back to article Goodbye Vulcan: Blighty's nuclear bomber retires for the last time

Visit a British air show before September and it's possible you’ll get the opportunity to witness the last Vulcan bomber in flight - and this is definitely the last year you'll get the chance, this time. Alongside the staple leather-clad wing-walking ladies, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, simulated Apache attack- …

  1. GreggS

    A beautiful aircraft though

    For a big lad, he's very quiet and can move a bit. I was in luck when it did a low-level fly past of our football game this Saturday after It just been doing some aerobatics over East Midlands Airport. Didn't see or hear it coming until it was overhead. I've also seen it at airshows and the acrobatics this thing can pull off puts many more modern fighter jets to shame.

    1. 0laf

      Re: A beautiful aircraft though

      I've never heard a Vulcan described as quiet before. I saw one at RAF Leuchers in the 90s and it made your guts vibrate and the ground shake as it went by. Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

      A sad but understandable day. Our new stuff is no doubt much much better than the old V bombers but they're not half as impressive.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

        I think Aeroflot holds that record. Yes the V-bombers are loud, but it's the Russians who thought that doing things quietly was contrary to Marxist-Leninism.

        1. GreggS

          Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

          Don't get me wrong - i've heard them lift off and boy do they make a noise, it's just that when i saw it on Saturday it made hardly any sound moving at low level at a slow speed, almost refined in its old age.

          1. Danny 14

            Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

            It was on its way to Carlisle Airport on Saturday. Turned up right on time at 14:43, did a couple of circles and a big load of howl and yowl. Great stuff.

          2. spinynorman

            Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

            Yeah - I've witnessed a Vulcan both quiet and loud. Last year it flew over the old runway at Filton (Bristol) - it was quiet and graceful. Must have been around 1980 at a British Aerospace open day at the same location I witnessed a near vertical climb from quite low above the ground. That was loud ... very very loud! To this day the loudest noise I have ever heard ... and felt through my body! I don't think they perform climbs quite like that with X558 because of the age of the airframe.

            1. slime

              Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

              Saw one at an airshow in the 80s, can't remember exactly where but Harlow was involved somehow. I'd have to agree that the aircraft as a whole was beautiful but my abiding memory is looking up at a lump of metal being pushed upwards by sheer brute force. I dont properly recall the aerodynamic grace or style just the noise and power as it seemed to go almost vertically upwards pushed by those engines.

              1. Kubla Cant

                Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

                I saw a Vulcan take off at the Farnborough Air Show as a kid - I suppose it must have been the early 1960s. I recall the massive noise that made the ground shake, and also the incredibly steep climb as soon as it left the ground (I think they were showing off).

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

                  Went to an air show at Wem in the 1960s. An announcement was made that the English Electric Lightning was delayed. Nice deception - within a few seconds it arrived almost hedge hopping - and then went into a steep climb over the display area with the afterburners glowing. I have never felt such a pummelling vibration.

                  1. Sir Runcible Spoon

                    Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

                    The Lightning's are a fearsome beast, it's basically a couple of huge jet engines with a couple of fins attached to it - the pilot is almost an afterthought!

          3. Ian 55

            Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

            I live (looks) about 4km from somewhere that had a fly over recently and we're at about 90 degrees to the flightpath.


        2. dmacleo

          Re: A beautiful aircraft though - Possibly the loudest thing I've ever seen move.

          haven't heard aeroflot but have been on the rail end of a B1b in afterburner doing a take off.

          have been near antonov an-124 and the an-225 and they were silent compared to the B1b.

          the thing rotated just as it past my car at approx 200 ft agl and rocked my 1988 crown vic which weighed about 5000 lbs.

          just awesome.

      2. Bowlers

        Re: A beautiful aircraft though

        I remember when the Vulcan's practiced QRA (quick reaction alerts) when we were supposed to get a 4 minute warning of imminent attack. The Vulcan's would be lined up at the end of the runway staggered left/right to avoid the exhaust of the preceeding aircraft. We would come out of our service bay to watch them start rolling in quick order very close to each other. The first Vulcan would take off and climb at a shallow angle the next really steep and so on. That really generated lots of noise, I could feel the vibrations through my whole body.

        I also saw a firepower demo over the sea off RAF Episcopi Cyprus. A Vulcan released a full bomb load into the sea from a lowish height, I have a wonderful photo of the resulting 21 water spouts.

      3. Bilbo of Bag End

        Re: A beautiful aircraft though

        Absolutely true. One AMAZING fact I remember about these planes was their great American adventure?

        As in most things, America was pretty down on the upstart 'Brits', daring to join the nuclear club. Disregard the fact that without our help the actual atomic bomb would have been developed in Germany first.

        Once these planes were operational, Britain announced them as the first 'true' V bombers and thus our main nuclear deterrent. The Americans decried it as slow, cumbersome and far too noisy to be a tactically effective bomber? Naturally, this ruffled a few collars in the MOD and plans were set afoot to show the Americans that the UK could certainly hold its own in the area of defence. And so one such plane took off for America.

        Its payload was a plastic 'bomb'...basically a weighed hollow plastic tube. Its flightpath took it out over Iceland (I believe it was refueled on both legs of this flight)? Greenland, out over Newfoundland, through Canada, over the Great Lakes and finally releasing its 'bomb' on the unsuspecting city of Chicago. Whereupon, it returned via the same route to the UK. Once they RAF had confirmation of the successful 'raid', they informed the Americans that they had been bombed and the evidence was in a park in Chicago!!!

        There was instant outrage from our cousins over the pond and quick rebuttals as to the authenticity of the 'attack'...the assumption being that the 'bomb' had simply been placed there under darkness. So the RAF plotted a second 'low level' attack...still following the same route, but this time making its final bombing run over the Great Lakes at an altitude below radar surveillance. This too was achieved without incident and despite having been warned in advance, the only thing the American defences could confirm, was they had heard a deep rumbling sound, out over the Lakes. And they found the 2nd 'bomb' exactly where we had told them it would be.

        And as an aside...I remember watching a news report many years ago, on the final docking as one of our nuclear submarines arrived in port, to be retired...I think it was Portsmouth? And the TV reporter asked the captain, what his one memory of his time on the sub would be? And his answer epitomised the 'Bulldog' spirit. It was something along the lines of...

        'Without doubt, it's the fact that from the day we launched, until today...not ONE other country in the World knew where we were. Not the Americans, not the Russians, not the Chinese. We remained undetected for the whole time'!!!

        And those three events to me, sum up what it is to be British.

        1. Robevan

          Re: A beautiful aircraft though

          A certain amount of mythologising going on here. Vulcans did penetrate US defences, but with full US congniscience and permission as part of operation Sky Shield. They were apparently embarrassingly good at it almost completely foxing defence radars and interceptors and "hitting" all targets, As usual Lewis's virulent anti Britishness leads him astray, Vulcans and Victors almost certainly were an effective deterrent throughout the 1960's. British ECM expertise was considerable and aircrew extremely well trained in evasive techniques as their success at penetrating North American defences demonstrated.

          1. x 7

            Re: A beautiful aircraft though

            "Vulcans and Victors almost certainly were an effective deterrent throughout the 1960's"

            A certain amount of eulogising also going on there.......

