We may give the jet turbine all of the attention but quite a few miles are flown motivated by propellers. Vickers pushed to replace the piston with the best of both worlds with this turboprop airliner of the 1950′s.
The Vickers Viscount was the first turboprop airliner that went into production. One of the more interesting design decisions with the Viscount was the heavy use of the oval shape. When you look over the pictures here you should note the lack of any squares in the design. Even the cockpit sits raised above the rest of the fuselage and continues the avoidance of squares. In hindsight this allowed the Viscount to avoid the fate of the DeHavilland Comet.
Aircraft pressurisation increases the air pressure inside an aircraft to artificially simulate a lower altitude. To do this places a large amount of pressure on the metal shell of the aircraft with the constant pressurisation and then returning back to normal creates metal fatigue. For the Comet this was located on the edges of its square windows this was not an issue with the Viscount where everything was rounded.
During the first generation of jet engine development the largest issue was fuel use. Although kerosene is cheaper to produce then high octane gasoline you need to carry a far larger load of it to get the same mileage. So fuel efficiency was a paramount concern with early turbine airliners. The solution to the issue was the turboprop engine giving the airliner better power with far better fuel efficiency. The propeller is turned using a reduction gearbox off of the compresser and only allows a residual amount of thrust to escape through the back of the engine.
One of the earliest of the turboprop airliners was the Vickers Viscount. The aircraft was powered by four two thousand horsepower Rolls Royce Trent engines. With more then four hundred and sixty produced it would become a common sight to those flying the shorter routes around Europe or the U.S. The Viscount was successful enough to last longer then fifteen years in production from 1948-1963. A very unusual feat for a first generation turbine.
The Vickers Viscount stands as one of the most successful early turboprop airliners. It gave the passengers of the a day a more normal means of transportation while transitioning to the straight jet engine. As we have seen many decades forward the turboprop airliner would become the workhorse of the airlines. The Viscount and Comet should have been lead the way for the British to lead the world in airliners but the future would be very different.
The pictures included are of the Vickers Viscount at the Mid Atlantic Air Museum in Reading Pennsylvania. She had flown throughout Pennsylvania as part of Capital Airlines.
[images copyright Wayne Moyer 2012]