Saturday, 20 October 2007

A Delta Winged Delight!!

The Vulcan bomber cut its teeth during the Cold War before going on to prove invaluable during the Falklands conflict. It flew for the first time on 18th October for over fourteen years!!

It's worth a mention if for no other reason than the now legendary Kenneth Arnold sighting, which as you can see below has similar characteristics and the subsequent story is credited with coining the phrase, “Flying Saucer.”

Kenneth Arnold Saucer - 1947

Boasting a top speed of 645mph it had once been an integral part of Britain's nuclear deterrent and served as a maritime reconnaissance, air-to-air refueller before becoming a Vulcan Display Aircraft for six years from 1986 before being retired from active service in 1992.

Extensive restoration work has been carried out on the Vulcan and the XH558 will undergo further test flights before it can gain a Civil Aviation Authority permit to take part in air shows. It is hoped the aircraft will then become the star turn at events from next spring.

Ministry Of Defence Press Release

The Cold War bomber left RAF service in 1984 but yesterday, XH558B, based at Bruntingthorpe Airfield near Leicester, made a spectacular 40 minute flight before returning home with a textbook landing.

The restoration, by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust (VST), was completed in the 25th anniversary year of the Falklands Conflict. The only time they were used in a combat situation, Vulcans flew the longest bombing mission in history to put Port Stanley Airfield out of action denying its use to Argentine invaders in 1982. This forced their aircraft to operate against the British task force at the limit of their endurance and only from the Argentine mainland.

The brief flight yesterday over the Leicester countryside paves the way for the Vulcan Operating Co (VOC) applying for a display licence to star at airshows from next year. Pilot Al McDicken said after he touched down: "Everything worked and she flew like a dream. We rose to 2,000ft at 200 knots and tested the undercarriage. Then we increase speed to 250 knots and carried out a few more tests. Before we knew it, it was time to touchdown."

Keith Mans, recently-appointed Chairman of the Trustees of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said:
"Today the Vulcan rejoins the exclusive club of iconic military aircraft – including the Lancaster and Spitfire - still able to take to the air and be instantly recognisable. The challenge now is to keep her flying for many years to come – so we need to continue raising funds in the same way as before........This is an appropriate time to thank all our supporters, the volunteer workforce and the RAF who provided aircraft electrical technicians for many years to work on XH558 as part of their continuation training. The project to restore her to flying condition was probably one of the longest and most complicated in UK aviation history."

Former Chairman Air Chief Marshal Sir Michael Knight added:
"For the past ten years the Vulcan team has worked tirelessly to get XH558 back in the air. Now that goal has been achieved the focus must switch to keeping her there. Each operating year will cost an estimated £1.6 m. It's all worth it bearing in mind the Vulcan's amazing power, grace and manoeuvrability. And of course the Delta shape is returning to the RAF in the shape of the Typhoon."

Vulcan pilot Martin Withers is one of four ex-RAF bomber pilots authorised to fly XH558. He flew the first bombing mission over the Falklands, cratering the runway with a line of 1,000lb bombs. He was on the ground yesterday as the Vulcan – one of the last to be decommissioned and leave RAF Service in 1984 – flew overhead. He said: "It was flown into Bruntingthorpe by Dave Thomas – it was fitting he was in the cockpit for this inaugural flight after 14 years. It is the first time a jet aircraft of this size has been restored to flying condition and seeing her fly is another very proud moment of my life. She lifted off like a dream, belying her 50 tonne weight. But it was a different story taking off from Ascension in 1982 in hot conditions and with less powerful engines and a full bomb load."

"XH558 is now equipped to modern flying standards. Little is obvious from the outside, but internally she now has sophisticated flying systems and avionics such as GPS. To facilitate this, unnecessary equipment associated with her bombing past has been stripped out where appropriate. Over the past eight years every rivet, pipe, piece of wiring and switch has been fully checked and upgraded or replaced – we acquired several hundred tonnes of spares including four extra engines when we acquired her and these will enable her to have a flying life of about a decade.

Ultimately this time in the air now depends on the availability of spares for each component and the air frame itself. "It was very emotional watching her lift off, circle twice and land perfectly - definitely the pinnacle of my aviation career."

Technically the Vulcan currently flies under the control of Marshall Aerospace of Cambridge. Once more test flights have been completed the Civil Aviation Authority is expected to issue a permit to fly which will then enable owners the VOC to plan the flying programme for 2008.
Joint Force Harrier Junior Technician Stu Youds of 4 Sqn, RAF Cottesmore is on the VTS Club Committee. The 3,500-member club helps by raising funds and provides volunteers to support hangar work, look after visitors and develop the education programme.

He said: "The British public now has a direct link between the aircraft of World War Two still flying and the Cold War. The Vulcan succeeded fully at both the strategic and conventional levels – not many aircraft can claim that."

Following the Second World War the then Air Ministry decided to replace its ageing propeller-driver bomber fleet with a new generation of aircraft. The demanding requirement was for a four-engined jet bomber that could fly higher (more that 50,000ft), faster (up to 500 knots) and further (more than 3,000 miles) than anything ever built. Critically it also had to be able to carry the huge British nuclear bomb, projected to weigh 4,500kg (10,000lbs).

Lancaster designer Roy Chadwick came up with an innovative design – a huge delta wing that would allow the engines, undercarriage and bomb load to be enclosed in a low drag shape which gave good high altitude and high speed performance.

The first Avro Vulcan was delivered to the RAF in July 1956 and 83 Sqn was formed. Alongside Valiants and Victors they became known and the RAF's V-Force - the leading component of Britain's independent strategic deterrence in the Cold War era of the 50's and 60's. More than 100 Vulcans stood ready to defend the UK against all-out attack with nuclear weapons.

By 1982 the Vulcan had been in service far longer than originally envisaged. Its replacement – Tornado GR1 – had started to enter service but the rundown of squadrons and aircraft was shelved when several Vulcans were selected for duties in the South Atlantic. Refuelled by a carefully-planned sequence of Victor air-to-air tankers, the first audacious raid took place at the early hours of 1 May and was a daring and successful attack on the occupying forces who woke up to find their only airfield for vital supplies had been denied them.

But the high-profile part the Vulcan played in liberating the Falklands caused only a short delay in the retirement of the V bomber force and on its final retirement the RAF decided to retain two, later reduced to one Vulcan for display purposes. In 1992 the final one – XH558 - was sent into retirement.

Source - Ministry Of Defence Press Release

Vulcan Bomber - Delta Wing

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