Readers New Year Vulcan Spectacular
Welcome to this latest edition of Aerodrome and our regular look at the fascinating world of aeroplanes and the historic aviation scene in the UK.
Before we begin, on behalf of everyone here at Hornby Hobbies, could I wish all our readers a very happy and prosperous New Year and hope that everyone managed to survive the festive period without having to face too many sprouts and cold turkey sandwiches. As this is the first blog of 2020, we thought it important to start the new year with an Aerodrome bang and with that in mind, what could make a better aviation subject than Britain’s favourite aeroplane and one which proclaims itself to be ‘The spirit of Great Britain’ – the mighty Avro Vulcan.
In one of the final blogs of 2019, we featured Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558, as it has now been four long years since this icon of the UK Airshow scene performed its final display and landed for the very last time. We also asked Aerodrome readers if they would be good enough to send in their own memories and photographs of the aircraft, which would form the basis of a readers tribute edition – what we have for you in this latest blog is the culmination of that request. As we are now embarking on a new year of blogs, your opinions on how we can improve Aerodrome and what subjects you would like to see covered in a future edition are always gratefully received – please use our firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail address for all blog related contact. Thanks again for your continued support.
Right, let’s make a start on 2020.
Can an aeroplane be regarded as a National Treasure?
Aerodrome reader Errol Crowe took this fantastic picture of XH558 whilst she was performing at the 2012 RAF Leuchars Airshow. He told us that from 1965 -1969, he was stationed at RAF Lindholm, which was on the flight path for Vulcans returning home to RAF Finningley. At night, as they flew over, he could just make out the feint outline of each aircraft, with their landing lights on and always reminded him of Giant Manta Rays - happy days!
When working on producing the recent Avro Vulcan XH558 tribute edition of Aerodrome, I certainly thought that subject would make for an interesting read, but I had no idea just how well the blog would be received by our readers. I knew that from a personal perspective, it had seemed like a long four years without seeing the Vulcan in British skies, however, I did not know if other enthusiasts had been similarly lamenting the aircraft’s Airshow passing. Within hours of posting the blog I had my unequivocal answer – the people of Britain definitely had been missing their Vulcan and were now ready to talk about it.
In an attempt to try and to engage with fellow Aerodrome Vulcan fanatics, this particular edition of the blog also invited readers to share their pictures and recollections of XH558 with fellow readers, for potential publication in a future edition, but not really knowing if the request would be met with any support or enthusiasm – I should really have known better. In the weeks which followed the mid November 2019 publication of the blog, it became clear that the nation’s infatuation with this aeroplane was still as powerful as ever and not only did this quickly become one of the most successful blogs of the year, it also resulted in a flood of e-mails and hundreds of pictures, each one highlighting an enduring affection for this magnificent aeroplane.
Significantly, the response from Aerodrome readers was unprecedented and I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you for taking the time to send in your pictures – it’s so humbling to think that there are people out there who share a similar aviation infatuation to my own and are good enough to allow my Aerodrome ramblings space on their computers and mobile phones every fortnight.
So, that was the premise behind this latest blog and the first one of 2020. Now it’s over to our fantastic readers, with a fine selection of Vulcan images to admire and a positive message that the Avro Vulcan may now be absent from our skies, but thanks to an army of steadfast volunteers and museum staff, several examples are still available for us to admire at various locations around the country.
Still in our hearts – Britain loves a Vulcan
Star performer. Andrew Newstead managed to take this image of XH558 above East Midlands Airport, during her last year of operation. With the sun glinting off her tail, the aircraft is demanding even more attention than usual.
For the millions of people lucky enough to have experienced the majesty of an Avro Vulcan display during the service life of the aircraft, or more recently with the return to flight of XH558, the sad realisation that we will probably never see one in the air again is a bitter aviation pill to swallow. Undoubtedly, the UK Airshow scene will never be quite the same again and certainly much the poorer without the Vulcan enticing the UK public to events the length and breadth of the country. For many, Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558 will probably be remembered as the single most famous historic aircraft to display on the UK Airshow scene, firstly during her time as the aircraft of the RAF Vulcan Display Flight and more recently as the world’s only airworthy Avro Vulcan and the most complex aircraft on the British civilian register.
Some may argue that the Vulcan should really share this exalted aviation position with another famous Avro bomber type, in the form of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Avro Lancaster B.1 PA474, but as both aircraft qualify as British aviation classics, I don’t suppose anyone would really object to them sharing equal billing, even though the Lancaster is still a major Airshow attraction as we head towards another season. One thing few will disagree with, once you had witnessed Vulcan XH558 performing one of her ‘enthusiastic’ take-offs, or the ground shaking effects of one of her zoom climbs, no other Airshow experience could ever come close to replicating the sheer excitement of a Vulcan display and it’s no wonder she is still remembered with such overwhelming affection.
