Historic day for aviation as Vulcan bomber returns to the skies after 14 years
18th October 2007
The Vulcan bomber - a warrior of the Cold War era and a decisive weapon in the Falklands War - took to the skies for the first time in 14 years today.
The Avro Vulcan XH558 was the last of the aircraft to fly in 1993 when it was hangared at an airfield in Bruntingthorpe, Leicestershire.
Today, after a £6 million restoration project, it was returned to flight.
Up, up and away: The Avro Vulcan XH558 takes to the skies, 14 years after its last flight and following a £6m refit. It saw action in the RAF during the Falklands War.
The plane, which can reach speeds of up to 645mph, was expected to scale heights of around 3,000 feet during the 20-minute test flight and burn in excess of £1,000 of fuel.
Project organisers were describing it as a "historic day for aviation".
It is the first time an aircraft of the Vulcan's complexity has been given an extended overhaul on such a scale and then returned to flight, meeting all current aviation standards, said the Vulcan to the Sky Trust.
With a characteristic screeching roar, the plane rose majestically into the sky to a cheer from watching supporters, sponsors and engineers before banking to the left.
Awesome: The Vulcan just feet above the ground as it takes off
Stunning: The Vulcan climbs majestically into the sky
Just over 20 minutes later, to widespread relief, co-pilots Al McDicken and David Thomas landed it back on a Leicestershire airstrip.
Speaking immediately after the flight, Squadron Leader McDicken said: "She was an absolute delight, every bit as good as I can remember. It was a tremendous privilege to fly it again. We were suitably aroused.
"What a statement for those people who made that aircraft all those years ago.
"It's 25 years almost to the day that I last flew one. It was just wonderful."
Engineers had failed to restore the Vulcan in time for a flypast over London earlier this year to commemorate the Falklands War.
Proud: Vulcan crew members Al McDicken, left, David Thomas and Barry Masefield
Witnessing today's test flight, Dr Robert Pleming, chief executive of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said he felt a "huge sense of achievement" at finally getting the plane off the ground.
"We finally did it after so many ups and downs," he said. "It's the British bulldog spirit."
With a characteristic screeching roar, the plane rose majestically into the sky to a cheer from watching supporters, sponsors and engineers before landing
Among the pilots to have worked on the project is Martin Withers, who piloted a Vulcan for the first of the famous Black Buck missions during the Falklands War.
Describing the significance of today's test flight, he said: "This is the only one of the V-bombers (Victor, Valiant and Vulcan) to play such an important role during the Cold War as our prime nuclear deterrent, in good enough condition that you could reasonably expect to be airborne again."
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.
Following RAF service spanning more than three decades, the plane was retired from active service in 1992.
It had been a part of Britain's nuclear deterrent and served as a maritime reconnaissance, air-to-air refueller and, finally, as the Vulcan Display Aircraft for six years from 1986.
Crowds gather: It is hoped that the aircraft will become the star turn at air shows from next spring
It was not among the Vulcan bombers which played a major part in missions during the Falklands War.
The restoration project was kick-started by a £2.7 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund in 2004. In return, the project organisers will make the aircraft available for students studying the Cold War in the National Curriculum.
Ex-Wolverhampton Wanderers chairman Sir Jack Hayward donated £500,000.
And some 3,500 members of the public joined the Vulcan to the Sky Club, organising a host of events to raise cash for its restoration.
Acting club chairman Richard Clarke said: "The chance to be involved in such a large scale undertaking rarely comes along in anyone's life, so to have been able to contribute to such an historic project is very exciting."
Restoration work on the aircraft has included a total overhaul, including the rewiring of more than 12 miles of electric cabling, installation of refurbished flying controls and new piping for its pneumatic and hydraulics systems.
Destructive: the RAF Vulcan bomber in its prime as a nuclear deterrent during the Cold War
Corrosion has been removed from the plane's structure and the rear spar strengthened.
Fourteen fuels tanks have also been re-installed along with four Rolls-Royce Olympus 202 engines, and a modern new avionics suite and modern navigation aids, such as GPS.
It will cost an estimated £1.6 million a year to keep in the air and available for viewing by members of the public.
After a 'second life' of up to 15 years as an air show star it will be retired to a national aerospace museum.