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G-APIM   'Viscount Stephen Piercey'
 
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The Vickers Viscount was born out of the 1945 Brabazon Committee specification for a short to medium range airliner. The initial VC2 design carried only 24 passengers, but this was considered too few and was increased to 32 by the time the go-ahead was given for the construction of the prototype.

Vickers had intended to name their new aircraft the Viceroy, however, as India had gained its independence from the British Empire in 1947, it was considered prudent to re-christen the type and the name Viscount was chosen. The prototype V.630 Viscount G-AHRF took to the air on the 16th July 1948 from the Vickers flight test airfield at Wisley, Surrey, with Vickers test pilot 'Mutt' Summers at the controls.

The production V.700 Viscounts were stretched by 6ft 6ins over the two prototype V.630s giving a length of 81 ft 2ins, allowing a seating capacity of 43 in a two class cabin layout as adopted by the initial customer, British European Airways (BEA) whose V.701s inaugurated scheduled Viscount services on 18th April 1953.

Forty-five type V.700 Viscounts were built at Brooklands before production was moved to allow construction of the new V.800 series to commence. The new Viscounts featured a 3ft 10ins stretch over the V.700 series, but an increase in usable cabin length of 9ft 3ins was obtained by moving the rear bulkhead further aft.

The initial production version of the V.800 series, the V.802 for BEA, first flew on 27thJuly 1956 and carried 58 passengers in the corporation's two class cabin layout, with BEA receiving 24 V.802's. Even with over 50 Viscounts either in service or on order, BEA needed more, and ordered 14 V.806 Viscounts (G-AOYF to G-AOYT). Essentially the V.806 was identical to the V.802 with the addition of more powerful Rolls-Royce Dart RDa.7 Mk 520 engines. This order was later increased to 16 adding G-APEX and G-APEY. BEA then ordered three more V.806's, G-APIM, G-APKF, and G-APJU under sales order No. 39C. These aircraft replaced two destroyed V.802's (G-AOJA and G-AOHP) and the badly damaged V.806 G-AOYF which was written-off at Johannesburg in October 1957. This latter aircraft was eventually re-built by Vickers as G-APOX and became the last Viscount delivered to BEA.

Vickers continued to modify the V.800 Viscount and the final aircraft were based on the V.810 series. With improved RDa Mk 525 Darts and internal strengthening, greater operational weights and higher speeds were achieved. The vast majority of V.801 sales were to overseas customers. These advanced aircraft earned Vickers a considerable amount of money and saw service on every continent except Antarctica! The last of the 444 Viscounts built was delivered to the Chinese State airline C.A.A.C on 16th April 1964.

 

'Viscount Stephen Piercey'

As with all V. 806 Viscounts initial fuselage construction took place at Hurn, Dorset, with G-APIM being the 50th type V.800 started at the factory. The partly completed fuselage had arrived at Brooklands by 21st December 1957 when the main assembly commenced. It was moved to the finishing hangar on 5th May 1958 and G-APIM first took to the air from Brooklands on 4th June 1958. G-APIM received its certificate of airworthiness on 20th June and was delivered to British European Airways Corporation at Heathrow on 24th June 1958. All BEA Viscounts were called 'Discovery' class and named after famous discoverers. G-APIM was christened 'Robert Boyle' after the Irish scientist born in 1627, who was the originator of "Boyle's Law" one of the key gas laws of physics.

G-APIM is a V.806 Viscount featuring the more powerful Rolls-Royce RDa 7 Mk 520 engines, although these were later removed and given to the underpowered Armstrong Whitworth Argosy freighters in the BEA fleet. Consequently RDa 6 Mk 510's as fitted to the V.802 were bolted to 'India Mike' and its sister ships. In its original configuration, along with all V.800 Viscounts in the BEA fleet, 'India Mike" carried 42 tourists and 16 first class passengers. In service, it was used on BEA's European routes extending as far afield as Tel-Aviv, Moscow and Tripoli from its Heathrow base. G-APIM was also used for route proving flights to Budapest and Prague in the early 1960s. After more than ten years with BEA, "India Mike' was put into open storage at Cambridge Airport from February to November 1969. It returned to BEA service for two years until transferred to the associated 'Cambrian Airways' on 2nd November 1971. G-APIM flew to its new home at Cardiff -Rhoose Airport the next day. On 18th January 1972 G-APIM emerged from the paint shop resplendent in the new colours of Cambrian Airways consisting of an orange upper fuselage and tail with a stylised Welsh dragon. A few months later Cambrian Airways was absorbed into the newly formed 'British Airways' and G-APIM left the paint shop again on 12th November 1973 repainted in BA colours with small Cambrian titles.

On 7th December 1977, G-APIM was flying as BZ762 from Aberdeen to Kirkwall. Upon landing on a wet and slippery Runway 10, the airliner skidded off the concrete and ended up bogged down in the grass, the passengers evacuating the aircraft via the starboard rear door slide. Thankfully there were no injuries to anyone on board and "India Mike' suffered only minor damage.

