The World’s Only Flying Vulcan Will Open The World’s Leading Airshow With The Red Arrows
Sixty years after the prototype Vulcan’s first dramatic appearance at the famous Farnborough International Airshow, the last flying example of the iconic all-British aircraft will open the 2012 event in formation with the Red Arrows. After a long association with the show, starting when the prototype aircraft stunned audiences with a surprise appearance in 1952, this year’s Farnborough could well be the last at which a Vulcan will fly.
“It’s a sad truth that XH558, the world’s last flying Vulcan – and the only airworthy V-Force aircraft of any type – is unlikely to fly on beyond the 2013 display season,” announced Dr. Robert Pleming, chief executive of Vulcan to the Sky Trust, the charity that operates the aircraft. “By the end of that season, she will need costly modifications to her structure to ensure that she can continue to fly safely. Even if we could eke out more engine life, which we believe might be possible, these modifications will most likely be prohibitively expensive.”
Farnborough is held every other year, making the 2012 event probably the last for the iconic all-British aircraft.
The charity’s engineering director, Andrew Edmondson, said the cost of the modifications, which are required to extend the fatigue life of the aircraft, will be around £200,000 “Operating a Vulcan is amongst the most complex heritage activities ever undertaken as every aspect of maintaining and operating this sophisticated aircraft must comply with amongst the world’s most demanding safety standards,” he explained. “I can’t see anything of this ambition happening again. I urge those who enjoy watching her remarkable displays, and especially those whose generosity keeps her flying, to come and see her soon.”
The prototype Vulcan took to the air for the first time on August 30th 1952 (at Avro’s development centre in Woodford, near Manchester), just eleven years after the first flight of its predecessor, the Avro Lancaster. It introduced technology and performance that was so advanced the type would stay in service until 1984. Just three days after the first flight, test pilot Roly Falk made a solo sortie to Farnborough where he stunned the world’s aviation industry with the snow-white aircraft’s dramatic delta-profile and impressive agility, performing an almost vertical bank in front of the crowds.
“People who were there at the time have said that the Vulcan almost literally took their breath away,” said Pleming. “The aircraft was so new that it was referred to as ‘Avro prototype 698’ although the press were speculating that it would be called Ottawa.” In 1955 Falk returned and, to emphasise that the giant bomber handled like a jet fighter, performed a now legendary barrel roll.
The Vulcan flew with the Red Arrows on the show’s industry-only opening day Monday, Solo displays are planned on the public days this weekend. For each flight, she will be piloted by Martin Withers DFC, captain of Vulcan 607 for the legendary Black Buck mission that successfully disabled the runway at Port Stanley during the Falklands conflict 30 years ago.
(Images provided by Vulcan to the Sky Trust)