THE world’s last remaining flying Vulcan bomber is set to be grounded forever from next year – with hopes it will be used to inspire young people into taking up engineering.
The trust which maintains and flies the iconic plane has announced a 2013 display will be the bomber’s last with plans to make it a visitor attraction.
However, there are no guarantees the aircraft will remain in Doncaster.
Vulcan To The Sky Trust chief executive Dr Robert Pleming said: “It is with great sadness that we have told XH558’s supporters that we are planning for next year to be the last opportunity anyone will have, anywhere in the world, to see a Vulcan in the air.”
The decision to retire the Cold War icon has been influenced by a number of technical challenges in keeping the Vulcan airworthy beyond next summer.
The plane, which was restored to flight in 2007 and arrived at Robin Hood Airport in 2011, has almost reached the end of its flying hours – and keeping it in the air would mean a costly and risky upgrade to the wings.
The XH558’s engines are nearly at the end of their days with no replacements available, leading to the decision to retire the Vulcan to its hangar after next year’s summer season of shows.
Where the plane will be based remains unclear – although plans have been drawn up to make the aircraft the centrepiece of a new engineering centre aimed at inspiring aviation enthusiasts.
VTTS spokesman Richard Clark said: “It is impossible to say at this stage where the plane will be based. We are now entering into a widespread consultation process and we will take on board as many different opinions as possible. The public have helped pay for her and we want the widest possible discussion over the next chapter.”
He added: “We want to offer public access and inspire young people in science and engineering. It’s very much in the early stages but if it comes off, it will be an excellent concept.”
Since the restoration, the Vulcan has been seen by more than 10 million people at over 60 locations, with three million turning out to see her during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee season.
Dr Pleming said they needed to raise £400,000 before the end of the year for the XH558 to fly safely during its 2013 season - £200,000 for a modification to the wings to increase her flying life.
He added: “I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed – it’s a remarkable achievement that many people said would be impossible. With the passionate and generous support of the British people, we returned an all-British icon to the sky.”
Colin Joy, Doncaster Council’s tourism manager, said: “We certainly hope that Vulcan XH558 will remain in Doncaster for a very long time. It is of great interest to people from across the UK and from overseas, and it adds yet another visitor attraction to Doncaster’s growing tourism offer.”
Chris Round, Hayfield Lane Primary School headteacher, added: “The pupils were very sad and worried to hear that the Vulcan is going to stop flying. They regard it as part of our community.”