A change in corporate identity later saw the fleet titles amended to 'British' instead of British Airways. G-APIM's new titles were applied in November 1980.

By 1982 our Viscount was the last of its type to be retired by BA and was flown to Cardiff for storage pending sale. In 1984 the Southend based airline British Air Ferries (BAF) purchased G-APIM plus several other ex-British Airways V.800 Viscounts and it was flown to Southend on 3rd February 1984. After a major overhaul the aircraft was ready for service with BAF by July. On 25th August 1984 G-APIM was christened 'Viscount Stephen Piercey' after the young and talented chief photographer of 'Flight International' who was tragically killed in a mid-air collision at the Hanover Air Show on 20th May 1984 whilst on an assignment.

Stephen, who lived near Brooklands at Addlestone, had founded and edited a high quality, quarterly magazine called 'Propliner' devoted to Piston and Turboprop transport aircraft around the world. Such was his esteem in the aviation world that BAF offered to name one of the Viscounts after Stephen. The honour of naming 'India Mike' fell to Stephen's parents Ray and Patsy Piercey.

In commercial service with BAF the V.800 Viscount Fleet was configured for either 76 passengers in an economy layout or 7 tons of freight, on routes that spanned across Europe.

An abrupt end to G-APIM's flying career came on 11th January 1988 when 'India Mike' suffered major damage at Southend when a taxiing Shorts 330 (G-BHWT of Guernsey Airlines) lost hydraulic power, leading to a brake and steering failure. The Shorts collided with the empty parked Viscount, destroying the left hand side of the nose. Assessed as being beyond economical repair it was stored and later donated many serviceable parts to other Viscounts in the BAF fleet. The Shorts 330 was not so lucky as it was transported to Biggin Hill where it was subsequently scrapped.

On 29th June 1989 G-APIM was offered to The Brooklands Museum for preservation. In July Brooklands' Curator of Aviation, Julian Temple and Roger Hargreaves of 'Proteus Aero Services' inspected G-APIM and subsequently BAF agreed to a long term loan of the aircraft to the Museum for preservation and static display.

Between August 1989 and February 1990, G-APIM was dismantled and repairs started by Proteus' engineer Mike Bates, with the welcome assistance of 'The National Rescue Group'. At the end of August National Rescue's famous AEC Militant Mobile crane 'Milly' was driven from her home at Brooklands Museum to Southend and over the next four months handled all heavy craning. On 11th February 1990 she was joined by the 'Brooklands Belle' to load the fuselage onto a giant low loader and G-APIM, transported by National Rescue, became the first (and probably only) Viscount to travel under the River Thames via the Dartford Tunnel on its way back to its birthplace at Brooklands.

Since then, a team of volunteers, initially led by Ron Brant, have put in many hours of hard work to restore G-APIM to its present condition. The final result is an historic and relevant example of this famous aircraft type preserved at Brooklands Museum.

 

The Friends of Viscount Stephen Piercey

'The Friends of Viscount Stephen Piercey' was formed in 1990 to provide a focus for raising funds towards the restoration of G-APIM. Since then 'The Friends' have raised thousands of pounds to provide an engineer to rebuild the damaged nose section, and with the help of volunteers - to continue to restore 'India Mike' to static display standard. In 1993, the "Friends" paid for a complete re-spray into the then current British World livery.

To raise funds to undertake this work, ' The Friends' have chartered Viscounts from BAF (and as they later became - British World Airlines) for day flights over Kent, Brooklands and a trip to Duxford, as well as further afield to Paris/Le Bourget and Basle/Mulhouse. When BWA ceased flying their Viscounts, the "Friends" organised a very successful series of "Farewell" Viscount rides from Lydd airport. Sponsored 'rides' in flight simulators at Southend and Gatwick have also been successfully organised. Current fundraising activities are more selective, with much of the money coming from donations on-board the aircraft and from the sale of postcards. In 2001, the historic relevance of G-APIM was honored by Corgi Models when they released a scale model of "Viscount Stephen Piercey".

Vickers V.806 Viscount G-APIM Construction No.412.
Wing Span. 93ft 8in (28.56m) Length: 85ft 6ins ( 26.06m)
Height 26ft 9ins (8.15m) Wing area: 961.38 sq. ft
First Flight 4th June 1958 Last flight: 9th Jan 1988
Total flying hours: 39,757 hrs Total landings42,210
Cruise speed: 320 mph Seats 58-76
Max take off weight: 64,500lb (29,257kgs)


For further information on The Friends of Viscount Stephen Piercey, contact ....

FOVSP, 25 Chennells Way, Horsham, West Sussex, RH12 5TW

or     EMail FOVSP

The big move (February 2004)
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No, G-APIM is not about to meet its maker but has been temporarily reduced in size for repositioning as part of a redesign of the Museum's display layout.
 
   
Also on the move is the nose section of fellow Viscount 837 c/n 438 Royal Aircraft Establishment XT575 formerly OE-LAG of Austrian Airlines.
 
G-APIM moving to its new position Saturday 1st May 2004