back to article Restored Vulcan takes to the skies

Vulcan bomber XH558 today took to the skies for the first of three test flights following years of fundraising and a painstaking £6.5m restoration by the Vulcan to the Sky trust. The Civil Aviation Authority cleared XH558 for take-off, weather permitting, from Bruntingthorpe airfield in Leicestershire. Chief of the Vulcan Crew …


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  1. Derek Hellam
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    They should keep this quiet

    If the MOD gets wind of this, I can see it being grabbed by the cash strapped RAF to fly missions in (......) insert name of illegal labour government war here. Good luck to the restorers!

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Webcam here:

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Hopefully it will live long and prosper

    ...I'll get my coat

  4. David Harper

    Re They should keep this quiet

    The idea of keeping this quiet is actually quite funny, considering the amount of noise a Vulcan makes when taking off. It makes Concorde seem quiet by comparison.

  5. Morten Ranulf Clausen

    So before anyone can get on board...

    ...will they be x-rayed and patted down for fluids? I mean, flying with fluids leads to terrorism, well known fact.

  6. John Stag

    I remember seeing Vulcans at airshows when I was a kid...

    The Vulcan is truly beautiful aircraft. Second only to the spitfire.

  7. Dave
    Black Helicopters

    @Derek Hellam

    If you look at the payload of a Vulcan and its operational cost and compare it to the modern equivalent involving numerous payload carriers plus refuelling support, etc, the Vulcan has a lot going for it. Plus it's a beautiful aircraft and deserves to be kept flying.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    link not working

    Why does the link go to Reeds Raines property site?

  9. Ross Taylor

    They should indeed keep this quiet...

    Given the UK yesterday submitted a claim to huge swathes of the Antarctic oceans resources (see They might well require the long-range services of the Vulcan again...

  10. Chris

    Reeds Rains???

    Why does the link point to Reeds Rains? Or is it just me?

  11. Andrew Cannon

    Vulcan website been hijacked?

    I went to the Vulcan website earlier today and, although slow, was quite interesting. Now I go there and I get Reeds Rains Estate Agents! WTF???

  12. Adam Capps
    Thumb Up

    Sadly ...

    The Vulcan at Southend Airport (Essex) still has one under apparent restoration - I don't think that'll ever fly again.

    A few years back they performed an 'aborted takeoff' - bit pointless really - they should have just throttled it right up and left for good !

  13. Anonymous Coward
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    I'm old enough to remember seeing a Vulcan fly at HMS Dead Loss down on the sarf coast, at an air display. Superb aircraft, love to see it in the sky again.

    I've also been into the cockpit of a Vulcan at Coventry airfield, I think they had one in their air museum. Damned hard luck for the crew down below if they had to get out close to the ground - the only way out was down so it's definitely a suicide ejection. At least the pilot and co-pilot had a chance of going out the top.

    I loved the way the Vulcan could get its wheels off the ground then point its nose at the sky and go straight up. Very noisy, but those 4 engines had some power behind them.

  14. Christopher A Light
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    At last!

    I fondly remember seeing one of these perform a slow roll in low altitude level flight at a display, unbelievable grace and power.

    The only thing that worries me a little is that back when the 'flying restoration' was first mooted, I heard a comment from an ex-RAF tech that 'it can't be done' because the key component of a Vulcan airframe was huge alloy forging that basically joined the wings, and it had a well defined fatigue life, the end of which was the reason for retiring them in the first place... Re-manufacturing that component was supposedly prohibitively expensive.

    Did he know what he was on about? Or was it just hot air? I can only suppose time will tell.

    Still, it's back in the air, and while it is I'm definitely going to be seeing it!

  15. James Delaney

    What are they up to at Reeds Rains?

    What's happened to the website you linked to? It seems that The Vulcan Operating Company has had their website/domain pulled out from under their feet by those sneaky estate agents at Reeds Rains!

    Is this just me with some dodgy dns?

  16. Bryan B

    @David Harper

    Too right - at least a *bit* of work went into trying to make Concorde less noisy than it would otherwise have been, whereas with the Vulcan, nobody bothered!