            In the late '60s and 70's the V-bomber role was really to blast an access corridor through Central / Eastern Europe / Western Russia, nuking the air defence and C3 sites allowing the USA-based B-52 fleet unopposed into Russian airspace, with the freedom to go roaming and target hunting several hours later.

            Being based in the UK, the V-bomber fleet had several hours advantage over the B-52 squadrons. In reality the first NATO nuclear bombs would have been dropped by the UK based B-50 Hustlers (1960's) or FB-111's (70''s-80's)

            But in reality, what was the V-bomber fleet worth? In a flap, how many would have got to target? Well......assuming they beat the incoming first strike missiles then maybe a maximum of 40-50 would have been in a flyable state and got to launch. Then, with no fighter cover they would have to try to fly through heavily defended Warsaw Pact airspace with a hot war going on underneath. You'd probably be lucky if 10% got through to the target. Then you have to consider the reliability of the bombs themselves........something at the time that was severely questioned in academic circles. So even assuming 70% of the bombs worked, that 70% of 10% of 50.....thats 3-4 aircraft hitting target. Even if you double the penetration rate to 20%, only 7 aircraft would drop their bomb. Within the scope of the whole war, totally pointless and ineffective.

            1. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              Re: x 7 Re: A beautiful aircraft though

              "....But in reality, what was the V-bomber fleet worth?...." All through the '80s and '90s the US Air Force was regularly embarrassed during NATO Red Flag exercises by the almost-as-old and subsonic Blackburn Buccaneer, which had a nasty habit of cruising so fast and so low that, even when US fighters like the F-15 or F-16 could find one, they ran too low on fuel chasing the Buc to get within missile firing range. Indeed, it was a considerable point of glee amongst RAF Buc crews that the only other type to have previously scored better against the USAF in such exercises was - drumroll - the Vulcan. Considering that the USAF from the '60s onwards had a significant technological advantage over the Soviets, it stands to reason that the Vulcan (and the Buccaneer) would have done much better than you might think.

    2. Matthew Smith

      Re: A beautiful aircraft though

      I was insanely lucky to have it fly at low level over the top of me as I was heading along an empty stretch of the A580 towards Manchester on Saturday, as it made the turn towards Manchester Airport. It felt like it was in formation between itself and my somewhat humbler Renault Scenic. And I really do mean, 'felt'.

    3. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: A beautiful aircraft though

      I saw her just over a week ago at Weston, and when she was coming up the coast (in formation with a Hawker Hunter) you couldn't hear anything until she was almost right on top of us.

      On the other hand, when she departed and went into a zoom climb away from the beach, everything shook, you had to shout to be heard (and many people were shouting and cheering) and within about 30 seconds she was about 20,000 feet above Bristol already.

      Many people "got a bit of sand" in their eye after that farewell.

      Bye XH558 :(

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: A beautiful aircraft though

        They aren't loud, they're ear-splitting :)

        When I was 10 years old I snuck on to the runway at the airbase I was living on to lay down at the end when one of these babies took off (it's last flight from that airbase).

        It's a good job I was laying down though, that delta was displacing so much air it felt like I was flattened by a giant air-hand :) Not to mention having to jump into muddy ditch-water on the way home because I was covered in unspent jet-fuel! Not sure when my hearing returned, must have been hours rather than days though - I can still remember the bollocking I got when I got home.

        Tip: Muddy ditch water doesn't really clean off jet fuel very well :)

        Awesome plane, awesome memories.

        1. Chicken Marengo

          Re: A beautiful aircraft though

          >>I can still remember the bollocking I got when I got home.

          I empathize with you there. Growing up on a succession of army bases was like living in the Garden Of Eden to me as a young boy (but with more pointy explody stuff).

          Remember once being caught by an MP in a warehouse of Honest John rocket launchers (cold war Europe) - got a bloody good hiding.

          The MP then told my dad and I got another bloody good hiding when he got home.

      2. The First Dave

        Re: A beautiful aircraft though

        Saw her at Biggleswade on Sunday, magnificent sight, magnificent sound, very glad I made the trip to see her.

        Not quite as spectacular as Miss Demeanour, but certainly top of the list when it comes to bombers.

    4. LarsG

      Re: A beautiful aircraft though

      In the 70's I lived at RAF Scampton in Lincs and regularly saw flights of three taking off on exercise over my house. The noise was phenomenal, the whole house shook the windows were almost at breaking point. The only thing that came close to this spectacle was watching Phantoms taking off at night with full afterburner from my bedroom. I have been up close to them, been inside and sat on the seats all courtesy of my dad. Happy days.

  2. hammarbtyp

    A privilege to see her for the last time

    Went to see her for the last time at EMA Aeropark.

    She's a sprightly girl for a lady of 55 and it was a privilege to see her for the last time.

    I doubt we will see her like again. The costs of keeping some complicated machines flying means there will probably never be a equivalent project in the future. Congratulations to the Vulcan to the sky team for keeping her going this long.

  3. itzman

    Valiants Victors and Vulcans - the soundtrack to my childhood.

  4. Dr Who


    Saw it last year at the Shoreham airshow where it stole the show and stress tested the ear drums! An iconic machine which I'm glad my kids by happy chance got to see in action see before it was retired.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My dear old dad spent a significant part of his RAF career on board these aircraft, which meant we as a family were regularly subjected to the noise of them taking off at all hours of the day and night.

    Anyway, he also told me something interesting about the Falklands bombing raids: they refused to orient their bombing runs along the length of the runway, but instead chose to run perpendicular to it, which of course made it much, much more difficult to hit the target. Exactly why they did that, I don't remember.

    There were also tankers to refuel the tankers, such was the demand for fuel for these largely ineffective raids.

    1. hammarbtyp

      Aiming Error

      It wasn't perpendicular, it was at an angle. the angle was calculated to have the maximum chance of at least one bomb hitting the runway.

      In these days of precision guided weapons it difficult to remember the bombs the Vulcan were using were not any more accurate than the ones used in the 2nd world war. They slightly better radar and computers, but not much better.

      Dropping 10000ft meant it would not take much of a change in wind speed to cause the entire stick to miss the target, so they decided on the least risk strategy.

      I also disgree that it had no effect on the war. The fact the RAF proved they could launch missions at such range, meant the Argentinian air force was forced to keep more planes on the mainland in case of attack on the air fields there.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Aiming Error

        Major Argentine cities were thus demonstrated to be within range of a very heavy punching British bomber. The Government said they wouldn't hit the Argentine mainland, but it was very clear that was just the word of a politician rather than for any technical reason.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Aiming Error

          Do you really think that the Argentinian Junta gave a flying f*ck about their citizens or their cities? And if so, which would have scared them more, a couple of bombers or the deterrent carried in the UK's submarine fleet?

          At the time the Brit's were facing down the Chinese who wanted an early take-over of Hong Kong, sabre rattling from newly democratic Spain over Gibraltar and the Guatemalan military who had their eyes on Belize. A robust response to the Falklands was necessary to fend off the rest of the vultures.

          1. Steve Evans

            Re: Aiming Error

            Whilst the Junta wouldn't have cared about their citizens, and the submarines could have levelled most of the cities without warning, there is a lot to be said for a visible presence as a "message", and a Vulcan bomber turning up on your doorstep is one hell of a visible message!

