The Varsity was a versatile twin piston-engined aircraft brought into RAF service in 1951 for crew training as a replacement for the Wellington T10.
The aircraft had been designed three years earlier in response to an Air Ministry specification and had been put into production once proving trials and operational tests had been completed. To adapt the successful Valetta design for a general purpose crew trainer, the Varsity was given a nose-wheel undercarriage and an under fuselage pannier bomb-aimer’s station. The Museum also has an example of the Valetta which is awaiting major restoration.
The most outstanding quality of the Varsity was that it could provide excellent training for pilots, flight engineers, radio operators, navigators and bomb aimers simultaneously. The latter were seated in a very large ventral gondola which contained bomb aiming equipment and a small quantity of training bombs.
The prototype Varsity T MkI made its maiden flight on 17 July 1949. The RAF took its first deliveries in October 1951 which went to No.201 Squadron, Advanced Flying School at Swinderby, Lincolnshire. Production of the Varsity T MkI for the RAF ceased on 28 February 1954 after a total of 163 had been built.
WL679 was built by Vickers Armstrong at Bournemouth and released from their factory on 25 September 1953. This was the last Varsity to fly with Royal Air Force Insignia, but in the very distinctive livery of the Royal Aircraft Establishment. It landed at RAF Cosford on 27 July 1992 and signalled the end of an era spanning over 43 years.