    BTW, I remember hearing the five-engined Vulcan flying around Filton, and I think that was even noisier. (It was Rolls Royce's flying testbed for the Concorde engines, IIRC, with a 5th Olympus in the bomb-bay).

  17. Raineh

    Same here!

    I was draged to many-a-airshow when I was a young'un

    I was allways drawn to the "Black-Bird" if it was on show due to its looks, but id always go and see the Vulcan later, looked great and she still does, but gawd the noise!!! even at high altitudes it would still make your ears ring. Typical Women eH?

    Glad to see her back in the ~skys

  18. hugo tyson

    TVOC website is down

    ...unsurprisingly. Pity, I wanna watch videos of it *now*. Phwooooaar. They suggest we wait until this evening. Some hopes, it'll be swamped then too I bet. Still, great joy and relief all round. Delighted.

  19. Dan

    Good news

    If you've never seen one of these airborne, make an effort to see this one. The presence and the sheer noise is fantastic.

  20. Mad as a Bat
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    @John Stag

    I can also remember seeing a Vulcan scramble at Finningley airshow in the late '70s. I can still hear the noise...

  21. Alan Donaly

    the virtual directory

    does not allow it's contents to be listed WTF

  22. gareth
    Paris Hilton

    video at the beeb

    here is a link to the take off at the beeb

  23. David Hearn
    Thumb Up

    I remember as a kid...

    going to the Warbirds airshow at West Malling (now I housing estate I think). The Vulcan would take off and scream almost straight up into the air. You could not hear a thing, but instead you could feel all your organs in your chest rattling around. As the sound got less and less, you then started to hear all the car alarms wailing which had been set off! Absolutely amazing.

  24. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    Well done!

    This is a stunning achievement for the Vulcan team! I hope the aircraft will get its permit to fly and be able to display at airshows.

    However, the team still faces a huge ongoing issue of financing the maintenance of the plane, hangarage, crew expenses, insurance etc.

    I am a member of Sally-B B17 preservation club and I can say that the amount of work and money that is required to keep the aircraft in the air is huge and is only growing all the time. And that is for piston engined WW2 plane, not the jet powered supersonic one.

  25. Phil Hare

    I also remember seeing the Vulcan at airshows when I was a kid

    My ears stopped bleeding after a couple of hours. Stunning!

  26. Steven Moore
    Thumb Up


    I've always thought the Vulcan to be one of the prettiest of large aircraft. While she doesn't have the performance of the B-58 Hustler or XB-70 Valkyrie (two other beauties), her style and grace are breathtaking.

    Good Show!

  27. MahFL

    Vulcan is awesome.

    I saw them fly many times at the Otterburn ranges in Northumberland. They used our minibus as a target !. They truly do look like a a huge manta ray.



    ( expat ).

  28. Al Storer

    @ Vladimir

    wonderful as Vulcans may be, the one thing they never were was Supersonic.

  29. Mark Catterall

    cant wait to she the old girl in the air

    Best of british engineering :D

  30. Nano nano

    Welsh Anthem

    So, no John Redwood related stories then ...

  31. Vladimir Plouzhnikov

    @Al Storer

    I thought it was driven supersonic in shallow dives (or was it Victor)?

  32. Ivan Headache

    Awesome +

    I used to work on these beautiful things in the late sixties and can only gloat over those who only saw them at airshows. They never struck me as that noisy (compared to aircraft with afterburners) but then you get used to it after a short while.

    With regard to airshows, We had a couple of crews that used to do these through the summer (all over the world) and on those days when they were rehearsing, virtually the entire station would be out on the grass watching watching these huge aircraft behaving like fighter jets.

    I never saw one properly upside down but I've seen several that looked not far off.

    I remember talking to one crew-member one night as they were getting ready to go off on a special mission. (we had a code name for them but I can't remember was it was - they used to fly along the russian borders -I don't know if they attempted penetrating!) They used to do them quite frequently and I asked him if he was concerned that the Russians would attempt to shoot them down.

    His reply was to the effect that he wan't concerned at all as the Russians didn't have anything that could get remotely near them (this is after Gary Powers) so heaven knows what altitude they were flying at.

