hawker PlaneTags. You can read more about Argonaut and Dreadnought on the PlaneTags aviation blog: Hawker Sea Fury: From Fighter to Racer
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