            I still remember seeing a Vulcan at an airshow back when I was a lad, it came low over the car park, setting off every car alarm as it approached and roared over the crowd before pulling up into a near vertical climb... I remember it clear as day, and I think it will remain with me as one of the most "WTF!!!" moments of my life, it cast a shadow over the crowd like the arrival of the independence day mothership and then climbed in a way it no right to do so!

            The cars shook, the ground shook, my camera shook and I shook... I was awesome!

            TBH they could have sent one down to the Falklands with no bombs and an aux fuel tank in the bay instead and just given the airfield a fly past at 200 feet...

            1. Danny 14

              Re: Aiming Error

              I too remember a finningley airshow where people were wowed by F15s doing vertical climbs. They came the Vulcan who did pretty much the same thing but told everyone for miles at the same time. The noise and vibration in the floor was epic.

              although not 100% sure, I was told that the airshow Vulcan displays were at 70% power as that is when you get the most distinctive howling noise? Imagine the raw vibration at 100% then...

              I was at an airshow where a B1 lancer flew, they were pretty loud too but didn't have the same howl as a Vulcan.

              1. Johndoe888

                Re: Aiming Error

                RAF Finningley (now Robin Hood airport),is where XH558 now lives, back in her original cold war hanger.

                The howl is produced at 90% power and only by Vulcans fitted with the 202 engines rather than the more powerful 302's

                On takeoff the B1 Lancer is louder due to it's use of reheat.

                For displays such as Fairford and Yeovilton where XH558 will be on the ground for under wing tours, take offs will use 100% power! I recommend that anyone who has not done it, walks to where the engines are run up to full power before the brakes are released and FEELS THE NOISE, fingers in ears of course.

            2. Matt Bryant Silver badge

              Re: Steve Evans Re: Aiming Error

              ".....TBH they could have sent one down to the Falklands with no bombs and an aux fuel tank in the bay instead and just given the airfield a fly past at 200 feet..." The Argentinians got a lot of noisy and old British kit thrown at them! The Royal Navy had HMS Glamorgan providing high-altitude and long-range air defence with the Sea Slug SAM, a rather ironic name for a very deadly missile in its day. Unfortunately, the Argentinians decided to not be accommodating and flew their air attacks in at low level, rendering the Sea Slugs virtually useless. But Sea Slug had an interesting trick in that it could also be command-guided as well as radar-beam-guided, and in the Falklands it was used by HMS Glamorgan as an impromptu cruise missile against a radar site and the airfield. The job meant flying the Sea Slugs horizontally low over the Argentinian positions to the area of the target, then commanding the Sea Slug to tip over into a dive. Whilst its warhead wasn't really that big and they weren't used against the general Argentine soldier's positions, the incredible racket of its rocket motor as the big missile screamed low overhead was said to scare the Argentinians silly! They had nothing that could shoot the low- and fast-flying Sea Slugs down with and their soldiers were convinced that the RN had a whole fleet of ships with a large stock of Sea Slugs they could use against them, when the reality was the RN only had two ships (Antrim and Glamorgan) armed with Sea Slug. Luckily the Argentine Navy didn't see fit to pass on their intelligence to their army and the Argentines remained terrified of the Sea Slug right up until their surrender.

            3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Aiming Error

              "and then climbed in a way it no right to do so!"

              Absolutely!!! I've seen it at three air show over the years and also was working in York for a week recently when I heard and "unusual" noise, look across the fields and there was the Vulcan doing a performance over an ex-airfield (Elvington?) and I swear it did an Immalman! That was a really nice surprise in the middle of a shitty week.

          2. Allan George Dyer

            Re: Aiming Error

            @AC - Are you sure the Chinese wanted an early takeover of HK? If they were impatient, they could have turned off the water supply and walked in any time fromthe '60s. AFAIK, the issue was brought up because local businesses wanted assurance about land leases when Britain's 99 year lease on the "New Territories" ran out.

      2. TitterYeNot

        Re: Aiming Error

        "In these days of precision guided weapons it difficult to remember the bombs the Vulcan were using were not any more accurate than the ones used in the 2nd world war"

        It's also worth remembering the Vulcan's raison d'être - it was designed from the ground up as a nuclear bomber, with an aiming and delivery capability to suit that role. Even carrying an unboosted low yield weapon of 10 kilotons or so, an accuracy measured in hundreds of metres was perfectly acceptable at the time, and later in its life the aircraft could carry a full on thermonuclear fissile/fusion payload with yields of a megaton or so, where pinpoint accuracy really isn't a consideration (to put it mildly!)

        Considering the above, I really do have to take may hat off to a crew and aircraft that managed to hit a target as relatively small as a runway even once, halfway through a 7000 mile sortie.

    2. Steve 114

      It's rather interesting - do try a bit harder to 'remember'.

    3. zapper

      The reason for not running along the runway was if the line was displaced either side, then you miss completely. If you hit it at an angle, the chances are great for a hit if you are displaced left or right.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Snif, snif bye bye Vulcan

  7. hammarbtyp


    If you get a chance to climb into the Vulcan cockpit (at EMA aeropark they have open days), do so. You will be surprised by disparity between the size of plane and the crew compartment, which is let us say, snug.

    None of the huge acerage that the yanks have in the b-52, which makes the black buck missions even more remarkable.

    1. cray74

      Re: Cockpit

      "None of the huge acerage that the yanks have in the b-52, which makes the black buck missions even more remarkable."

      I'll grant the Vulcan's cockpit is smaller, but "acreage?" The B-52H's have a 2-deck compartment for a crew of 5 in survival gear and ejection seats with a cumulative volume similar to a minivan. I'm not tall, but I got leg cramps while touring a B52H that was undergoing maintenance and had its ejection seats removed.

      Of course, I'm not a military air crewman so maybe that does count as acreage. The F-4's cockpit in the National Museum of the USAF was claustrophobic. I had to put my camera to my forehead to photograph the control panel while seated in it.

      1. hammarbtyp

        Re: Cockpit

        I will bow to your superior knowledge @cray74. I have never had the privilege of touring or ever seeing a B-52 in the flesh, so most of my knowledge is based on Dr. Strangelove....

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cockpit

      The cockpit was snug because it was never designed to have two seats up there - with a navigator back down behind the cockpit Avro thought that one pilot was perfectly capable of flying the aircraft. However the MoA and RAF insisted that bomber=pilot+copilot, so two ejection seats were shoehorned in there.

  8. HPCJohn

    Britains weapons designs

    You use the phrase 'Heath Robinson' with respect to Blue Danube.

    I am not of that era, but I would imagine this is a bit of a disservice to those who designed and built it.

    Worth noting though that one bomb design had a safing system which involved pouring in lead shot.

    I am at work at the moment and can't spend much time Googling for the name.

    Someone remind me please?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Britains weapons designs

      That was the Green Grass warhead used in the Yellow Sun bomb body that was called Violet Club in this combination. It was never tested and was regarded as unsafe because the amount of fissile material was greater than a critical mass and had the thin-walled shell of Plutonium been crushed it could have gone critical. The steel balls (not actually lead shot) weighed almost half a ton and filled the hollow Pu sphere to prevent accidental crushing. Only 5 were made.

