The last flying Avro Vulcan has returned to the air following a remarkable modification to her wings that was funded entirely by her supporters.
More than £400,000 was raised to give the iconic all-British jet a further two years flying by extending the life of her airframe.
Earlier this month she took off for the first time following the vital work and less than a week later began a summer display season that will take her across the United Kingdom including a date at the upcoming Goodwood Festival of Speed.
“Extending her flying life required a remarkable operation that combined the very latest 3D scanning and analytical techniques with a range of traditional craft skills that I have to say are quite amazing,” explains Vulcan to the Sky Trust chief executive Dr. Robert Pleming.
“It was remarkably British, at times looking positively eccentric, yet always combining innovation and engineering excellence. An error of just a few thousandths of an inch could have grounded her forever.”
Pleming is also quick to thank XH558’s supporters who donated their time and money to give the engineering team the resources they needed. “Without their hard work and generosity, there would no longer be such a dramatic reminder of this amazing period in British history, when we really did rule the skies,” he says.
Within a week of her return to flight, XH558 was displaying at Welshpool and RAF Cosford. Later this month she will be delivering her all-new display routine at the Weston-super-Mare Air Festival (Somerset), Scarborough Armed Forces Day (North Yorkshire), Old Warden (Bedfordshire, flypast only) and the Goodwood Festival of Speed. The complete list of summer engagements is available at www.vulcantothesky.org where readers can also sign-up for regular news about the aircraft and where to see her.
“Even amongst the fabulous, multi-million pound classic cars, the Vulcan has proved to be one of the most memorable appearances at Goodwood,” says chief pilot Martin Withers. Best known as the captain of Vulcan XM607 during the legendary Black Buck mission during the Falklands conflict, Withers admits to loving classic cars as much as vintage jets. “I always try to fly the Goodwood display personally,” he confesses.
”XH558 is from the era when Europe’s race tracks were dominated by Jaguars, Aston Martins, Austin Healeys and Minis. I turn her on her side and fly up Lord March’s drive, then ease the throttles up to 90 percent to make her Olympus engines howl as we climb out.”
While growing commercial income makes a significant contribution to the £2 million annual budget for operating XH558, she is still very much dependent on support from the British public. To fund the summer flying activities, Vulcan to the Sky Trust is launching a new raffle with ‘money can’t buy’ prizes that include a flight alongside XH558 in a Spitfire. There is also a range of other incentives and unique Vulcan memorabilia for those who support the last flying Vulcan. More information can be found on the charity’s website; www.vulcantothesky.org. There is also a popular Facebook community at www.facebook.com/VulcanXH558 and a Twitter feed at #XH558.