Doncaster's iconic bomber celebrates 60 years since first flight

Residents of Doncaster got on board to celebrate 60 years since the town’s iconic Vulcan bomber made its first test flight.

By Lucy Roberts
Tuesday, 26th May 2020, 3:31 pm

The Spirit of Great Britain, XH558, famous for being the last Vulcan to fly, took its first test flight on May 25, 1960.

The legendary bomber is now permanently based at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and took to the skies for the final time in 2015.

Dr Robert Pleming, from The Vulcan to the Sky Trust, who owns the plane, said: “Sadly we don’t know for certain who piloted XH558 for her test flight but we’re convinced that it would have been Jimmy Harrison, Avro’s chief test pilot, who flew her, with flight test engineer Bob Pogson as AEO, but unfortunately no formal record of the flight appears to exist.

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This month marks the diamond anniversary of the first test flight of the last airworthy Vulcan bomber.

“It is important for us to commemorate these significant anniversaries and recognise the important role that the Vulcan bombers played in our history.”

The RAF’s Vulcan bombers carried Britain's strategic nuclear deterrent during much of the Cold War.

While the Vulcan fleet’s operational service ceased in 1984, XH558 flew on in the display role until finally retiring from RAF service in 1993.

In 1997, Dr Robert Pleming and a small team started to investigate the possibility of returning Vulcan XH558 to flight.

Ten years and £7million later, she made her first post-restoration test flight in October 2007. The plane flew for eight further display seasons, thrilling an estimated 20million people across the country.

Supporters of the Vulcan celebrated the 60th anniversary by being a part of the plane’s history and having their names placed on the wing.

The Vulcan To the Sky Trust asked for donations of £30 per name to celebrate the diamond anniversary of the aircraft.

Dr Robert Pleming said: “It was great to see our supporters taking up the chance to have their name under the wing and become a part of her history.

“We are now working on developing our plans to build a new hangar for XH558, where supporters can admire this magnificent aircraft close up once again, can hear about her story, and where we can excite and inspire youngsters in aviation and engineering.”