      Nearly all of the late 50s/early 60s air-dropped nukes in the UK arsenal were interim weapons, in some of the slightly later weapons the cores were stored in lead pits in the ground inside small buildings with roofs shaped so that they threw a similar shadow to a tree. Before flight the weapon had to have the core carried out and inserted into the weapon inside the bomb bay.

      Remember that the Hiroshima Little Boy bomb could go critical if filled with water, it had a cadmium rod inserted for safety which was removed before being dropped, but even that might not have been enough if the aircraft carrying it had gone off the end of the runway into the sea on takeoff.

    2. Steve 114

      Re: Britains weapons designs

      I thought they had to pull out the cork so that the ball bearings between the sub-critical masses drained out. After which it was deemed pretty unsafe to land with bomb still aboard. Brit. response to an International Incident was an Erk with a Cork.

  9. Alan Bourke

    My father in law did his national service in Farnborough

    ... in the 50s, billeted off the end of the runway. When Vulcans took off they would have to go round standing lamps back up and putting everything back on the shelves.

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Will be seeing it at Eastbourne in August

    So here's a pint to the lads and lasses that kept her flying so long.

  11. Uberseehandel

    A "Pocket" Bomber

    A lovely aircraft, there was no need for the writer to sprinkle his copy with the adjective "huge". The Vulcan was was nimble, but carried a bomb load slightly less than a Lancaster. As well as being half the physical size of a B-52, it had a maximum takeoff weight some 318,000 lbs less, so huge it most definitely wasn't. As well as being nimble it was comparatively fast with a higher maximum ceiling than a B-52. I doubt it had the range, altitude or outright speed required to be a successful cold war bomber.

    1. ashdav

      Re: A "Pocket" Bomber

      Yes but you can't do aerobatics in a B52 like you can in a Vulcan.

      Just ask Bud Holland. (oh, you can't)

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A "Pocket" Bomber

      A Lancaster could just about carry a 22.000lb Grand Slam (with the wings in a gentle curve due to the weight) but the Vulcan was properly stressed to carry 21,000lb. The design bomb load for the Lanc was actually 14,000lb and that not all hanging on one bomb carrier.

    3. Sir Sham Cad

      Re: A "Pocket" Bomber

      They have one in the bomber hangar at the RAF Museum in Hendon, north London. You only realise how big it is when you've spent half an hour in the hangar and realise you're still under its wing.

      It may not have the biggest payload but the sheer surface of wing is fricking enormous.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A "Pocket" Bomber

      I doubt it had the range, altitude or outright speed required to be a successful cold war bomber.

      What a "cold war bomber" is meant to be I have no idea. However the purpose of the V-bombers then, as Polaris and Trident later, was to guarantee (as near as you can do that) to destroy Moscow to decapitate Russia, and also to render their Atlantic fleet useless by hitting Murmansk. This they did, until manned bombers became incapable of penetrating the defences around Moscow. They were never intended to roam around the Russian interior destroying ICBM fields and the like, as were the B52s.

    5. Steve 114
      Thumb Up

      Re: A "Pocket" Bomber

      But it survived because it didn't shake itself to bits at the low-level that was subsequently preferred, and hadn't been part of the design brief.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There are several of the V bombers across the country - hence XH558 flying over them all as part of its farewell tour.

    I don't know how many of them you can access the cockpit but that is certainly the case at Newark Air Museum. They are open 361 days of the year and their Twitter account usually states what cockpits are open on any particular day. @NewarkAirMus

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      CNAM at Norwich

      Do access for visitors to their Vulcan (XM612) for a very modest fee . Personally I haven't been in it since late 90s when (as a callow youth) I was volunteering there.

      Norfolk and Suffolk Aviation Museum at Bungay have only the nose section of a Vulcan. No access but you can get a better view of the outside than stood next to a whole machine and craning your head back. Some other nice exhibits which I why I mention them.

    2. robj

      I was at Newark Air Museum on Saturday for the Vulcan's display. The place was completely overwhelmed with visitors, they hadn't expected quite so many people. The cockpit was open, but they had had to have a list and on this occasion I couldn't get to see it. They occasionally also fire up the Auxiliary Power Unit, sadly they don't fire up the main engines anymore.

      Given the crowds at Newark, I would suggest planning ahead if you want to go to see XH558 flying.

      1. Richard Morris

        Vulcan Delivery

        Here is the story of the delivery of the Vulcan to Newark -

        1. Danny 14

          Re: Vulcan Delivery

          XJ823 is at Carlisle airport museum and is open to the public, ive had a guided tour of the cockpit, not sure if they still do it.

  13. Ol'Peculier


    Spent about 4 minutes touring Scarborough's south bay beach on Saturday and got quite a few photographers out, including this one:

    1. 0laf

      Re: Photobombing

      Now that's a wedding picture!

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Photobombing

        And the setting is strangely reminiscent of another "Vulcan wedding". Let's hope the groom didn't have to fight the best man to the death with a giant metal lobster claw.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They have all three v-bombers at

    RAF Cosford. Went there last year, spent a couple of happy hours wandering around the aircraft shapes of my childhood. Free entry as well (though you have to pay for the car park)

  15. TonyJ

    Bye bye, old girl

    Loved seeing her fly even if it was mostly at air shows. Certainly one of the most recognisable and striking shapes of any aircraft.

    In my youth, as a member of the Air Training Corps, I got to marshal a Victor which included a visit into the cockpit. Oh, happy memories. :)

  16. Steven 1

    Vulcan 607

    Well worth a read.


    The writer underestimates the effect of the Falklands raids...

    ... Its rumoured that the Americans had told them that it was impossible. The Argentinians shat themselves, they thought it might be the prelude to mainland bombing.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The writer underestimates the effect of the Falklands raids...

      It was also rumoured that there were American snipers assisting the Argentines, and no evidence for either rumour.

      Waste of energy, even if it was a magnificent effort on the part of the crews.

  18. cdilla

    Stunning plane

    When I was a lad there was a place on High Common Lane that was right at the end of the main runway at RAF Finningley (Now Robin Hood Airport) where we would try and remain standing while Vulcan's took off and roared what seemed like only a few feet above us. I always ended up on my arse. The whole-body feel of the immense power of the Vulcans was literally stunning.

    1. Anonymous Coward/2.0

      Re: Stunning plane

      I remember going to an RAF Finningley open day around 1975/76 and seeing a Vulcan scramble followed by a low(ish) level flypast. As cdilla says - the whole-body feel of the power of the Vulcans was incredible.


    Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

    Do they park it on its roof?

    1. ashdav

      Re: Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

      Pale blue paint is expensive

    2. SkippyBing

      Re: Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

      Initially they were painted white underneath, or some sort of sky colour, it was found during exercises in the US and Canada that when they banked at low level it rather gave the position away. So they gave it a wraparound camouflage. Yes they were flying that low, at altitude it’s all a bit irrelevant and grey is a better bet.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

      So it cant be seen when flying through forests :-)

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What's Youtube for?

    1) Vulcan howl. Seek, find, and if the neighbours within half a mile are all away, play loud.

