Monday, 14 September 2015

Farewell XH558

On Sunday 13th September, the last flying Avro Vulcan made a final flypast of Coventry airport.

The Vulcan is a long range delta wing aircraft of 1950's vintage, built primarily as a nuclear bomber. It thankfully never saw action in this capacity of course, but it was used during the 1980's Falklands conflict.

The last flying example, XH558 (G-VLCN) has been kept flying for the last decade or so by the Vulcan to the Sky trust, which has relied on charitable support and private funding. 2015 is its last flying season, with suppliers of parts needed to maintain the aircraft withdrawing their support.

It was announced (although very badly advertised I must say!) that the Vulcan was due to do a small display at Coventry on Sunday 13th. On the day, the expected time of fly past was announced as 15:45, and we were over there like a shot!

Special parking had been made available (a field opposite the airport) and there were alot of people there - remarkable, since as far as I can tell, the only advertising done was in a local paper and on Facebook & twitter. We walked down to get a good view, ending up outside the Coventry flying club, where we got a surprise:

Apologies for not zooming but those 2 dots are a Meteor and Venom, operated by Classic Air Force and flying in formation (callsign: Vintage Formation!). With so many people turning up to see the Vulcan, I suppose Airbase thought it a good day to give some of the other jets a run!

On schedule, I heard 'Vulcan' on the scanner and we caught a glimpse of smokey-trailed triangle in the distance! A few minutes later...

I think most of us expected a fly by and nothing more, but we were treated to something like 5 or 6 fly pasts, it was a properly planned display:

A fantastic view of XH558 turning base leg for another low fly past along rwy23...

And, after one final flypast along rwy05, she climbed out on full power, up and away back to Doncaster, her home base. I can honestly say that standing below a Vulcan on full power, climbing out, is the best sound I have ever heard! And the loudest too!

I had the privilege of watching the same aircraft 5 years ago, from air-side:

So it was a bitter sweet experience really, sad to see the vintage jets (which are going up for sale) and the Vulcan airborne for the last time, but of course a pleasure to see them while we can! I have to conclude by saying how much of commercial opportunity operating these aircraft could be, and I can't help but think that if advertised and developed into a tourist attraction, Airbase and the Vulcan could have bright futures. Donations alone have kept them going this long, after all.

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