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Taste of the High Life 18 Nov 2013 The noisy but elegant VC10, nicknamed Queen of the Skies, was finally retired last September. Sue Chapman records her memories.

The noisy but elegant VC10, nicknamed Queen of the Skies, was finally retired last September. Sue Chapman recorded her memories for the Eynsham News.

“I won’t miss the noise of my pin-up plane, but I will sorely miss its iconic shape over Eynsham. My first flight as a photographer was on a VC10 to Nigeria. On the golf course in Kano the ball boys would shout ‘VC10, VC10’ as a superlative for a high shot.

“Coming home I was lucky not to be arrested. I arrived late and found the gates closed, the gangway removed. I scaled a boundary fence and ran onto the runway brandishing a spear I was taking home for my father. It did the trick and the steps were brought back for me to board. Over the Sahara, the pilot invited me to the flight deck. ‘I had to let you on, I thought you were going to puncture the fuselage’, he said.

“I was a freelance in West Oxfordshire in the 1960s when the V10s were introduced to RAF Brize Norton and received many invitations to join short flights as station officials tried to counter complaints about noise.

“I was also lucky enough to be included in a press party to Singapore to look at servicemen’s life in the Far East - my favourite day was spent with a jungle survival group from RAF Abingdon. My flight home was very sad. The VC10 had been reconfigured to accommodate the wounded and the bereaved families of a nasty helicopter crash the week before.

“My next adventure was flying around America with my future husband, Oxford Mail journalist Don Chapman, on a routine exercise with the pilots who were to take the Queen to South America. The aim was give the crew a taste of operating conditions at some of the busiest airports in the world, New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington.

“Suddenly, we learned that our schedule had been extended because Air Chief Marshal Sir John Davis was joining us. Our VC10 trainer became a VIP plane. Seats were reshuffled to create a lounge for his party and VIP cutlery and crockery were loaded aboard.

“The crew could practise the split-second timing they would have to adhere to on the Queen’s tour. For us it was a chance in a million to visit Texas, California, Colorado and Canada and for our VIP to bask in the glow of admiration the VC10 attracted wherever it landed.

“My last thrill was being harnessed to the back of an Argosy so that I could photograph my pin-up plane silhouetted against the Scilly Isles. That picture went up in RAF messes round the country.”

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