Our final aircraft profile for Air Waves Portrush is none other than the Avro Vulcan XH558 who will be making her final ever display in Northern Ireland on Saturday, and at the same time making her Air Waves Portrush Debut!
The Avro Vulcan (officially Hawker Siddeley Vulcan from July 1963)is a jet-powered delta wing strategic bomber, which was operated by the Royal Air Force from 1956 until 1984. Including prototypes 136 Vulcans were made and the first flight of a Vulcan was on 30th August 1952.
In spite of its radical and unusual shape, the airframe was built along traditional lines. Except for the most highly stressed parts, the whole structure was manufactured from standard grades of light alloy. The airframe was broken down into a number of major assemblies: the centre section, a rectangular box containing the bomb-bay and engine bays bounded by the front and rear spars and the wing transport joints; the intakes and centre fuselage; the front fuselage, incorporating the pressure cabin; the nose; the outer wings; the leading edges; the wing trailing edge and tail end of the fuselage; the wings were not sealed and used directly as fuel tankage, but carried bladders for fuel in the void spaces of the wings; and there was a single swept tail fin with a single rudder on the trailing edge
In September 1956, the RAF received its first Vulcan B.1, XA897, which immediately embarked upon a round-the-world tour. The tour was to be an important demonstration of the range and capabilities of the aircraft, it also had other benefits in the form of conducting goodwill visits in various countries; in later life Vulcans routinely visited various nations and distant parts of the former British Empire as a show of support and military protection.
In 1982 The Vulcans were used in the Falklands War in Operation Blackbuck and were due to be withdrawn from service that year, however due to the fatigue of the Victor Bomber the life of the Vulcan was extended until 1984.
XH558 was kept as the RAF Display aircraft until 1992 having taken her first flight on 25th May 1960. She was also the final Vulcan in service by the RAF.
In 1997, a study was conducted looking into the feasibility of returning XH558 to flight – a risky prospect for the owners considering the aircraft would need to be retired as a ground based attraction and largely dismantled before restoration could begin. With the decision taken in 1998, the last public ground run took place on 5 September 1999.
The Vulcan to the Sky Trust was established to raise funds; including lodging an application with the Heritage Lottery Fund, rejected in 2002 but then refocused and accepted in 2004. Work began on the restoration in 2005; to bring confidence to donors of the project, the Walton family formally passed ownership of XH558 to the trust in the same year. In celebration of meeting a funding target, on 31 August XH558 was rolled out of its hangar for the first time in seven years for a publicity shoot.
XH558 returned to flight for the first time on 18 October 2007, conducting three test flights.Given the civilian registration of G-VLCN by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), an exemption was made to allow it to fly in Royal Air Force markings as XH558.
During part of May 2008, XH558 resided at RAF Coningsby where it underwent further testing, and while there took part in a photo-call with the Lancaster and a Typhoon . On 9 June 2008, XH558 flew its final test flight, a 98-minute journey from Bruntingthorpe, which included a display in front of examiners from the CAA. Deemed a success, an application for a permit to fly at air shows was submitted to the CAA, with a view to attending its first public event in 15 years, the RAF Waddington Airshow, on 5 and 6 July.
The CAA granted permission for XH558 to fly from Bruntinthorpe to Waddington on Thursday 3 July, but authorisation for display flights was not granted until the Friday, allowing the first display flight, lasting 5 minutes, to go ahead on the Saturday infront of an estimated crowd of 125,000. XH558 was named Spirit of Great Britain in 2010
Since then she has been the only Vulcan left flying, and in 2013 her flying life was extended for another 2 years after originally saying it was her last year. Sadly however On 15 May 2015 it was announced that 2015 would be XH558’s last flying season, due to the fact the three companies assisting the project with technical expertise were unwilling to support the aircraft beyond that, meaning it would no longer have the necessary CAA approval to fly.
This maybe your last ever chance to see a Vulcan fly and hear her howl as she has not many flights left, and none in Northern Ireland are scheduled after tomorrow (Saturday 5th September) Just remember the old saying that has been associated with her final year ‘ Don’t cry because its over, smile because it happened’
The Vulcan is a massive coup for Portrush, and everyone will be excited to see her! It’s just a shame this will be the last time.
We hope you have enjoyed our aircraft profiles for Portrush, and we hope this will be a regular fixture for various shows as we expand in 2016. We would like to wish Air Waves Portrush a fantastic weekend, and thank them for putting together a fantastic 2 day show that has an amazing line up. And we hope you all enjoy the weekend! (Information from Wikipedia and VTTS. Photo from VTTS)