The world’s last flying Avro Vulcan, one of the world’s most popular aircraft, will make its final tour of the UK this coming weekend. On October 10th she will travel north, heading towards Edinburgh then home via the Lakes, Manchester and the Midlands. On October 11th she will travel south across the East Midlands to Dover, turn for Bristol and Cardiff then zig-zag home across central England via Bruntingthorpe and Newark. To ensure as many people as possible can see her, both sorties will be amongst the longest she has undertaken since leaving RAF service in 1984.Further flying is planned for the remainder of October as the calendar continues to evolve. To ensure these are possible, the emergency services have asked supporters to see XH558 on the National Tour and not to try to see her take-off and land at her home airport in Doncaster, where police are increasingly concerned by crowds overwhelming the local infrastructure and blocking vital safety routes.
A map of the Tour route has been published at www.vulcantothesky.org. Further flight updates will be released through the aircraft’s popular Facebook community Vulcan XH558 and on Twitter @XH558 which can also be read on the homepage. News on the final flights will be distributed later in the month via the newsletter (sign-up from the homepage) and by social media.At the end of this display season, XH558’s airworthiness certification expires and cannot be renewed due to the collective withdrawal of support by the companies acting as her Technical Authorities. Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which operates the aircraft, says this withdrawal is because of many complex factors including the dwindling availability of appropriate skills, and does not reflect the safety of the aircraft, which is maintained and operated to amongst the world’s highest standards.
A Remarkable Story
This represents the closing of a major chapter in British aviation history. XH558 is the last flying example of a large, all-British jet from that exciting period when British aviation was the envy of the world. The first flight of a Vulcan in 1952 was only 11 years after the first flight of her predecessor, the Avro Lancaster, yet the step in technology was immense. Initially designed to carry Britain’s strategic nuclear deterrent, Vulcans eventually moved into a wide variety of roles ranging from tactical deterrent to reconnaissance. They saw active service only during the Falklands Conflict in 1982 when Vulcan XM607, captained by Martin Withers, embarked on the now-legendary mission to disable the runway at Port Stanley. Martin is now chief pilot with Vulcan to the Sky Trust.
Since leaving the Avro factory in 1960, Vulcan XH558 has led a charmed life. Thanks to a series of coincidences, she has now flown for far longer than anyone could have expected. Since her return to flight in 2007, following what is widely regarded as the most complex aviation heritage project ever undertaken, she has been maintained by a professional team of ex-RAF engineers and technicians using the same procedures and quality standards that they employed during their RAF service. The considerable funding required to allow this complex operation has been provided largely by the aircraft’s passionate and generous supporters, many of whom also devote their spare time to the project.
The remarkable story of Vulcan XH558 will be covered in a fascinating new book to be published by the Trust in time for delivery before Christmas. This and other Vulcan items can be ordered from the Trust’s website with all profits helping to maintain the aircraft in superb, ground-running condition so she can continue to thrill visitors to the award-winning Vulcan Experience tours (details at www.vulcantothesky.org, entry by pre-booked ticket only).
Trust chief executive Dr Robert Pleming, who led the restoration, says this is an emotional month for everyone who has been close to the project. “I can’t emphasise enough how important everyone’s contribution has been and how astonishing is the dedication of some remarkable Vulcan enthusiasts,” he says. “They have allowed us to achieve something that is unlikely to ever be repeated.”
New role helping to solve the engineering skills challenge
When she touches-down for the last time, Vulcan XH558 will take on a new role at the heart of a new type of education and heritage centre designed to inspire future generations of engineers. Based in a purpose-built, multi-million pound building at Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, adjacent to her current home in an original Cold War hangar, ETNA will cover four activities: an Aviation Skills Academy to train young people for careers in aviation; a Heritage Centre to bring enthusiasts close to XH558 and other aircraft in an environment that can also be used for wedding and conferences; a world-leading centre of expertise in the operation and maintenance of vintage aircraft; and the ETNA Project – a new national technology centre that will engage with schools, families and other groups to help address the shortage of outstanding people entering engineering careers at all levels.
Crowds risk final flights being cancelled
A meeting last week between Vulcan to the Sky Trust, Doncaster Council, the Airport and the Emergency Services including South Yorkshire Police, has made it clear that XH558’s huge popularity could put her final flights at risk. The message from all of them is that unless supporters choose other ways to see her fly, the Trust will be asked to cancel further flying. Correspondence has been received that also makes it clear that the Trust could be liable for very substantial costs if safety is deemed to be at risk.“The situation we find ourselves in is a tremendous complement to the passion of XH558’s supporters, but I must ask everyone please, do not come to see her take-off and land,” requests Pleming. “As someone who has devoted a significant portion of his life to this aircraft, I fully understand, but as well as being forced to cancel all further flying, the financial consequences to the Trust could be terminal. If we are to keep flying in October, we must please use this weekend to prove that we can operate without disrupting the areas around her base.”
- Map of the Northern Route, click HERE
- Map of the Southern Route:, click HERE.
- Please note that flight plans may change at short notice due to weather and operational requirements.Readers can have their name on a commemorative certificate that will be flown in the cockpit during the final flight and posted to them following touch-down. All profits will be used to help maintain XH558.
- Sign-up for the latest news at www.vulcantothesky.org, join the Vulcan XH558 Facebook community or follow @XH558 on Twitter.
- Find out why this will be XH558’s last flying season, click HERE.