Sadly, it was today announced that Vulcan XH558, the worlds only flying Vulcan Bomber will no longer fly after the 2015 airshow season ends. The statement came from Vulcan to the Sky who operate XH558 in their newsletter today. Vulcan XH558 has displayed in Newcastle twice, in 2013 and last summer in a unique pairs display with the Canberra PR9 from Midair Squadron.
This is going to be a spectacular summer for Vulcan XH558 but also a very emotional one; it is with considerable sadness that we have to confirm that we are about to enter the final flying season.
After she has landed from her last flight this autumn, there will no longer be a flying Vulcan. We are therefore going to work especially hard to make summer 2015 a memorable flying season for every Vulcan enthusiast across the country. We intend to use every flying hour available, taking her to more people than ever before, celebrating other iconic British engineering achievements and saluting the heroes of Britain’s legendary V-Force in which she played a vital role during the knife-edge tension of the Cold War.
We are sure you are asking why this has to be the end of this phase of XH558’s life, particularly as many of you will be aware that we have been trying hard to find a way to extend her life for at least one more season beyond the additional two years (2014-15) that were promised when we completed the wing modification. The answer is that having evaluated a great many factors, the three expert companies on whom we depend – known as the ‘technical authorities’ – have together decided to cease their support at the end of this flying season. Without that support, under Civil Aviation Authority regulations, we are prohibited from flying.
At the heart of their decision are two factors. First, although we are all confident that XH558 is currently as safe as any aircraft flying today, her structure and systems are already more than ten percent beyond the flying hours of any other Vulcan, so knowing where to look for any possible failure is becoming more difficult. These can be thought of as the ‘unknown unknown’ issues, which can be impossible to predict with any accuracy. Second, maintaining her superb safety record requires expertise that is increasingly difficult to find.
Our technical partners already bring specialists out of retirement specifically to work on XH558; a solution that is increasingly impractical for those businesses as the necessary skills become distant in their collective memories.
We have recently been made aware that the skills issue is particularly acute as our engines age and will require a considerable amount of additional (and costly) inspection and assessment.
We are now preparing an extensive Question and Answer section to be hosted on our website. We will have this available for you soon; we will let you know when in a future edition of this newsletter.
photograph by Eric Coeckelberghs