lucky vulcan

The Vulcan is a cold war icon; everybody's seen the old film footage of these bat-winged white shapes getting airborne with a howl of engines, pouring black smoke from their exhausts and carrying a bomb load of instant sunshine during mock scrambles.

Acting as an important part of the NATO nuclear deterrent against the Warsaw Pact, the bright white futuristic shapes were soon camouflaged and retasked with low-level penetration of the vast expanses of the Soviet Union.

With advances in the technology of mutually assured destruction, the Vulcan and her sisters in the V-force were soon sidelined by the nuclear submarine, but the Vulcan was kept on as a conventional bomber (while the Victors became tankers and the Valiants found life at low level too tough, and were retired).

It was as a conventional bomber that the aircraft found its true and everlasting fame, flying thousands of miles to bomb a tiny runway on a tiny set of islands far down in the South Atlantic.

The Black Buck missions of the Falkands War of 1982 put the aircraft firmly back in the public eye, and even though the type only lasted another two years in frontline service, the RAF kept one on purely for ceremonial and display duties - something unthinkable in this day and age of PC, petty bureaucracy and penny-pinching.

We had 9 glorious years of watching a Vulcan at airshows - first XL426 until she ran out of hours, then XH558 took over in 1986.

Sadly it all came to an end in 1992, with XH558's final airshow season, culminating in a tear-filled final appearances at Cranfield's Dreamflight airshow. at Bruntingthorpe, and was flown there in March 1993, for what many thought would be the final time.

After that it was just few currency flights every now and again while her future was decided. David Walton's team of volunteers kept her in running condition, and she was the star of the 'Rolling Thunder' fast taxi days held at the airfield for some years.

In 1997 Robert Pleming came on the scene, and after talks with David Walton they agreed to go forward with a proposal to return the aircraft to the skies.

Early agreement from BAE Systems' Heritage Committee was a huge boost to the idea and a technical survey began to see what was needed to get the aircraft back in the air.

In September 1999 she carried out her last fast taxi run before retiring to the main hangar at Bruntingthorpe in preparation for the work to return her to flight and The Vulcan Operating Company was formed.

A further two years down the line, the Vulcan to the Sky fund-raising campaign began, and a year after that the first application for lottery money was put in.