Just as it seemed that the 15 years and £7 million spent to restore the world’s only remaining Vulcan bomber to full serviceability would be in vain, a sponsor has come in at the 11th hour and given the project a temporary reprieve. Aerobytes Ltd., which supplies flight safety and fuel saving software to the aviation industry, has responded to the Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s (VTST) pleas for financial assistance by swelling the coffers enough to ensure that the iconic aircraft can appear at this year’s Royal International Air Tattoo at Fairford (12 – 13 July) and Farnborough International (14 – 20 July) airshows – subject to the UK CAA granting XH558 a Permit to Fly and a Display Authorisation.
Despite her glorious return to flight last year and the successful completion of all test-flights required by the UK CAA, the major sponsorship required to secure the Vulcan’s long-term future has not yet materialised. Thousands of supporters have consistently rallied to keep the project afloat, but despite their generosity, the money coming in has only been sufficient to keep the team ticking over.
If this situation had continued it would not have been possible for the Vulcan to appear at airshows and have the chance to attract the major sponsors it so critically needs. The VTST was in a Catch 22 situation. Almost unthinkably, the project would have achieved its goal of restoring XH558 to flight status and subsequently then had to close owing to a lack of funding before ever having flown her in front of her expectant public audience. Having come this far, the only airworthy Vulcan on the planet would have been grounded forever.
Then, in the Vulcan’s darkest hour, Aerobytes came to the rescue. Managing Director Eddie Forrester has been a long-term sponsor of the Vulcan and simply couldn’t bear to stand by and see her reduced to a museum novelty. Through donations and pledges for an undisclosed sum, Aerobytes has now provided the financial stability required to keep XH558 operational at least until the end of the summer.
Aerobytes supplies Flight Safety (FDM/FOQA) and Fuel Saving software to nearly one hundred airlines worldwide and is considering the possibility of pledging a proportion of revenue from its Fuel Saving software to keep the Vulcan flying in future.
Despite the apparently good news, Eddie was quick to point out that Aerobytes alone cannot save the Vulcan:
“Without our assistance, XH558 would not have the chance to fly this summer season, or potentially ever again. We are just one part of a devoted team of supporters though, and without continuing support from others funds will run out before September and there will be dire consequences. If there was ever a time to donate to the Vulcan, it is now.”
“It’s essential that a major sponsor is found in the next two months and that is one reason why we put up the money. XH558 must appear on the big stages of Fairford & Farnborough so that potential sponsors can realise the fantastic opportunity she represents as a publicity platform. It is one thing to see a photograph of a Vulcan, but something completely different to experience one for real. The size, shape, performance and noise are truly breathtaking. When she performs her ‘first’ display, nobody who witnesses it will talk about anything else for days.”
“The other reason we wanted to support the Vulcan through summer 2008 was to ensure that the thousands of people who have really kept the project afloat – through individual, private donations over many years – are repaid for their faith and patience. They deserve to see her fly and to hear that awesome Vulcan howl once more. If nothing more comes of our donation than bringing happiness to our fellow supporters then it will have been money well spent. One of the most impressive facts about the Vulcan restoration is the high proportion of funding that came from individuals – as opposed to Lottery money or corporate sponsorship – something like 30%. That so many people have been prepared to donate so much over such a long time demonstrates the Vulcan’s widespread, enduring and deeply felt popularity.”
When asked why the Vulcan is so special, Eddie’s reply comes back almost instantly:
“For a start, this aircraft represents one of the best pieces of engineering design ever created in the UK. Decades ahead of its time, the delta shape will be instantly familiar to anyone who has been privileged to see a Concorde. And, like Concorde, the Vulcan is quite ‘vocal’ as the two aircraft both use four almost identical Olympus engines. At full power the experience cannot possibly be described in words. Certain engine-speeds (typically during take-off) cause the intakes to resonate and the aircraft creates the most incredible howl – it would easily drown out a car alarm right next to you yet it is strangely calming at the same time. You never once think ‘too loud’, just ‘wow…’. I have described it as the sound of the gates of Hell opening and given the aircraft’s initial purpose (delivery of nuclear weapons) I suppose that’s not an inappropriate choice of words.”
“For me personally, the most important point is that a group of dedicated individuals managed to perform the ‘impossible’. Inevitably, the doubters have always been lurking in the shadows – all too quick to write this off as another impossible dream and assert that none of us should waste time with intangible and abstract things such as aspirations, visions or fantasies. I strongly believe that this type of negative-thinking is slowly strangling our society and that it accounts for many commercial and personal failures in the UK every day. It helps to explain why we can no longer produce miracles of engineering like Concorde or TSR2. Consequently, I am proud beyond words that the Vulcan team has weathered the storm and now has something so beautiful and so noisy with which to send doubters scuttling back under their rocks for a long time to come. I sincerely hope that young people over the coming years will see this aircraft, learn how she was saved and be inspired. I want them to learn that ‘impossible’ normally means ‘lazy’, ‘excuse’ or ‘no imagination’ and that they are entirely capable of achieving just about anything so long as they apply enough intelligence, imagination and courage.”
“In short, we are very proud to support the return of XH558 to the sky as magnificent proof that ‘impossible’ is a much over-used word. This is a lesson that tomorrow’s engineers and managers will hopefully remember and apply in later life.”