The last flight of the Viking: Lost at Sea on 5 September 1959

Aircraft wrecks

By Pierre Kosmidis

Photos and video by Alec Monaco

On 5 September 1959 a Vickers Viking (registration F-BFDN) of Airnautic, flying from Athens to Bastia Airport , crashed into the sea off Southern Corsica.

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The aircraft is currently located at a depth of just 13 metres, 250-300 metres off the popular beach of Murtoli and is easily accessible for scuba divers and snorkelers.

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The Viking had 36 passengers and crew on board, mainly consisting of artists of the Holiday on Ice Show.

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Fortunately the pilot ditched the aircraft smoothly and everyone survived.  

The Vickers VC.1 Viking was a British twin-engine short-range airliner derived from the Vickers Wellington bomber and built by Vickers-Armstrongs Limited at Brooklands near Weybridge in Surrey.

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In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Viking was an important airliner with British airlines pending the development of turboprop aircraft like the Viscount. An experimental airframe was fitted with Rolls-Royce Nene turbojets and first flown in 1948 as the world’s first pure jet transport aircraft. Military developments were the Vickers Valetta and the Vickers Varsity

In all 163 Vikings were built. The initials “VC” stood for Vickers Commercial,[8] echoing the “VC” precedent set by the earlier Vimy Commercial of 1919. Vickers soon ceased to use the ‘VC’ letters, instead using type numbers in the 49x and 600 series, which indicated the specific customer airline.

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BEA operated their large fleet of Vikings on many European and UK trunk routes for eight years. From 1951, the remaining fleet was modified with 36, instead of 27 seats, and named the “Admiral Class”. BEA operated the Viking until late 1954, when the last was displaced by the more modern and pressurised Airspeed Ambassador and Vickers Viscount.

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BEA sold their Vikings to several UK independent airlines for use on their growing scheduled and charter route networks. Some were sold to other European operators.

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Most Vikings had been retired from service by the mid-1960s and the sole surviving example in the UK is owned by Brooklands Museum where it is under long term restoration.

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With many thanks to my dear friend and colleague Alec Monaco. Congratulations Mister!