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Air Travel in Australia: Vickers Viscount

As World War II came to a close the British government realised that it was going to have to drastically change its air manufacture industry to avoid becoming dependent on American aircraft companies. To address this issue the Brabazon Committee was formed in 1943 to investigate the future needs of the British Empire's civilian airliner market. As a direct result of the specifications spelled out by the Brabazon Committee the Vickers Viscount was created.

A medium-range turboprop airliner first flown in 1948 by Vickers-Armstrongs, making it the first such aircraft to enter service in the world. It would go on to be one of the most successful of the first-generation post-war transports, with 445 being built.

Photo: Brit Airliners

The Viscount was well received by the public for its cabin conditions, which included pressurisation, reductions in vibration and noise, and panoramic windows. It became one of the most successful and profitable of the first post-war transport aircraft; 445 Viscounts were built for a range of international customers.

All production Viscounts were powered by the Rolls-Royce Dart turboprop engine; from its initial 800 hp, and then 1,000 hp and higher, Rolls-Royce ext ensively developed the Dart engine, due to its popularity and use on the Viscount and several later aircraft.

Vickers Viscount Type 724 (Registration N22SN c/n 40) in Viscount Air Services Inc. colours at the Pima Air & Space Museum, Tucson, Arizona, USA.

The Viscount's good performance and popularity with customers encouraged Vickers to privately finance and develop an enlarged and re-engined variant of the Viscount, later designated as the Vickers Vanguard. The Vanguard drew extensively from the knowledge and design of the Viscount, and likewise maintained its advantage of lower operating costs over pure jet-powered aircraft, but its disadvantage in being slower than jet aircraft became increasingly critical as jets became more available over time.

Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) received its first Viscount in 1954, and the aircraft quickly proved profitable, leading to additional orders. The Viscount proved to be an invaluable aircraft for TAA, aviation author John Gunn stating that "TAA had achieved dominance on Australia's trunk routes with its turboprop Viscounts".

TAA procured over a dozen Viscounts, and purchased later turboprop aircraft such as the Fokker F27 Friendship; it later transitioned to jet aircraft as passenger demand outgrew the capacity of the Viscounts. To compete with its rival TAA, Ansett-ANA also procured its own small Viscount fleet; the Viscount allowed Ansett to set out a faster and superior service than the larger TAA for the first time.

The Two Airlines Policy was formally established in 1952 by the Fifth Menzies Ministry. The policy took practical effect when Ansett purchased the failing Australian National Airways in 1957, resulting in it being the only competitor for the government-owned TAA. Unstated was the requirement for both airlines to have identical equipment.
  • List of accidents involving the Vickers Viscount

  • Crash of MMA Flight 1750

    On Tuesday, 31st December 1968, 'Quininup' VH-RMQ, a MacRobertson Miller Airlines (MMA) Vickers Viscount 720C, crashed 28 nautical miles (52 km) short of its destination on a flight from Perth to Port Hedland. This accident, resulting in the loss of all twenty-six people on board, remains the third worst in Australia's civil aviation history.

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