05 March 2015

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Established 2005
Vickers Viscount Network
A Virtual Museum dedicated to the Vickers-Armstrongs VC2 Viscount

Rolls-Royce Dart

Part 1

To use the words of Rolls-Royce; “Pride of place in any history of the Dart must, of course, be given to the Vickers Viscount because, almost certainly, the engine would never have been developed but for the requirements of this family of aircraft“.

Photo of the Rolls-Royce Dart on a TCA - Trans-Canada Airlines Viscount The Rolls-Royce Dart on a TCA - Trans-Canada Airlines Viscount
Photo © Jim Bruce

The earliest record relating to the design and development of the Dart Turboprop is a technical drawing dated April 4 1945, before the hostilities of World War Two had ended, and the dust had settled, which was a very positive attitude for Rolls-Royce to take at that time.

Although the initial proposal for this engine originated at Barnoldswick, near Burnley in Lancashire, Ernest W Hives a director of Rolls-Royce decided that the project should be mainly based at Derby. Lord Hives became Managing Director in 1946 and Chairman in 1950 as Lord Hives of Duffield and retired in January 1957, having seen the Viscount enter service and the Dart become the most significant turboprop engine of its time and arguably of all time.

Initially it was proposed that the engine should develop 1000 shaft horsepower through a tractor airscrew and be fitted to a new RAF training aircraft. Two aircraft types were proposed, the Boulton Paul P.108 Balliol and the Avro Athena. Armstrong Siddeley was offering their Mamba engine, which, later on also became a competitor on the Vickers-Armstrongs Viscount. The design time of both engines soon slipped behind the airframe timescales and were dropped in favour of existing piston engines such as the R-R Merlin.

The team of designers and draughtsmen were based in the Elton Road office block in Derby under the leadership of Lionel Haworth who was an engineering graduate from the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Prior to starting on the Dart, Lionel and his team had been involved with the WR1 jet engine in 1941 followed by the RCa3, which was a three shaft axial flow jet engine. This then led to the Clyde engine, for which the team were responsible for the reduction gearbox and compressors during 1944. Lionel’s deputy was Ralph Shire senior who was an ex RAF apprentice from Halton and had been transferred from the piston engine design office. The remainder of the Dart team came from the Merlin Marine and Crecy design offices plus several fresh graduates such as Roy Heathcote.

Initial detail drawings were issued to the production department on November 1 1945 and the final build of the RB.53 prototype as it was originally designated was completed on July 10 1946 resulting in an incredibly short manufacture and build time for such a revolutionary engine. The RB designation stood for R-R Barnoldswick.

Photo of BEA - British European Airways Viscount G-AOJC

The Vickers Viscount Network is always interested to hear from anyone who has information or photographs to help complete the story of the Viscount. If you can help please contact us at

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This website has been designed, built and is maintained by Geoff Blampied, Norwich, Norfolk, England.