    2) Channel 4 documentary "Falklands' Most Daring Raid":

    The humorous, heroic story of how, in 1982, a Cold War-era Vulcan flew the then-longest-range bombing mission in history and how a Second World War bomb changed the outcome of the Falklands War

    Youtube: various

  21. Turtle

    Bad Year For Vulcans.

    First was a farewell to Mr Spock, and now for the bomber...

  22. graeme leggett Silver badge

    The whole V bomber series is interesting

    Starting with the decision to take up three designs from manufacturers. And then another one.

    Vickers Valiant (the most conventional) as the sure solution that would enter service soonest.

    Handley Page Victor (unusual crescent wing) but more advanced than Valiant

    Avro Vulcan (the most radical) but offering more performance promise

    And then to make absolutely sure, the straight winged Short Sperrin - something closest to a WWII bomber with jet engines. Not handsome but useful as a test bed for jet engines (eg DH Gyron which was about 50% more powerful than an Olympus at one point). Shorts had proposed a design that was rejected as too radical so perhaps the Sperrin was a consolation prize.

    Valiant - which dropped bombs for real (though during the Suez crisis) - suffered from spar fatigue when switched to low level attack, and withdrawn from service. That the B2 version (look for pictures of it at Farnborough 1953) designed for low level attack had been cancelled is a bit ironic.

    Victor, a futuristic look with a bigger bomb bay and a near Mach 1 performance (also capable of loops and the odd barrel roll), also suffered when switched to low level. They were nearly used against Indonesia because of the bother over Malaya. They became tankers - the ones used to get the Vulcans to the Falklands.

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: The whole V bomber series is interesting

      <snip good stuff>

      "Victor, a futuristic look with a bigger bomb bay and a near Mach 1 performance (also capable of loops and the odd barrel roll), also suffered when switched to low level. They were nearly used against Indonesia because of the bother over Malaya. They became tankers - the ones used to get the Vulcans to the Falklands."

      Of the three the Vulcan was the one who switched to low level fairly successfully, baring in mind none of them were designed as a low level bomber. The Vulcan started the barrel roll thing and the Victor took up the challenge and could do it as well. Wonderful planes and I must have built lots of airfix ones and burnt them in the garden after they were shot down (cotton wool inside and lighter fuel).

      Their job was to go up and bomb Russia knowing they would have no UK to return to! How cool is that? Top boys and I salute the lot of them from ground crew to pilots!!!

  23. Steve Cooper

    There's one at Southend (XL426) which is capable of taxiing under its own power (did it at the weekend when XH558 flew overhead and gave it a goodbye), and they have open days where you can get up close and personal with it.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      There are three still operational, but only one with an airworthiness certificate. The others are taxi duty only.

  24. ukgnome

    She flew over my village and it was very exciting seeing my boys watch it.

  25. kmac499

    Childhood Memories

    Battle of Britain Days in the 60's at RAF Finningley Doncaster now Robin Hood airport.

    One of the set piece displays was a four ship Vulcan scramble.

    A very pistol flare as the starting gun and the crews jumped in their aircraft. 16 Engines starting simultaneously. As they chased each other down the runway you had the magnificent sight, sound, smell and gut bouncing feel of

    One aircraft airborne and peeling off

    One aircraft about to rotate

    One aircraft accelerating hard down the runway

    One aircraft just starting it's run.

    Flare to all four gone about two\three minutes

    Once seen never forgotten..

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      Re: Childhood Memories

      *That's* what I remember! Thanks, kmac - I thought I'd been imagining that (or it was part of a movie I'd seen). Yes, truly wonderful ...

  26. Major N

    They used to keep one at Woodford in the 80s/90s... growing up on the flight path, it was always a sight when this lovely beast came in.

  27. Roger Greenwood

    That wing shape . . .

    when extended becomes uncannily similar to the concorde. If nothing else we should appreciate the engineering that went into these beasts during the 40s and 50s.

    Now, who wants to see it do a roll before retiring? We know it can.

    1. Ol'Peculier
      Thumb Up

      Re: That wing shape . . .

      It was very close to doing a roll whilst over Scarborough, possibly changed his mind at the last second.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Old people love it

    My favourite memory of the Vulcan will always be witnessing an elderly lady absolutely flip her lid when she found out a planned appearance at an air show had to be cancelled. She thew down her bicycle and stomped off ranting about how the entire weekend was wasted, leaving behind her poor bewildered husband.

    Old woman, I hope you get to see it fly once more. And I hope your husband came to his senses and left you.

  29. Robigus

    Tour @Cosford

    Some years ago, I took the kids and the old man to Cosford.

    They had a Vulcan on display and has I'd been the Farnborough Air Show years ago and had my gizzards rearranged by the power of the engines, I was keen to explain to the boys about it. As we approached it an old boy asked us "Are you with the Americans Sir?", "No", I replied, "I'm from down the road". "Great", he said, "Let's get the kids in". They climbed the ladder in and spent some time in there having directions and information shouted up from the bottom of the ladder.

    Fabulous family day, although I never really understood what the American thing was about.

    1. JeffyPoooh

      Re: Tour @Cosford

      Robigus, "...never really understood what the American thing was about."

      Reverse ITAR.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Legend mentioned is correct, my father was one sitting there waiting for the 'go'.

    Didn't come of course but to while away the time before they could stand down, battleships was played between the crews and control tower.

    Only the British could do this ;)

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The RN's inability to operate unsupported wasn't the RAF's fault

    This was all the more embarrassing as it was the RAF's fault that the British fleet did not have proper fighter cover - the airmen had successfully managed to ensure that Britain did not replace its big fleet carriers and catapult jets when they were decommissioned in he 1970s, arguing that the RAF could provide air cover to the British fleet wherever it might go to war.

    The navy in 1982 was really designed solely to fight Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic. That's why the large "East of Suez" carriers had gone and weren't replaced, why sea-keeping in cold conditions was prioritised so highly at the expense of equipment, and why the RN's ships had what looked like a shocking shortage of air defence capability, particularly when it came to dealing with fast jets. All they expected to encounter were long-range bombers and maritime patrol aircraft. All of the services were similarly manned and equipped for a very narrow range of missions in Europe, and operating out of area in the South Atlantic at no notice was very much a case of make do and mend.

    1. Kubla Cant

      Re: The RN's inability to operate unsupported wasn't the RAF's fault

      There's a well known saying that the military always start out fighting the previous war.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The RN's inability to operate unsupported wasn't the RAF's fault

      'This was all the more embarrassing as it was the RAF's fault that the British fleet did not have proper fighter cover - the airmen had successfully managed to ensure that Britain did not replace its big fleet carriers and catapult jets when they were decommissioned in he 1970s, arguing that the RAF could provide air cover to the British fleet wherever it might go to war.'

      It seems unfair to blame the RAF for the failure of the RN to argue their case. I have heard the argument that all good sailors are a long way away on a boat, somewhere nice, doing beastly things etc, but that does not seem like a good excuse.


  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sorry, but the last Vulcan was delivered before Rolls-Royce's hostile takeover of Bristol Siddeley. So if you're going to call them "RR Olympus" engines, you ought to call it the "BAe Vulcan" maybe?