    There's a novel written during the cold war (I can't remember it's title) about an RAF pilot disputing the decision to switch the nuclear deterrent from the Vs to submarines. In the story he persuades his crew and three other crews to subvert a training mission and instead, cross the Atlantic with the object of over-flying the Pentagon with their Vulcans and then landing, without the Americans knowing they were coming.

    It's a gripping read and is alledged to be based on a real incident.

  33. Luther Blissett

    The reason it was scrapped

    No use if they can hear you coming from a 1000 miles away - subsonic speeds meant lots of time to hit the underground nuclear shelters before it arrived.

    PS. Anyone have a Catalina they don't want?

  34. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I think it was the Victor....

    ... that could go supersonic in a shallow dive. I may be recalling wrongly but I'm sure the Vulcan would have fallen to bits if it tried due to the shape of the wings (however I could be talking rubbish!)

    Saw XH558 today whilst at work, pootling around east of the A1. I let out a fairly loud cheer and was happy fro the rest of the afternoon.

    Great jet & great effort by those who restored her. A splendid bit of engineering.

    @Christopher A Light: I think they managed to get a low-use part to replace it, as they stripped the jet right back to basics for the re-furb, I'm sure it says something about it, check out the tvoc site as I think I saw it on there a while ago.

  35. Ivan Headache


    In the nuclear role they didn't go in. Our's had blue steel missiles nuclear bombs which were launched some considerable distance away (100 of miles if I remember right) - a forerunner of the cruise missile.

    When policy changed and high-altitude missions were replaced by low-level missions (under the radar), a role that the airframe wasn't really designed for, I think that is when the writing came on the wall. Never-the-less, when a Vulcan (or a Victor) comes at you at between 60 and 100 feet, travelling at 400-500 MPH (or whatever it was) you don't know about it until it has passed you. Just the same as it is today with the modern aircraft.

  36. Tawakalna

    that wonderful rosy glow of nostalgia..

    .. is warming the cockles of my heart. Ah, the Vulcan flying again, a fond memory of the days when we had a real air force and had real planes (made in Britain, not by bl**dy Yanks or a Yoo-row-peon consortium) A few more and we might have a Vulcan scramble again, magnificent sight if you've never seen one, and if someone could get a Victor and a Valiant in the air, we might have the V-Force back (at least for airshows.) Add some Lightnings, Canberras, Belfasts, Argosys, Hunters, and Buccaneers, none of this modern Eurofighter rubbish, and the teenies can get to see proper planes made by proper British firms with proper names.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Name of book is Flight of the Bat. They flew to Moscow to drop a dummy warhead with a message in the main square.

  38. Paul Rhodes


    Been a long time coming and well worth the wait. Saw one back in the early 80s at Duxford, and can vouch for the noise.

    I live under the outer circuit for Farnborough and am looking forward to seeing this next year. Usually we can only hear planes like the Mig-29 burning AvTur as they do their 'static' aerobatics over the airfield. I've a feeling we won't miss the arrival of XH558!!

  39. Steven Moore


    60 feet off the deck? SAC B-52's did that as part of "lob bombing" practice.

    I got to see it once.

    Picture it: a B-52 doing 400 mph at 50 feet, black smoke rolling from the engines. Then the pilot turns the plane on its tail and kicks all 8 engines to rock-and-roll mode. The bomb is released at "nose up", and sails for miles. Amazing the rate of climb on a big bird like that.

    BTW, it wasn't unusual for planes to return from practice with cornstalks in the bomb bay doors....

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up


    I used to see Vulcans practising 'touch and goes' at RAF Oakington, a magnificent sight. Not quite as amazingly loud as the Lightning I saw at some air show - came in at 50 feet with its afterburners on. Jesus H Christ!

  41. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I believe that to be supersonic, an aircraft must be capable of flying faster that sound in level flight (and it should be at a certain height above sea level, can't remember what it is). The term for an aircraft that can fly faster than sound but only in a shallow dive is "transonic".

    I believe that the Vulcan was transonic.

