The world’s only flying Avro Vulcan, XH558, arrived at Royal Air Force Coningsby under a clear blue afternoon sky on Tuesday 6 May 2008. The Vulcan, landing in Lincolnshire for the first time since a comprehensive rebuild, is visiting the airfield for maintenance work on its compass and to conduct air tests.
Before landing, and in front of an audience of appreciative spectators who watched from outside of the station, the impeccably restored aircraft flew along the runway, demonstrating the magnificent delta, (triangular shaped) wing. The Vulcan shares the advantages of a delta wing with the current incumbents at Coningsby, the state of the art, swing-role, Typhoon.
XH558 last landed at Coningsby in June 1992, when she gave a flying display in her last season as a RAF display aircraft. The visit of the Vulcan gives RAF personnel at Coningsby the opportunity to see part of the RAF’s heritage, in this, the 90th anniversary of the force’s creation in 1918. Vulcans were based at Coningsby for two years from 1962 until 1964 with Numbers, 9, 12, and 35 Squadron.
In its role as a long-range strategic bomber, the Avro Vulcan was a direct descendant of the Avro Lancaster. At Coningsby the Vulcan shared a photographic opportunity with the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF). It is the first time for many years that the Vulcan and the equally unique and precious sole flying Lancaster in Europe have shared the same airfield.
The Vulcan and Typhoon were also photographed together, the first time that the Cold War icon and the most modern of RAF aircraft have been pictured together.
Wing Commander Tony Innes, acting Station Commander at Coningsby said: ”We are delighted to facilitate additional testing for the Vulcan. As many of you will be aware the Vulcan was stationed here in 1962 and it is testament to the Aircrafts build and quality that it is able to fly into RAF Coningsby some 46 years later.”
Mr David Thomas, the Vulcan pilot, who as a former RAF officer also flew the BBMF Lancaster, said: “I flew both the Lancaster and the Vulcan in RAF service; I have a tremendous feeling for both aircraft, almost a love affair. It is wonderful to bring the Vulcan back to Coningsby where I started my first tour on Vulcans with 35 Squadron in 1964”
Andrew Edmondson, Engineering Director of the Vulcan to the Sky project stated: “Coningsby is obviously a very special place for everyone associated with the Vulcan, and it made me very proud to lead the team that returned XH558 to the base in full working order. Everyone at Coningsby, and the RAF in general, have been hugely supportive of the project. A big part of our mission is to honour all of the servicemen that served during the Cold War, and it was great to see so many people on the airfield coming out to show their appreciation of what we are trying to achieve. Military personnel, our supporters club, the general public and the Heritage Lottery Fund have helped us move heaven and earth to return XH558 to the sky. Now we hope a commercial sponsor can be found in time to mean that it has not all been in vain.”
The combination of the sun’s warmth and the knowledge that when she returns home her testing will be complete filled everyone on the airfield with hope that both the Permit to Fly and the air show season will be with us soon – a sentiment I’m sure you all share.
All that will then be left to put in place is the all essential sponsorship – you can help by e-donating at http://www.tvoc.co.uk or calling the project office on 0116 2478145 for further information.