back to article Will that old Vulcan's engines run? Bluebird jet boat team turn to Cold War bomber

What do you do when your jet-powered speedboat restoration project grinds to a halt because of bureaucracy? Obviously, you find yourself a convenient Vulcan bomber and start restoring the engines to running condition, as the Bluebird Project is currently doing. The Bluebird Project came together to restore the 1960s British …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah the Vulcan, goes all misty eyed at memories of superb flying displays and the roar of those four Olympus engines, a sound only matched by the 4 engines of a 707 firing up in sequence.

    1. OssianScotland Bronze badge

      But surpassed by the sound of Merlins - one to four (I have a preference for two in a glass-nosed De Havilland airframe) firing up.

      1. Mr Humbug

        Avro. Four engines - either Merlin or Olympus

        1. WonkoTheSane Silver badge

          Fun Fact:- The aircraft were both from the same designer (Roy Chadwick), just 10 years apart.

          1. Sam not the Viking

            And both engines were influenced by Staley Hooker.

            1. werdsmith Silver badge

              Not much of an engineer them.

        2. druck Silver badge

          4 + 4 + 4

          I was at RAF Coningsby listening to the 8 Merlin's of the last two flying Lancasters, when the 4 Olympus' of the Vulcan started up, and they could still just be heard. The flypast of all three was just wonderful.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: 4 + 4 + 4

            I was at a friends funeral and a Lancaster flew over and did a circuit in his honour. Still rips me apart thinking about it. Sort of welds the memory into your soul.

        3. anothercynic Silver badge

          Indeed! *insert loads of heart-eyed emojis here* :-D

        4. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Avro. Four engines - either Merlin or Olympus

          Five Olympus engines if you count Vulcan XA903 which had an Olympus 593 slung under the bomb-bay as part of the engine development flying test-bed for Concorde.

        5. boltar Silver badge

          Nah , large radials sound much better than any inline aero engines.

          1. MJI Silver badge

            Not better than a Merlin, or 4 on a Lanc

            1. boltar Silver badge

              Much bettter than any of them IMO. Have a listen to a grumman F7 video. It sounds like a plane, not a souped up lorry.

      2. Steve K Silver badge

        Would love to hear a Napier Sabre (out of the Typhoon) running - may happen soon-ish?


        1. phuzz Silver badge

          Oh, for a moment I thought you meant the EJ200 out of the Eurofighter, as slated to be used in the Bloodhound SSC, which brings us back around to world speed records (or attempts to achieve them).

          As for noises, I honestly don't know if I could pick between the Olympus or the Merlin. Objectively though the Olympus definitely has the edge in volume!

        2. macjules Silver badge

          Me too, or a Bristol Centaurus-fitted Tempest, or even a Fury . I notice that following form that BAE Systems are prototyping a new fighter called Tempest .. as Tempest followed Typhoon, followed (Hawker) Tornado.

      3. A K Stiles

        I had the great pleasure to be around East Kirby airfield in Lincolnshire a few years ago and got to hear Vera and Thumper fly past, whilst Just Jane did a taxi run-up. Incredible!

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Watching the crew fire up the engines on Just Jane is a fantastic experience, as is walking around behind her, pulling little kids out of the blizzard of dust and sweet wrappers created when she's ramped up and starts to move!

          1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

            Brings back memories of a rather special day at Tattershall Castle in Lincolnshire a few years back.

            It's a short distance from RAF Coningsby where the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight are based, and whilst I was up on the roof of the castle the flight took off and were doing some practice basically around the castle.

            Quite stirring to see the planes from such an unusual viewpoint a hundred and something feet up in the air. And as for the noise up that close, absolutely magical...

            1. Rich 11 Silver badge

              I don't think I've been up Tattershall Castle since I was about nine years old. All I remember is that it was a long haul up the spiral staircases and there were parts of the roof either reinforced by scaffolding poles or blocked off by scaffolding poles. I hope it's in a much better state now, because it stands out magnificently against the Big Sky and deserves to be preserved.

              Ah, shit, I've just googled it. It looks like the old gravel quarries have been turned into plastic holiday attractions, which will no doubt improve the view from the Castle immeasurably.