Although she is no longer flying, 2020 will be a significant year in the history of Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558, as it marks the 60th anniversary of the aircraft’s first flight. Built at the Avro factories at Chadderton and Woodford in Lancashire, the aircraft underwent final assembly and subsequently, its maiden flight from Woodford aerodrome on 21st May 1960, the first of the upgraded B.2 variants of the Vulcan to take to the air. Delivered to RAF Waddington on 1st July the same year, she would become the first of the Royal Air Force’s Vulcan B.2 variants, initially serving with No.230 Operational Conversion Unit and later also with Nos.44, 50 and 101 Squadrons of the Waddington Wing.
In response to my recent Aerodrome request for pictures of XH558, several contributors were keen to remind me that Britain still has an impressive compliment of preserved Avro Vulcans at sites up and down the country, from the covered RAF Museum sites at Hendon and Cosford, to the aircraft at Woodford and Newark which are displayed in the open air. They were also quick to remind me that currently three Vulcans are maintained in a ground running and potentially taxiable condition, including XH558 at Doncaster, XL426 at Southend and XM655 at Wellesbourne. During the course of 2020, we intend to produce features on all three of these aircraft and the dedicated volunteers behind them, each one determined to preserve the aviation legacy of the mighty Vulcan.
‘The Spirit of Great Britain’, Aerodrome reader’s style
OK, we have set the Vulcan scene and now it is over to you and a small selection of the images recently sent in by fellow Aerodrome readers. Please don’t worry if your images are not shown in this review, as we will be revisiting the subject of Vulcans during 2020 and will again feature images sent in following our picture request. Several readers who have links to the three Vulcan’s which are maintained in taxiable have also been in touch and our intention is to work a little more closely with them to produce further articles to highlight the fascinating work they do on each of these aircraft. Hopefully, this will increase awareness of their efforts and attract even more visitors their respective event days.
That all being said and the Vulcan scene now set, what better place could there be to start this readers pictures Vulcan edition than with this fascinating selection sent in by Michael Czarnecki. It appears as if Michael was very much in the right place at the right time on 23rd March 1993, as he managed to photograph Avro Vulcan B.2 XH558 as she prepared to leave RAF Waddington and Royal Air Force service for the final time. Prepared by RAF personnel for her delivery flight to the former RAF airfield at Bruntingthorpe and a future in private ownership, the last image of this group shows XH558 making her final take-off from Waddington as an RAF aircraft. I am sure you will agree, these make for quite a historic selection of images and we are grateful to Michael for sending them in.
From the end of her RAF flying career to her final display season, this next selection of images were sent in by Andy Smith and feature XH558 at a sunny Southport Airshow in 2015, one of the final UK events to include a display by this magnificent aircraft. I have been fortunate enough to meet Andy on several occasions over the years, with our most recent meeting taking place in the Airfix marquee at a rather grey and wet RIAT 2019 – as depression began to set in, we both agreed that the thought of a Vulcan display would have definitely lifted the spirits of everyone in attendance. Oh for the good old days!
Next up is a fantastic selection of images sent in by Amanda Deville which once again feature XH558 during her final display season, but this time at an aviation venue which would become rather an unusual one in recent times. Leeds East Airport is on the site of the former Church Fenton Royal Air Force Station and was once a regular venue for annual Airshow events, but had not held a show for many a year following its status change to a non-operational airfield. With new owners at the helm in 2015 and ambitious plans to hold future events, the Great Yorkshire Airshow took place in a blaze of glory on 26th September 2015 and could boast one of the final flying display appearances of Vulcan XH558.
Amanda managed to capture the Vulcan, both in formation with a pair of Folland Gnats and whilst performing her usual, highly evocative display, which was made all the more poignant with the news that the aircraft would soon be grounded for good. As it transpired, this event also proved to be the first and quite possibly the final Airshow to be held at the former RAF Church Fenton airfield (since passing from the hands of the RAF), making these pictures all the more memorable. Enjoying the Vulcan’s stunning display brought back happy memories for Amanda, as she remembers experiencing the awesome sight and sound of 3 Vulcans scrambling in the space of just two minutes, at a show held at the nearby RAF Finningley in years past – great pictures Amanda, thank you.
