Avro Vulcan XH558: Wikis


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Avro Vulcan XH558
XH558 performs her display at Cosford Airshow 2009.
Type Avro Vulcan B2
Manufacturer Avro
Construction number Set 12
Registration G-VLCN
Serial XH558
First flight May 1960
Owners and operators Royal Air Force
Vulcan To The Sky Trust
In service Military: 1960-1993
Civilian: 1993-present
Total hours 7387 (31 Dec 2007)
Preserved at Airworthy

XH558 / G-VLCN is the only airworthy example of the 134 Avro Vulcan V-bombers that were operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984. Vulcan XH558 served with the RAF between 1960 and 1985 in the bomber, maritime reconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling roles. The RAF operated XH558 as a display aircraft from 1986 until 1992, when budget cuts forced its retirement.

It is presently operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust as a display aircraft, funded entirely by charitable donations and the UK Lottery's Heritage Fund.[1] It is registered with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority as G-VLCN but has an exemption to fly in Royal Air Force markings as XH558.[2]


Royal Air Force

XH558 was the twelfth Vulcan B2 built and first flew in 1960 and was delivered to No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit RAF at RAF Waddington on 1 July 1960. Almost immediately the aircraft moved with 230 OCU to RAF Finningley where the aircraft spent some 8 years before returning to Lincolnshire in 1968. The aircraft was converted to a B2 Maritime Radar Reconnaissance in 1973 and subsequently to the air-to-air refuelling variant K2 in 1982. It was returned to standard B2 configuration in 1985 and was the last Vulcan in service. From 1986 to 1992, it was the RAF's display aircraft.

After service with the Royal Air Force, the aircraft was sold to C.Walton Limited and delivered by air to Bruntingthorpe on the 23 March 1993. The aircraft was kept in a serviceable condition and would undertake fast taxi runs along Bruntingthorpe's main runway.

Restoration to flight

The engineering staff of the Vulcan Operating Company (the engineering arm of Vulcan to the Sky Trust, owners of XH558)[3] worked to return Vulcan XH558 to flight, with the first test flight taking place 18 October 2007. They were supported by the "Vulcan to the Sky" club, a supporters and fund raising organisation. Though the website carried an announcement on 1 August 2006 that the project was in danger of being abandoned due to lack of finance,[4] the target of raising the remaining £1.2m was achieved on 31 August 2006, thanks to a high-profile publicity campaign orchestrated by the supporters club, Vulcan to the Sky Club (formerly Vulcan 558 Club). Time had almost run out for XH558 when Sir Jack Hayward, a British philanthropist, donated £500,000, which topped off the £860,000 already raised by Vulcan to the Sky Club and Friends. Although the aircraft restoration was nearly complete, the aircraft was not ready for the flypast down the Mall in London for the 25th Anniversary of the Falklands conflict on 17 June 2007 or the RAF Waddington Airshow and the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT).[5]

Installing a refurbished engine fire-bottle onto XH558

It was originally intended for the Vulcan to fly during at least one UK airshow during the 2007 season.[6] but due to delays in returning the aircraft to flight, mainly down to delays in the return of refurbished flight-critical components, the aircraft was not ready for the display season.

On 16 August 2007, the aircraft started engine testing on the airfield at Bruntingthorpe. On the next day, XH558's No.3 Rolls-Royce Olympus 202 jet engine was run for the first time in over 20 years. This is a different engine from that used by XH558 during its final season with the RAF's Vulcan Display Flight in 1992, with all four of the Vulcan's original Olympus 202 engines having been replaced by zero-hour units which had been stored since 1982. The VTS Team also has another four fully inhibited engines in stock. The removed engines were either scrapped, sectioned for display or passed on to VRT's XL426 at Southend. Another milestone in the restoration project was achieved on 22 August 2007, when all four of XH558's Olympus engines were run at nearly full power settings, for short intervals.

The first post-restoration flight, which lasted 34 minutes, took place on 18 October 2007.[7][8]

On 14 April 2008, the Vulcan flew from Bruntingthorpe to RAF Cottesmore to have a Compass swing and test flights.[9] Whilst in mid air the plane called Mayday after believing the Auxiliary power unit (APU) was on fire. It landed safely at Cottesmore and the cause was later discovered to be an electrical fault.[10]

On 16 April, a further two-hour test flight was planned to perform "straight line testing" of avionics. The flight was scheduled to go between Cambridge and Marham, however, this was abandoned when one of XH558's undercarriage doors failed to close due to an electrical micro-switch malfunction and the aircraft made a safe return to Bruntingthorpe Airfield.

During part of May 2008, XH558 resided at RAF Coningsby where it underwent further testing, and while there took part in a photo-call with the Lancaster and a Typhoon .[11]

On 9 June 2008, XH558 flew its final test flight and was granted on 3 July, by the CAA, its Permit to Fly at 1605. At 1705, she launched for RAF Waddington where she flew her airshow routine, in front of CAA examiners who then issued her DA (Display Authorisation) for the RAF Waddington airshow in the first week of July.[12][13]

2008 Display season

Landing during Farnborough Airshow 2008

On 5 July 2008, XH558 performed the first post-restoration display at RAF Waddington with a flypast with the Avro Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and then a solo display. Due to engine life restrictions (in cycles) plus a fuel bill of £3200 per hour, the yearly flying hours for XH558 are limited to approximately 50.[14] In 2008, three appearances were cancelled due to technical problems, two due to bad weather and three due to fault in No 2 Engine