    I remember driving down the M4 and seeing an unusual morphing shape in the distant sky ahead of me. It took me some time to work out it was a Vulcan banking and turning. Truly memorable.

  42. amanfromMars Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    English Electric Hot Shot

    Impossible to beat a Lightning reheat Take-off, Bert? The original Vertical takeoff like a Rocket. Jesus H F***ing Christ. Express Elevator to Heaven.

  43. David Sidebotham

    Handling like a fighter?

    Having lived near the Avro factory Woodford and been friends with some of the workforce I wonder if we will see a repeat of some of the performances seen. Taking delivery of aircraft the RAF was known to do a full throttle take off, delay rotation to do a fast take off; undercarriage went straight up a 45 degree climb to 8 thousand feet and roll out at the top followed. It was alleged that one crew came round on a low fly over and did the same climb trick but looped at the top of the climb. I don't give this storey much credence, or do I.

    I also remember driving down the M6 in Cumbria at a point where the two sides of the road are separated by about half a mile with a valley between. A Vulcan was flying up the valley towards me BELOW the level of the road!

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    English Electric Lightning.

    I remember reading somewhere that the performance of the English Electric Lightning was miles ahead of it's competitors and it is STILL the fastest jet ever 'fielded' by the RAF....shame it could only carry a couple of missiles but I suppose those pesky Soviet Bears & Badgers wouldn't be much trouble to a Lightning at high altitude. Had a 'proper' 30mm cannon too IIRC (not a crappy 20mm job from 'the colonies'....)

    Seen plenty of Vulcans in the past at Barton Airshow (just outside Manchester), only a grass runway so god knows where the thing used to come from but it was always the last plane to appear - fashionably late mostly.

    One year most people had left and were busily walking home when you heard the proverbial 'rumble of distant thunder' and the beast would appear half-a-mile away about 250ft above the ground and swoop straight over our heads.

    As a 14-year old it was litterally pant-wetting stuff, wonderful!

  45. Anonymous Coward


    Many years ago I was returning a car at Heathrow (Swan National, I think, one of the ones on the edge of the airport). I was on the perimeter road just passing the end of the runway when the world started to shake. I looked up through the sunroof, straight into the long violet cones of 4 Olympus engines on afterburn. I'd always thought that Concorde only lit afterburn 20-30 seconds into flight, but these were unmistakeable. Well more than 50 feet up (I hope!) but very impressive.

    The sister of a friend got a surprise Concorde ride once. She was catching the BA shuttle to Belfast, and it so happened that a Concorde was due at the Ulster air show that day. Rather than fly it up empty, BA just slotted it in as one of the saturday morning shuttles, without telling anybody until they were getting their boarding passes. Lucky $%^&* !

    I doubt we'll get a chance to fly in the Vulcan :(

  46. Paul

    Vulcan story...

    I was once told that they close roads at the end of RAF runways when jets are scrambling because people have a habit of watching them and not the road. Apparently in the case of the Vulcan the engins would accualy blow the cars off the road.

  47. Peter Haydon

    My memory, circa 1970

    As a ~16 year old, playing cricket after school, a flight of 3 (three) rumbled overhead a couple of thousand feet up (rough guesstimate). It certainly held up play as we were absolutely deafened (and they were only cruising too).

    If you are dewy-eyed about the Vulcan, you have to read "Vulcan 607" by Rowland White which goes into great detail regarding the mission to bomb the runway at Port Stanley.

  48. Ivan Headache

    @ Lightnings

    I've got some stories about these as well, but as this is a Vulcan thread I'll wait til a restored lightning comes along.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Re: Vulcan Story...

    Still do close roads. For example the A15 outside RAF Waddington (Vulcan base of old - now home to the E3 sentry fleet).

    Close it when taking/landing off from that end because I'm sure you can imagine that:

    E3 in landing approach + Truck on A15 = Potential for a mess.

    Also they regularly host detatcments of fast jets which more often than not take off on full burner, can cause a hell of a wash over the road!

    Drive past twice a day often get stopped at the lights or buzzed, today I got scared to death by Tornado taking off from the far end that hadn't gone very high as it passed over the A15.

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