Only Flying Example Of Cold War Aircraft
A former Royal Air
Force Avro Vulcan bomber returned to the skies this week, for the
first time in 14 years. Vulcan XH558B took off from Bruntingthorpe
Airfield near Leicester Thursday, and flew for 40 minutes, reports
the UK's Defence News... making the plane the only flying Vulcan in
"Everything worked and she flew like a dream," said pilot Al
McDicken. "We rose to 2,000ft at 200 knots and tested the
undercarriage. Then we increase speed to 250 knots and carried out
a few more tests. Before we knew it, it was time to touchdown."
The Cold War bombers first entered service in 1956, and the type
was retired in 1984. The only time Vulcans were used in combat,
however, was during the Falklands War... when a squadron of the
four-engine planes bombed Port Stanley Airfield, denying its use by
The restoration of XH558B was performed by the Vulcan to
the Sky Trust (VST). "Today the Vulcan rejoins the exclusive club
of iconic military aircraft – including the Lancaster and
Spitfire -- still able to take to the air and be instantly
recognizable," said recently-named VST Chairman Keith Mans. "The
challenge now is to keep her flying for many years to come -- so we
need to continue raising funds in the same way as before.
"This is an appropriate time to thank all our supporters, the
volunteer workforce and the RAF who provided aircraft electrical
technicians for many years to work on XH558 as part of their
continuation training," added Mans, who is also Chief Executive of
the Royal Aeronautical Society. "The project to restore her to
flying condition was probably one of the longest and most
complicated in UK aviation history."
Vulcan pilot Martin Withers is one of four ex-RAF bomber pilots
authorized to fly XH558. He flew the first bombing mission over the
Falklands, cratering the runway with a line of 1,000lb bombs. He
was on the ground Thursday as the Vulcan -- one of the last to be
decommissioned -- flew overhead.
"It was flown into
Bruntingthorpe by Dave Thomas -- it was fitting he was in the
cockpit for this inaugural flight after 14 years," Withers told
Defence News. "It is the first time a jet aircraft of this size has
been restored to flying condition and seeing her fly is another
very proud moment of my life. She lifted off like a dream, belying
her 50 tonne weight. But it was a different story taking off from
Ascension in 1982 in hot conditions and with less powerful engines
and a full bomb load."
Chief Engineer Andrew Edmondson, a former RAF air frame fitter,
said despite the plane's vintage appearance, the airframe has been
thoroughly updated to include, among other advancements, GPS.
Unnecessary equipment, such as the Vulcan's elaborate bombing
system, was stripped from the plane.
"Over the past eight years every rivet, pipe, piece of wiring
and switch has been fully checked and upgraded or replaced -- we
acquired several hundred tonnes of spares including four extra
engines when we acquired her and these will enable her to have a
flying life of about a decade," Edmondson said. "Ultimately this
time in the air now depends on the availability of spares for each
component and the air frame itself."
More test flights will need to be conducted before the Civil
Aviation Authority signs off on the group flying the plane at
airshows and other events. The group plans to exhibit the plane in
2008, but adds it needs additional donations to keep the plane in