In August, the Vulcan To The Sky Trust (VTST) announced that their lease at Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA) would not be renewed and that they (and their Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558) would have to leave the site by the end of June 2023. Since early Spring this year, the Trust has been exploring options for moving XH558 from Doncaster. The Vulcan flew into the airport during March 2011, with VTST believing that the old RAF Finningley would become her permanent home, as defined in our plans for the Vulcan Experience. Sadly, the funding appeal failed; the organization then had to work hard to secure a new and permanent home for both XH558 and English Electric Canberra WK163.
The Trust advised that they were working on potential sites where they knew they could protect XH558 for decades to come and deliver on Robert Pleming’s vision of telling the Cold War story, the role of the V-Force, and inspiring youngsters to pursue meaningful and productive careers in engineering.
Since these sites are some distance from Doncaster, this relocation effort will obviously bring significant challenges, but these are outcomes which VTST leadership believes the organization can deliver. They talked to the CAA about the possibility of a short ferry flight for XH558, but they now believe that this is not possible. The advice was that, legally, the Trust would need to appoint a Design Authority to assess and then oversee the restoration to flight work, and without a DA, no application could be considered. VTST has approached three companies to look at feasibility, timeline, and costs, and, to date, one has declined to support and the other two organizations have not responded to the contract for this work. Informal research has also indicated that insurance for such a flight would be prohibitively expensive. While we acknowledge that it is extremely sad to dismantle XH558 it will mean that ultimately, she will be preserved and will still be able to inform, educate and inspire future generations of engineers. The process will be handled by professional, experienced partners who are sympathetic to Vulcan To The Sky Trust’s aims and understand the significance of this work, all with the intention of retaining as much functionality as possible.
The Trust now has two potential locations in negotiation and they are in conversation with The National Heritage Lottery Fund on an options appraisal to ensure that VTST ultimately delivers the best future for this important heritage asset aligning their aims with the original Heritage Fund contract. Although XH558 will no longer be running her engines, in both cases the VTST will once again be able to offer the opportunity to be close to the airplane in an exciting, undercover facility which her thousands of supporters can enjoy.
Vulcan To The Sky Trust has also considered the possibility of remaining at DSA if a new owner were to be found. Because the future of the site is so uncertain, the organization cannot robustly plan for this in a way that would provide security for XH558, or guarantee access to her for supporters. VTST’s thoughts remain with the airport’s staff, with whom they have worked for so many years, at this challenging time. Nonetheless, they must recognize that DSA’s owners have stated their intention to permanently close the airport.
As soon as a decision has been made regarding the final destination for XH558, VTST will be able to get started with the move, providing updates to supporters throughout this process. Between now and the end of June 2023, the Trust is investigating what access they could offer supporters given that the airfield will likely be closed from mid-November. They have asked for clarification from DSAL and are awaiting their feedback. Many supporters have their names or those of their loved ones under the wing of XH558 and clearly want to see them in place.
Whilst visiting in the short term is currently outside of VTST control, they will update everyone when further news arrives. Vulcan To The Sky Trust stressed the importance of giving everyone the assurance that once the Vulcan is safe in her permanent home, they will prepare her for the public to visit. They plan to replace all donor names on new plaques ahead of this time; everyone’s name is mapped and will be easy to find.
If you would like to give a donation to help save the Vulcan, please click here.
Many thanks to VTST for the use of this press release – we wish them the best of luck in ensuring XH558 can move to a safe, and permanent new home. Please do contribute at the link above if you can!