The next series of images were sent in by Aerodrome reader Dean Taylor, who was lucky enough to combine his love of all things Vulcan, with the opportunity to meet one of the most significant personalities in the history of Vulcan operations. During the 2011 Vulcan XH558 Member’s Day, he had the chance to meet ‘Black Buck’ raid and Vulcan to the Sky pilot Martin Withers, which was a real treat for him. He also had with him an Airfix Vulcan kit which he completed in the 2000s, at a time when he could hardly have imagined ever seeing XH558 in the air again. In what proved to be a memorable day and in the same hangar which was now housing the mighty Vulcan, Dean was lucky enough to have his model signed by Mr Withers in front of this magnificent aircraft. He also remarked how closely the Humbrol colours used on the kit matched the ones on the real aircraft.
Sent in by Vulcan fanatic Alyn Byrne, this next selection of images were taken at Doncaster Airport, following the eventual grounding of XH558 and at a time when the aircraft was safely housed at the airfield in its own hangar, able to welcome her many enthusiasts and protecting her from the elements. Unfortunately, at the moment, the aircraft is currently stored in the open air, as the hangar was apparently required to accommodate increased passenger numbers at the Airport, running the risk of this much loved aircraft suffering expensive and potentially irreparable damage. Let’s hope the team behind the aircraft manage to find a solution to her storage problems and allow the aircraft to receive her adoring public in large numbers once more.
Taking his place in the huge crowds which gathered to witnessed the final RIAT appearance of XH558 in July 2015, Bill Carpenter kindly sent us this magnificent selection of images which once again feature the Vulcan in formation with the Red Arrows and help to preserve the unrivalled Airshow legacy of this magnificent aeroplane. With several different pictures of this emotional sight, Bill also sent a couple of the Vulcan display itself, which help to show the awesome power available from the aircraft’s four Bristol Olympus engines, as the aircraft comes round for another iconic pass in front of the captivated crowd – quite a magnificent sight.
We would like to end this readers ‘Vulcan Special’ edition of Aerodrome with some very special pictures sent to us by ‘Wallace Austin’. Whilst we are extremely grateful to everyone who was kind enough to send their pictures in, we hope no one will be offended if we describe this final selection as saving the best until last – you will definitely see why. Sent in by a serving member of the Royal Air Force, they feature a selection of images which most of us could only have dreamt of taking and certainly make a fitting tribute to the display career of this magnificent aircraft.
The following words accompanied this stunning submission and serve to make the rest of us mere mortals extremely jealous.
I am very fortunate to be serving in the RAF and am often well placed to capitalise on aviation opportunities when they arise – this turned out to be one such event. It occurred on 2nd October 2015, the last photo sortie flown with the RAF before Avro Vulcan XH558 retired for the second time, (or is that third time if you count the years on the display circuit whilst still in RAF hands?). I was privileged to be on board an RAF C-130J Hercules over the Lincolnshire countryside and in perfect weather. As you can imagine, I took several (hundred) photos, but these are my favourites. They have not been played with, they are just as my camera took them on the day. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.
Wallace, we certainly do, they are quite magnificent!
I feel sure readers will agree that this final selection of images helps to bring this special edition of Aerodrome to a fitting close and serves as a spectacular way to start a New Year of aviation blogs. I would like to take this final opportunity to thank everyone who answered the call for Avro Vulcan XH558 images, with everyone who did helping to make this blog such a resounding success. If your images did not appear this time, please don’t be too disappointed because we had a huge response and can only use so many within each blog – we do intend to re-visit the subject later in the year, so you may well find yourself taking a photographic starring role then. With that in mind, if this latest blog has stirred your Vulcan passions and you have yet to do so, please send your pictures to our usual email@example.com e-mail address to potentially see them immortalised in a future Aerodrome blog.
I am afraid that is all we have for you in this latest edition of Aerodrome, but we will be back as usual in two weeks’ time with more aviation related content for your enjoyment. If you would like to send us a selection of your own pictures, or suggest an aviation related subject you would like to see covered in a future edition, please use our firstname.lastname@example.org address, where we will be delighted to hear from you.
In between new editions of our blog, the aviation related conversation continues over on the Airfix Aerodrome Forum and we can also be contacted on either the Airfix or Corgi Facebook pages, in addition to Twitter for both Airfix and Corgi - please do get involved in the discussions and let us know what you think about Aerodrome.
The next edition of Aerodrome is due to be published on Friday 17th January, where we look forward to bringing you more interesting aviation related pictures and features.
Thank you so much for continuing to support our Aerodrome blog.
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