'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.