Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda jointly created East African Airways, which commenced operating on 1 January 1946. Jet services started at the airline in 1960 with the de Havilland Comet 4.
The backbone of the long-haul fleet for the airline was the Super VC10, built by Vickers in the United Kingdom. The first entered commercial service with EAA on 13 October 1966 and operated through to the airline ceasing operations on 28 January 1977.
An Unusual Feature Of The EAA VC10
An option offered by Vickers was a forward cargo door on the aircraft. This meant that both passengers and freight could be carried on the main deck. Aircraft like this are referred to as a “Combi”, a concept which was not unusual, as the Boeing 707-320C (and later the Boeing 747) offered something similar.
On East African Airlines flights, the configuration was a little different to normal. At the front of the plane was first class. Next, a section with cargo, and then behind that, economy class seating.
This meant a space had to be kept between cargo pallets so flight attendants could move between the two sections. The door at the rear of the first class cabin leads straight into the cargo area, and I have to wonder if any passengers wandered through and received a bit of a surprise!
East African Super VC10 Stories
The five East African Super VC10s had an interesting history. 5X-UVA made the first landing of a Vickers VC10 in Hong Kong on 7 September 1967 and was subsequently destroyed in a take-off accident on 18 April 1972. 5Y-ADA fell off the jacks in the hangar, piercing an engine beam and was out of service for 14 weeks.
All four engines on the same aircraft flamed out over the Indian Ocean one night due to fuel starvation. 5X-UVJ flew Pope Paul VI from Rome to Entebbe and back on 31 July and 2 August 1969, the first visit to Africa of a reigning pontiff.
EAA’s four remaining VC10s were repossessed by British Aerospace when the airline collapsed, and all became K3 inflight refueling tankers for the Royal Air Force. In this guise 5H-MMT (now registered ZA147) made a record non-stop flight from London to Perth in 15 hours and 53 minutes on 8 April 1987.
5H-MOG had a relatively uneventful career, operating the inaugural EAA flight to New York on 10 December 1970. It also had an incident where Shell would not refuel the plane due to unpaid bills, so a passenger ended up paying for it!
Passenger seats being mounted on pallets for loading into an airliner, like in the photo, is not unusual either. Boeing offered the same thing on “Quick Change” versions of aircraft such as the Boeing 737.
The most valuable resource on the Internet for everything about the British plane is “A Little VC10derness”. It is peppered with stories from people who were there during Vickers VC10 operations as well as a wealth of technical information.
Did you ever fly on board an East African Super VC10? What was it like? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.