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- …

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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

There are several of the V bombers across the country - hence XH558 flying over them all as part of its farewell tour. http://www.vulcantothesky.org/news/677/82/Report-on-the-V-Force-Tour.html

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. http://www.newarkairmuseum.org/ @NewarkAirMus

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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.

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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.

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Vulcan Delivery

Here is the story of the delivery of the Vulcan to Newark - http://www.airsceneuk.org.uk/oldstuff/2005/newarkvulc/newark.htm

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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.

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Photobombing

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

http://www.thescarboroughnews.co.uk/news/local/vulcan-photobombs-scarborough-couple-s-wedding-1-7334129

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Re: Photobombing

Now that's a wedding picture!

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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.

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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)

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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. :)

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Vulcan 607

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Vulcan-607-Rowland-White/dp/0552152293

Well worth a read.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

Do they park it on its roof?

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Joke

Re: Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

Pale blue paint is expensive

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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.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why is it painted green UNDERNEATH?

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

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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

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/falklands-most-daring-raid/episode-guide

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2309969/

Youtube: various

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Bad Year For Vulcans.

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

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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.

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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!!!

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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.

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

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

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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..

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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 ...

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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.

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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.

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Re: That wing shape . . .

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

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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.

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Happy

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.

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Pint

Re: Tour @Cosford

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

Reverse ITAR.

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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 ;)

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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.

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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.

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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.

Jeremy

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Anonymous Coward

Pedantry

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.

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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.

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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?

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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

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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.

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Operations?

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?

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"a Vulcan crashed ... at London Heathrow"

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

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