    I know they were referred to as RR Olympus for most of their service life, for obvious reasons, but hey.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Pedantry

      I don't think the RR takeover of Bristol engines was that hostile, it was more that they realised that with a shrinking market in the UK that providing international competition would be better served by a single manufacturer. The Hyfil fan blades then caused the RB211 to almost break the company and the taxpayer, but there was a lot more wrong with the RB211 than just the fan, it took Stanley Hooker coming out of retirement to help fix it because RR's engineering department had been weakened by the premature death of their chief engineer Adrian Lombard in 1967.

      1. graeme leggett Silver badge

        Re: Pedantry

        BS were already developing tie-ups with Pratt & Whitney and SNECMA (largest continental producer) on - in the words of Flight International in 1965 - "collaboration on turbofan engines for airbus transports".

        BS and SNECMA were working on Concorde's engines and civil and military turbojets (in the case of the latter for an Anglo-French swing-wing project).

        Now are you sure that RR weren't feeling a bit tense about their future? And if they had saved the cash they used on buying BS would they have weathered the RB.211 problem?

      2. x 7

        Re: Pedantry

        RR needed Bristol Siddeley technology to get the airbearings on the central shaft working. RR couldn't stop the bearing from whirling and seizing. BS knew what they were doing, RR didn't.

        And don't forget the Concorde engines were a BS design

  33. Sgt_Oddball

    She's still a beaut..

    Saw her on Saturday flying over Scarborough. Still amazes me how much noise she could make then go silent (it was eerie to put it mildly). Still, a fine display of flying and good just to watch her fly. Shame she didn't hang around long though.

  34. Pen-y-gors


    I'm not sure that the Falklands was the only time the Vulcans flew in anger - we were out in Aden in the early/mid sixties and I have vague memories of Vulcans being used around then to drop small loads of conventional weaponry on recalcitrant tribal villages up in the hills of Yemen (plus ca change...)

    Very sad to see her grounded. Lived at Scampton and Waddington for 5 years in my teens, and the house shook as they took off and the engines pointed straight at us. Even had a holiday job for two summers at Scampton scrubbing them - there's a lot of wing to clean when you only have a small brush!

    Could we have a Kickstarter whip-round to raise the dosh to bribe someone to keep issueing air-worthiness certificates?

  35. lee harvey osmond

    "a Vulcan crashed ... at London Heathrow"

    Harry Broadhurst. Look him up in Tom Neil's WWII memoir "Gun Button To Fire"

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Until about 5 years ago...

    ...there was plenty to see in the skies, here, at RIAT time. B-52s and Lancers, at low level over the town. Spits and Hurricanes, and Mustangs having fun. Then one year the Lanc came, at low level, directly over my house. You know, I heard - and felt - it coming, went out into the garden, and just, wow! And it did it again the next year! The US bombers weren't coming over anymore though. Nearly a decade ago, at my previous address, a Lancer had come low over that house - afterburners lit - and later or maybe the next day, I was riding my motorbike and it came low over the road just in front. Saw a Spit following the road - towards me, as though I was about to be strafed. Had the Red Arrows turn outside my window, in formation, heading back to Kemble. After RIAT that year lots of stuff flew home past my house, notably the Greek Phantoms. A decade ago, when I lived in London, I stepped out the back at the exact moment that a Canberra came, again, directly over the house, at low level. And until relatively recently - two years back? - the VC-10s flew back and forth on a daily basis (with those fabulous Conway engines from the days when airliners still made a hell of a noise!). Since then, nothing. I am bereft. I've been waiting to see XH558 go over since they got it back's hoping. Haven't seen one flying since I lived near Farnborough in the '80s. Obviously I could actually go to RIAT - but I don't really care for the airshow environment. Hendon and Cosford are like seeing animals in the Natural History Museum; airshows are like seeing them at the zoo. Seeing them in the wild is where it's at.

    (With all the billions our Gov. wastes, though, I think they ought to use a little bit of it to build maybe half a dozen Lightnings! I'm sure today's technology could fix the fuel leak issues. Just use them for displays.

    Oh well, just a fantasy for my dotage).

  37. MJI Silver badge

    Seen it a few times, a wonderful sight.

    Got to see the tail end of an airshow last month, saw it climbing, wow

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I worked at Woodford during the Falklands campaign, converting Vulcans into Tankers - 36 hour shifts (36 on - 36 off) - from the RAF asking if we could do it, it was 51 days until the first one flew, an exhausting time but some fond memories. At the end of it all our manager got an OBE, we got a tie (which I still have). My superintendent said to us the day the last one flew the coop that as long as he worked there he would make sure we all had a job - he took redundancy 6 months later and quite a few of us were out the door soon after.

    Im sad I missed the fly past over the remains of the Woodford factory Saturday, Id have loved to have seen the old girl go over one last time.

  39. Stevie


    Blue Danube a "Heath Robinson affair"?

    I think you meant to say "was designed with a surprisingly modern 'maker' methodology front and center that repurposed off-the-shelf components for a cold-war-era deterrent at an affordable price".

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration

    (That'll guarantee this page is scraped by the NSA/CIA/MI5 and FBI)

    Recently read about the Skybolt fiasco (basically how the UK strongarmed the US into sharing nuclear weapons). However, more interesting, was the fact that as a result, the US developed a weird legal concept of born secret which basically says that even if you arrived at the knowledge independently, you are going to chokey.

    I'd be curious as to what El Reggers know about Teller-Ulam ....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration

      "I'd be curious as to what El Reggers know about Teller-Ulam"

      Wikipedia. Whether or not you believe a word of it is up to you.

    2. kmac499

      Re: (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration

      My late Father in Law worked at AV Roe on the Vulcans and on the Blue Steel 'cruise missile'. He was a test engineer and got shipped out to woomera for some of the live testing.

      For his 80th birthday as I surprise I took him to the east midlands air musuem at Coventry where there was a Vulcan and a Blue Steel, it's huge. He said it was bloody dangerous and slow to operate (Peroxide oxidant.) and to load it on to the Victor they had to be jacked up because of the low ground clearance, not exactly a quick response weapon.

      1. Ian Prickett

        Re: (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration

        My father worked on the same project at AV Roe and was also sent to Woomera for the test firings, maybe they worked together (he was on the autopilot side)? He still remembers how the Vulcan jumped when they dropped the full sized ones (most were 1/3rd scale).

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration

      Similar one in the MoD, you can have invent something which you aren't cleared to know.

      Used to be a joke that you weren't allowed to listen to Radio Moscow because you might hear something about Nato that was above your clearance.

    4. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration

      I thought we got the 1958 weapons treaty with the yanks because we went from non nukes to having a better design of H-Bomb than the yanks had managed.

      And the yanks wanted our H-bomb designs because ours were smaller and lighter for the same yield.


    5. Bloakey1

      Re: (Drifting OT) Teller-Ulam configuration


      "I'd be curious as to what El Reggers know about Teller-Ulam ...."

      A concept that is yet to be proven and yet to undergo peer review. Were it true my mobile phone would have a million years of battery life.

  41. Joey

    They have the nose of a Vulcan at the Air Museum by Bournemouth Airport. You can climb up into the cockpit and wiggle the switches. Yes, it is claustrophobic!

