Throughout the recession there has been an unlikely but welcome charitable success, this has been the campaign to keep Avro Vulcan XH558 flying. As the flying program draws to a close over the coming few weeks and XH558 flies for the final time it is worth reflecting on some of the many reasons why this has been such a success.

My guess is it is highly likely that many of the people excited about XH558 (and Vulcans generally) all have a different connection to her/them. For me Vulcans flew over my home as a child, I clearly remember standing in the garden as a small boy as they regularly flew overhead heading out towards the North Sea, and later seeing for the first time the colour change from white to camouflage. It was part of my childhood, beyond that it is a fascinating and highly complex machine that captures the imagination.


For others it may have been part of their time in service, or part of a family members time in service, it could be as simple as the one easily recognisable aircraft at an air show – or just a spectacular big noisy aircraft that at a display you can feel through your feet and in your chest, or that howl that is unique to the particular Rolls Royce Olympus engines used.

By my analysis there have been three discrete stages to the project so far, 1) rescue and care and maintenance when it was purchased out of RAF service and kept in ground running condition, 2) restoration when it was taken from ground running condition to flying condition, 3) flight that is what it says and soon it will enter a fourth phase with an education programe that will preserve the aircraft as a diverse educational resource.


There are many lessons for people to learn about why this project particularly phases 2 and 3 that have required huge sums of money, allot of hard work from many people and considerable goodwill, have been successful when the wider environment has been one of recession and huge economic hardship, after all, it is in the first instance an engineering project centred on aircraft designed and intended to carry and drop nuclear weapons during a cold war era.

I was heavily involved in the second phase to get the aircraft to flying condition and to first flight, this was an exciting time trying to make what was perceived by many as impossible possible, I’m still excited by the aircraft and I’ve been pleased to be a small part of this huge project that has so far spaned approximately 20 years and has touched and involved many millions of people as attendees at air shows, contributors and all those very close to the project on a day to day basis.



There are many more aircraft that should be seen flying again in a properly maintained and preserved program, I hope that XH558 is the first aircraft of many and has found and defined the pathway for future projects.

The images here were taken at the Vulcan to the Sky Club’s recent club day and I can’t remember seeing the aircraft in better condition.