Sunday, 20 July 2008


I’ve been watching the progress made in restoring to flight the Avro Vulcan XH558. At times the project came close to failing but with Lottery grant aid, extensive donations plus philanthropic assistance from Sir Jack Hayward the old V bomber finally took to the air again in 2007 and now has its CAA flight approval and public display authority.

East Anglian Troy remembers as a boy watching these loud but graceful machines flying over the Yorkshire coast. At air displays they also stole the show with their impressive displays. Most famously, prior to its retirement two Vulcans took part in the 8,000 mile bombing raid on Port Stanley airfield in the Falklands War – at that time a record distance for a bombing raid. So I was keen for Troy Junior (aged 7) to have a similar experience (to see the Vulcan in flight, not to bomb Stanley).

So armed with advanced tickets, Mrs Troy, Troy Junior and myself headed off to Farnborough Airshow yesterday. From the traffic queues it seems the rest of Britain had the same idea. Having finally got into the show Troy Junior seemed well impressed with the Red Arrows and the fast jets (Typhoon, F-16, F-18) as well as with the pilot who threw the giant Airbus A380 around the sky (memo to self – don’t fly with that pilot on holiday). Just after 3pm the Vulcan XH558 taxied onto the runway. It very quickly got airbourne – they obviously didn’t restore many of its 1,000lb bombs with it – and it was great to see that familiar delta shape in the sky again after all these years. Yet Troy Junior didn’t seem over impressed. The pilot handled it very gently, it did a couple of flypasts then landed again.

My lasting memory of past Vulcan air displays was the fast low level flypast then a near vertical climb at full throttle at the end of the display area – the whole ground would shake, the noise was ear-shattering – you really felt the immense power of the plane. The RAF certainly knew how to burn fuel – a delta shape with a carbon footprint to match.

So in some ways yesterday was an anti-climax. However the “Vulcan To The Sky” people must be applauded for the way they succeeded against the odds in restoring Vulcan XH558 to flight. And a great use of Lottery money in preserving an important part of Britain’s flying heritage (our main nuclear deterrent prior to Polaris).

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