  42. James Hughes 1

    All 3 V-bombers

    Can be seen at Duxford as static displays. Saw a Vulcan do a show there in the late 70's. Turned away from crowd and let the engines rip. Quite impressive.

    1. Roger Greenwood

      Re: All 3 V-bombers

      Correction:- Duxford has two, Cosford has all three. Both also have a TSR2 and are great to visit. Cosford is free to enter - you choose.

  43. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    If you want to lose an afternoon... and then some...

  44. Morrie Wyatt

    I can only hope

    That someone can film one of these final flights with special attention paid to audio quality.

    There are many clips on youtube that lose out due to all of the wind noise recorded because the mic was unprotected.

    I really want that howl stored in highest possible quality for future generations to experience.

    Unfortunately, living in Australia I am unlikely to be able to ever hear it first hand.

    1. Davie Dee

      Re: I can only hope

      I believe the Vulcan to the sky group are aware and are doing something about it, she should be immortalised in HD and multiple sound channels before she's finished flying.

      Not that it will ever compare to the real thing but its better than nothing, least we have memories

      edit, just read your post again, so ok you wont have memories, but we do, sorry about that!

  45. Davie Dee

    A Sad day...

    Not ashamed to say but this old girl brings a tear to the eye, when she opens up and lifts off at near vertical, ground shaking, ears bursting, car alarms going off all over the place the howl is like nothing else on earth, there is really nothing quite like it.

    This plane continued to beat the Americans in war games long after she should have, she showed them that flying a bomber at tree top level whilst evading was possible and this was something they couldn't really believe.

    Shame on the RAF for not keeping this girl flying we are about to lose one of the finest examples of British engineering in history

  46. Giles C Silver badge

    One of the best places to see it will be at little gransden air show. Last year they had both lancasters followed by a Vulcan not bad for a little local air show.

    Unfortunately the plane came in over a chicken shed which upset the local farmer (a few hundred hens had heart attacks due to the noise) and the organisers are pushing for a full display this year.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Definitely a sad day..

    Seeing it this Sunday at Old Warden (along with some WW1 replica planes).

    I'm a tad confused by some of the dates quoted in the piece. I left Scampton in December 1970 and I'm convinced we still had Blue Steels hanging underneath the QRA planes when I left.

    The Blue Steel had four fins at the back - making it look like the typical children's drawing rocket, but due to ground clearance issues, the bottom fin was folded sideways into a horizontal position for take-off and landing. I remember one instance when a Vulcan came back and either due to forgetfulness or malfunction, the bottom fin was ground away in a shower of sparks as the plane landed.

    I also remember the HTP.

    Beside each QRA pan was a large fibreglass horsetrough filled with heated water and covered with a layer of floating tabletennis balls. HTP was such a dangerous liquid that it would burst into flames on contact with anything organic. The idea was that should a spillage or a leak occur and you 'got any on you' , you should jump into the nearest trough and submerge yourself before you turned into a fireball.

    I also remember a regular solo activity which I think we called "Lone Ranger' where one V would go off alone at around 2300 and return around 0700 the next morning. Rumour was that they were penetration testing on the Arctic Ocean coast of the USSR. I was quite friendly with an AEO at the time and remember asking him after he had been on one of these trips if it worried him at all. His respones was to the effect that he was no more worried than eny normal training sortie as they had notthing that could reach them 'up there'. I'm not sure if he was referring to altitude or 'up north'.

    I also remember something major happening during June or July in either 1969 or 1970.

    We did exercises regularly when we had to get planes ready at short notice.

    There were two exercises, one more intensive than the other, and they normally called them at about 0400. Exercise X meant you had to get aircraft onto the ERA pans at the end of the runway and all the other serviceable aircraft armed up and ready. Exercise XY where you had to get as many aircraft as possible arned up and ready to go even if the were in the hanger on jacks with a motor missing or undergoing a fix for a hydraulic problem etc.

    That particular summer they called an 'Operation' XY on a Thursday or Friday afternoon and all leave was cancelled. I remember it lasting several days but had no idea what it was about but there were rumours that we had lost a Polaris submarine.

    This Easter I was socialising with retired nuclear sub commander who had spent most of his time under the ice but he couldn't (or wouldn't) recall anything happening then.

  48. imanidiot Silver badge

    Allas, I won't see it fly

    I've been trying, but I just can't swing a visit to a UK airshow this year. Sucks.....

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: Allas, I won't see it fly

      Shame. A beautiful aircraft. Was it the one that used to be on the right of the road at Gibraltar airport (on way in).

      When Gary Powers was shot down their was a quantum shift in bombing techniques and they eventually decided that if Russian missiles could get him at that height they would shift to low level. The only plane in the Vforce fleet that could do that without stress and instability was the Vulcan.

      Lovely plane, gorgeous girl with lovely curves and figure.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cuban Missile Crisis. A story from an insider

    I've been delaying telling this story up till now, because it could have got someone into serious trouble.

    A friend of mine was a Vulcan pilot in the early '60s. Once, after a few too many beers, he "forgot" about the Official Secrets Act, and told me a few things he should not have about Britain's role in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Well, my friend died last year (the RAF gave him a good send off, by the way) and I am, I think, beyond the reach of UK authorities, so it's probably safe to tell this story now.

    Please remember that we were both well "lubricated" when he told this tale, so it's possible he got some details wrong, or I may have mis-heard him.

    One morning, at the height of the Crisis, he was summoned to a secret meeting, to be told that his aircraft was being prepared for a mission. This was not an exercise and, sorry, but it was going to be a one-way trip. They wouldn't have enough fuel to get home, and there probably wouldn't be a "home" to come back to anyway. He didn't say exactly what his "cargo" was. Only that it was nuclear missile of some kind, (presumably a Blue Danube or Blue Streak).

    My understanding of his account was that they were actually airborne, on their way to Moscow (or wherever), when they got the orders to turn back.

    As I said, I may have got some of the details wrong, and I can no longer check them, but it appears that we were much closed to Armageddon than we realised.

    I'm using the (probably thin) veil of anonymity for obvious reasons.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    "...never really understood what the American thing was about."

    You've obviously never been in the British Armed Forces

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fond farewell

    These were most definitely part of the soundtrack to my childhood, teenage years and beyond, but were always a welcome sight + sound however often you saw them. Nothing really prepares you for the sheer bloody racket and pressure on the sternum on take off, as my girlfriend found out at Farnborough a few years ago. A real shame XH558 is retiring; nothing modern really compares to the jets of that era for the combination of visceral experience and in the case of the Vulcan, a graceful beauty.

  52. Alphabet Soup 1
    Thumb Up

    Christmas greetings

    In the middle 60's my dad received a christmas card from an RAF colleague which had a picture of a Vulcan on the front, bomb-bay doors open showing a Blue Steel air-launched nuclear missile.

    Inside the card was the message "Peace on Earth and Goodwill to All Men".

    The Airfix kit was the biggest piece of plastic I owned for many years.

    1. Ivan Headache

      Re: Christmas greetings

      Just a correction. When the Vulcan had a blue steel underneath it had special doors that were shaped to fit around the top surface of the missile. The doors were closed all the time and the missile effectily 'hung' underneath the bomb doors. I seem to remember that there was a lot of missile related gubbins inside the bomb bay - and extra fuel tanks.