Date Display/Location Notes
5 July RAF Waddington International Airshow did not fly on the second day due to technical failure
30–31 August Shoreham Airshow
4 September RAF Wyton Sunset Parade Private event
6–7 September Duxford Airshow
8 September Southport Sea Front Airshow "Vulcan roars in to thrill"[15]
11 September Jersey International Air Display
11 September Guernsey Battle of Britain Air Display
13 September RAF Leuchars Airshow Taxi runs only due to bad weather

2009 Display season

Windermere Airshow 2009
On the ground at Leuchars 2009
Date Display/Location Notes
14 June DCAE Cosford
19–20 June Volkel - Netherlands
21 June Kemble Displayed after flight from Volkel
27–28 June Biggin Hill
4–5 July Waddington cancelled[16]
11 July Yeovilton Grounded due to hydraulic fluid and weather problems
11 July Lasham flypast
18 July Cosford model show flypast
18–19 July Fairford - RIAT Took off from Fairford, flew to Cosford for a flypast before displaying, successful displays on both days
23–24 July Lowestoft Appearance on second day cancelled after an inspection found a gear door bracket needed replacing.
25 July Sunderland
25 July East Fortune
25 July Windermere
8 August RAF Lyneham families day Displayed and landed for a static display
9 August Whitehaven
9 August Blackpool
20 August Dawlish Air Show Flypast at Bournemouth before displaying with The Red Arrows
22–23 August Shoreham
22–23 August Bournemouth
29 August Silverstone Circuit BTCC/WAC
30 August Dunsfold
5 September Cosby-Leicestershire & Airbus Family Day - Hawarden
12 September Leuchars Was given a Eurofighter escort into RAF Leuchars on arrival on 11/09/2009. Formed part of the static display in the morning of the show, before taking off and performing a full display before landing again. Returned to Brize Norton on 13 September, via Hull.
20 September Sanicole - Belgium
20 September Goodwood Revival
20 September Cambridge Private Event
26 September Woodford


 United Kingdom

Funding concerns

On 9 September 2008, the Chief Executive of the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, Dr Robert Pleming announced on XH558's site; http://www.vulcantothesky.org that there are serious short falls in the aircraft's funds suggesting that "...it looks as if the door may now be closing on the future of the Vulcan in flight. I think that anyone wishing to see a Vulcan in flight should do so as soon as possible." and that "If we don’t achieve a significant change of circumstances soon, we won’t be able to carry out our role of ‘Honouring the Past, Inspiring the Future’, providing the once-seen, never-forgotten sight of XH558 in flight to a new generation; stimulating interest in design and engineering; and telling people about an important period in our nation’s history".

XH558 still has no commercial sponsors and relies on public donations and fundraising events organised by the Vulcan To The Sky Club members and supporters. In December 2008, the Vulcan To The Sky Trust set up a pledge scheme in order to raise £1 million by early 2009 to pay debts and cover servicing and operating costs for the 2009 display season. On March 6 the appeal reached its target.[17]

Popular culture

The spaceship HMS Camden Lock in the BBC2 comedy series Hyperdrive bears the serial number XH558 as an homage to the Vulcan bomber. The set and prop designer, model maker Andrew Glazebrook said:

Its registration number XH558 is actually that of the Royal Air Force's 'Avro Vulcan' bomber and was suggested by the show's writers, Andy Riley and Kevin Cecil.[18]


  1. ^ "Where has the majority of funding come from?". http://www.vulcantothesky.org/news/anmviewer.asp?a=522&z=19. Retrieved 2009-06-28.  
  2. ^ United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority - G-VLCN
  3. ^ Restoration Pictures, In the Hanger
  4. ^ Vulcan to the Sky Club
  5. ^ Donor saves Vulcan bomber project
  6. ^ TV News
  7. ^ "The Vulcan Bomber returns to the sky"
  8. ^ "First Takeoff Video" at youtube
  9. ^ Test flights for restored bomber bbc.co.uk, 14 April 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2008
  10. ^ Vulcan bomber suffers fire alert bbc.co.uk, 14 April 2008. Retrieved 14 April 2008
  11. ^ Avro Vulcan XH558 Returns to RAF Conningsby "TVOC", 9 May 2008. Retrieved 10 May 2008
  12. ^ "Clear skies give Vulcan chance to shine". Harborough Mail. 2008-06-09. http://www.harboroughmail.co.uk/news/Clear-skies-give-Vulcan-chance.4165719.jp. Retrieved 2008-06-09.  
  13. ^ "Tests completed for Vulcan bomber". BBC. 2008-06-09. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/7444984.stm. Retrieved 2008-06-09.  
  14. ^ "Five more air show appearances by Vulcan". 2008-07-12. http://www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk/displayNode.jsp?nodeId=156130&command=displayContent&sourceNode=242285&home=yes&more_nodeId1=156139&contentPK=21069033. Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  15. ^ "Vulcan roars in to thrill". Liverpool Echo. 2008-09-08. http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2008/09/08/vulcan-roars-in-to-thrill-100252-21698972/. Retrieved 2008-09-09.  
  16. ^ "Vulcan bomber grounded at display". BBC. 4 July 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/leicestershire/8134361.stm. Retrieved 1 January 2010.  
  17. ^ "Vulcan appeal reaches fund target". BBC News. 6 March 2009. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/leicestershire/7928243.stm. Retrieved 2009-06-28.  
  18. ^ Andrew Glazebrook

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