Avro Vulcan XH558 – a tribute!

Not only to the aircraft but to all the many individuals who made it happen!

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post Nostalgia with wings, today I was going to write about a particular aircraft: The Avro Vulcan.


I chose the image above because it resonated so strongly with the comment left by Hariod Brawn that I included in yesterday’s post. Namely:

I took my father [who test-piloted the Vulcan and Victor. PH] to see Vulcan XH558 fly what was then thought to be its final flight (it subsequently was overhauled and took to the skies again). It flew along the length of the runway at a 45 degree angle with its bomb bay doors open. On the inside of the doors in huge letters was the single word ‘farewell’. It was really quite an emotional experience both for my father and myself.

There’s a lengthy item on WikiPedia about this aircraft. I will repost a couple of parts of that article.

Avro Vulcan XH558 (civil aircraft registration G-VLCN) The Spirit Of Great Britain is the only airworthy example of the 134 Avro Vulcan V bombers that were operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1985. Vulcan XH558 served with the RAF between 1960 and 1985 in the bomber, maritime reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling roles. The RAF operated XH558 as a display aircraft from 1986 until 1992, when budget cuts forced its retirement.

It is operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust as a display aircraft, funded entirely by charitable donations and the UK Heritage Lottery Fund. It is registered with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority as G-VLCN but has an exemption to fly in Royal Air Force markings as XH558.

Restoration to flight
The engineering staff of the Vulcan Operating Company (the engineering arm of Vulcan to the Sky Trust, owners of XH558) worked to return Vulcan XH558 to flight, with the first test flight taking place on 18 October 2007. They were supported by the “Vulcan to the Sky” club, a supporters and fundraising organisation. Though the website carried an announcement on 1 August 2006 that the project was in danger of being abandoned due to lack of finance, the target of raising the remaining £1.2m was achieved on 31 August 2006, thanks to a high-profile publicity campaign orchestrated by the supporters club, Vulcan to the Sky Club (formerly Vulcan 558 Club).

Time had almost run out for XH558 when Sir Jack Hayward, a British philanthropist, donated £500,000, which topped off the £860,000 already raised by Vulcan to the Sky Club and Friends. Although the aircraft restoration was nearly complete, the aircraft was not ready for the flypast down The Mall in London for the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict on 17 June 2007 or the RAF Waddington Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).

It was intended that the Vulcan would fly during at least one UK airshow during the 2007 season, but due to delays in returning the aircraft to flight, mainly down to delays in the return of refurbished flight-critical components, the aircraft was not ready for the display season.

On 16 August 2007, the aircraft started engine testing on the airfield at Bruntingthorpe. On the next day, XH558’s No.3 Rolls-Royce Olympus 202 jet engine was run for the first time in over 20 years. This is a different engine from that used by XH558 during its final season with the RAF’s Vulcan Display Flight in 1992, with all four of the Vulcan’s original Olympus 202 engines having been replaced by zero-hour units which had been stored since 1982. The VTS Team also has another four fully inhibited engines in stock. The removed engines were either scrapped, sectioned for display or passed on to VRT’s XL426 at Southend. Another milestone in the restoration project was achieved on 22 August 2007, when all four of XH558’s Olympus engines were run at nearly full power settings, for short intervals.

The first post-restoration flight, which lasted 34 minutes, took place on 18 October 2007.

What a great project!

Now to a couple of videos. (There are many to chose from on YouTube, by the way.)

The first is a 45-minute documentary that I have only watched for the first few minutes, but it looks a good one.

and the second is much shorter but reveals to great effect the wonderful sound of the Vulcan’s engines.

Published on Oct 28, 2012
When the engines exceed 92% power, the Vulcan makes this cool howl sound.

On to New Year’s Eve!

5 thoughts on “Avro Vulcan XH558 – a tribute!

  1. Oh Paul, that was quite fantastic! I watched both videos in full and readily confess to welling up at certain points. I can’t concretely identify what causes this within me though I think it’s in part that the Vulcan project is a symbol of British engineering refusing to die in the face of globalised economic pressures and part also, of course, because of my father’s history with this incredible machine. Thank you! Magnificent!


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