  53. Johndoe888

    This article should have been run last week, prior to the V force tour !

    The article should have fully explained why XH558 will be grounded after this final flying season !

  54. Bloakey1


    "In the real world the Vulcan's only combat action came in 1982, as part of the Falklands War."


    Not my real world. That used to be the English spy plane well before Nimrods with bags of cement in the pod etc.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Not just them, see The "Blue Circle" airline

  55. Citizen99

    An anecdote from an ex-RAF (Armourer) colleague when we were at BAC Bristol in the 70s ...

    In the Mess at Singapore base, an Aussie crew were praising the climbing ability of their Super Sabres.

    The Vulcan crew got up, walked out, took off, and climbed ... vertically.

  56. Lunatik

    Stayed with me for over 30 years

    Similar to many, my first and abiding memory of the Vulcan was in the 1980s, queuing to get into Leuchars when one took off directly over my dad's Cortina, only about 350m from the end of the runway according to Google Maps. All the superlatives, as many in this thread can confirm.

    Because of such memories I wanted to see it fly at least once more and managed to time a trip back from Milton Keynes on Sunday to be able to stop off near RAF Halton to see it fly in low, loop round the airfield then shoot off towards Hendon. Shame it wasn't doing much more as the howl was only briefly evident as it set off again, but it was still amazing to see in the sky, even more so since the retirement of Concorde and the effective disappearance of such shapes from our skies.

  57. Ian Watkinson

    The Vulcan Aviation Academy

    next to the Vulcan Science Academy?


  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    this is surreal...

    ....down vote me if you want to but what an incredible piece of engineering that was put together for the 1960's, its a shame the short sightedness of the governemnt at the time couldnt get a program together to keep the knowledge and industries building better craft so that 20 years later its a "mothball" fleet that is their best chance in the Falklands as an early response. You have to put this in context to whats happening with the rest of the world I suppose... Russia and the US were sending people into space whilst the the engineers were rooting around car boot sales for spare parts.

    If something is costing more to maintain than it was to develop then its time to get rid of it, law of diminishing returns - same rules apply to IT!

  59. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When I was nobbut a lad

    I used to see the odd Vulcan turn the corner around Driffield in the E Riding from my back garden, you could see right through the cockpit from the side

  60. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    A couple of thoughts, or are they?

    Is anyone else reminded of Oliver Reed's turn in "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen"?

    The USAF somewhat later had its own delta-winged bomber, the B-58 Hustler. I never saw one, but in the early 1960s the SAC was doing tactical exercises near American cities, and one night we heard the B-58's sonic boom. My grandmother, accustomed to a quieter life, nearly achieved liftoff.

  61. Buttons

    I live next to the XM655 in Warwickshire, not airborne yet but they're hopeful it may be one day.

    For the last two weekends running both XM655 could be seen an the ground with the XH558 flying over head! brilliant! and a once in a lifetime experience I fear.

    We have often had flypasts from not only XH558 but also other wartime aircraft, Now andd again I've seen old bi-planes, a Hurricane, Spitfire, Mustang and a Lancaster, Wellesbourne Airfield where the XM655 stands used to be used an old training airfield for Canadian bomber crews.

  62. x 7

    everyone keeps talking about the noise, but in many ways more impressive was the quietness with which they could fly

    As a kid I lived near Yeovil, and the Vulcans were often see on low-level flight profiles in the area, presumably dummy attacks on Yeovilton / Westlands and other strategic targets

    It was quite common to be able to look down on them from Ham Hill, and see them quietly gliding along. Often the only sound was in passing, as you experienced a "hum" something like the blue note of the Hawker Hunter, presumably caused by aerodynamics. One unforgettable sight was when one popped up around 100 feet over my head as it traversed a ridge-line road leading up to the hilltop, before dropping down again on the other side, down the next valley with me looking down on it. Sounds simple until you realise the valley was only around 150 metres wide, with a depth of 50 metres - and I was looking down on it from behind. The Vulcan wingspan was around 34 metres, the height just over 8 metres .Not a lot of room. And it was totally quiet. How the heck a pilot could keep a thing like that in the air, for so long, at low level is amazing

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      They did have a rather nifty

      Terrain Following Radar that allowed them to do the scary low-level stuff.

      It was in the little black nipple on the nose. Coupled of course with a rather nifty (if memory serves - it's a long time now) FM radar altimeter. It had 2 radar altimeters, the FM one for the accurate low-level measuring and a convention pulse radar on for the high level stuff were single digits didn't really matter.

      What I can't remember though is whether the TFR actually flew the plane or just gave the pilot instructions. (may still have my course notes somewhere in the loft.)

  63. ecofeco Silver badge

    Gorgeous fucking aircraft

    Just fucking gorgeous. Truly transcendent. Way ahead of its time in style.

  64. SteveastroUk

    I now live and work in the USA, and I was very surprised when I told one of my US colleagues that this was to be the last year of the Vulcan - I saw him wipe away a tear - he was a US MP serving somehow on a British base, and the Vulcan was his favourite plane of all-time.

  65. Kevin Reilly

    operation skyshield

    I once saw them scramble a whole flight of Vulcans at Finningiey many moons liquidised your bowels. If you need conformation check out what they did to the septics @ Norad. egg on Yank faces

  66. I Like Heckling Silver badge

    I remember them from my childhood

    I have very strong memories of seeing them at an airshow my folks used to take us to every year... I know it started with an H... possibly Hendon in the mid to late 70's and maybe even early 80's.

    The noise these planes made was the flew past was incredible, and I fell in love with the sleek looks.

    Back then, aircraft were able to do supersonic flybys and I remember several sonic booms from aircraft as they passed, but I cannot recall which ones as I was only a kid. I just remember all the different planes, the Red Arrows display, parachutists landing on a little target and motorcycle display teams... and the smell of jet fuel mixed with freshly made doughnuts.

    In fact my strongest memory of those airshows is not the aircraft, but the ferris wheel we went on... My older brother, younger sister and I went on it together... and it was going far to fast and all of us were in tears... according to my folks, huge sparks and that were coming from some of the machinery and electrics... and my mum was screaming at them to stop it. I used to love ferris wheels until that day and didn't go on another one for around 20yrs after.

  67. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not that anybody cares...

    But I saw it this afternoon on its way to Yeovilton, made up for a boring morning in the Somerset backwoods.

    1. x 7

      Re: Not that anybody cares...

      and I saw it AT Yeovilton..........

  68. GrumpyOldMan

    I was in the Mall for Her Maj's Silver Jubilee in the 70's when one flew overhead accompanied by the Red Arrows. Absolutely gorgeous.

  69. Robevan

    Operation Skyshield

    They did embarrassingly well against US defences in 1960 and 1961. Flying from Bermuda and Lossiemouth at very high altitude they penetrated US defences, evading radar and interceptors using ECM, in one case reportedly outflying a supersonic delta dagger at altitude. I believe they only had a single "loss" and "hit" all targets, returning to bases in Newfoundland, or in one case landing at Plattsburgh Air Force Base

    1. x 7

      Re: Operation Skyshield

      "supersonic delta dagger at altitude"

      at altitude it wouldn't be supersonic..............or at least not for very long. A few minutes max before running out of fuel

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