      4. jake Silver badge


        If, for whatever reason, you are in a position to own and operate a Merlin (or several) you could do a lot worse than look up my friends down at The 51 Factory. Their inventory is so large that there is no point in even trying to describe what they have, so check it out for yourself. Basically, if you need it, they probably have it new, unused, and in the box from the 1950s. And if they don't have it new, they have it in "run-in, but never flown" condition. Recommended.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: Merlins.

          @jake: This is what happens when hoarding is profitable, eh? I had no idea. I find it incredible (but laudable) that such a stockpile has endured for so many years. There must have been many near misses where it all could have ended up at the recycler.

          Don't let my wife see those pictures.

          1. jake Silver badge

            Re: Merlins.

            I wouldn't call it hoarding. I'd call it ensuring adequate inventory. Or perhaps cornering the market.

            The 600+ tons of engine hardware is impressive, but the real treasure is the documentation and tooling that they have somehow managed to save from the scrap bin. It's one of those places that a gear-head can get lost in for hours ... and sadly becoming rare in our increasingly nanny-state world.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Merlins.


    2. Caver_Dave
      Thumb Up

      Difficult decision

      A Lancaster flew low over my house on Saturday. I could recognise the sound of the Merlin's well before it got overhead, but unfortunately could not drop what I was doing to look at it.

      I used to see the Vulcan flying regularly (as I live not far south of Bruntingthorpe) and I just had to go to its last flight to hear the 'howl'.

      The sound of the Merlin engine just edges it for me.

      1. Mooseman Bronze badge

        Re: Difficult decision

        "I used to see the Vulcan flying regularly (as I live not far south of Bruntingthorpe) and I just had to go to its last flight to hear the 'howl'."

        I missed the last flight, sadly, but I have fond memories of a squadron of the things taking off not far from where I grew up. The windows would rattle as they lumbered overhead at very low altitude.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
          Black Helicopters

          Large engines overhead (or nearly so)

          Two memories stand out:

          1. A pair of F-4 Phantoms, on afterburner, formation takeoff (I was in a parking lot next to end of the runway). "Loud" doesn't even begin to describe it.

          2. B-52 on final, 200 ft overhead (again, at the end of the runway). "Aluminum overcast", indeed. The wife grew up off the end of the Westover AFB runway. B-52s overhead were a daily occurrence during the Vietnam conflict.

          // why no aircraft icon? Too hard to choose the type, I'd guess.

          // my vote's for "Spitfire"

    3. Julz Bronze badge

      Not British

      But the sound of an SR-71 taking off directly over me at RAF Mildenhalll in the early eighties has stayed with me. I was on the perimeter road at the end of the runway. Very loud and very smelly. I don't think the engines were very efficient at such low speeds.

      1. Killfalcon Silver badge

        Re: Not British

        The SR71 ran so hot that in order to make sure everything sealed tight at maximum speed without breaking, it leaked like a sieve cold. You might have been smelling lubricant starting to burn off the engine surfaces!

        1. james_smith

          Re: Not British

          I saw an SR71 at the Farnborough air show one year and can confirm that it leaks all over the place when it's just sat on the ground.

          1. tomban

            Re: Not British

            The SR71 actually leaked fuel when it wasn't hot:

            "Fuselage panels were manufactured to fit only loosely with the aircraft on the ground. Proper alignment was achieved as the airframe heated up and expanded several inches. Because of this, and the lack of a fuel-sealing system that could handle the airframe's expansion at extreme temperatures, the aircraft leaked JP-7 fuel on the ground prior to takeoff."


            1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

              Re: Not British

              I've heard that story before, probably for most people via Top Gear.

              However I'm struggling to imagine how expansion with temp can make everything seal up nicely.

              Contraction - sure , but expansion ?

              hows that gonna work?

              The wording on all versions of the story if seen are pretty vague

              fit only loosely with the aircraft on the ground.

              1. Solviva

                Re: Not British

                "However I'm struggling to imagine how expansion with temp can make everything seal up nicely."

                Imagine placing a fairly loose fitting washer around say a flaccid body part, then perhaps introduce some images of scantily clad humans. Then you'll see how expansion can seal things, although 'nicely' might not be appropriate...

              2. Killfalcon Silver badge

                Re: Not British

                I assume the combustion chamber is made of metal, with a metal inlet. When warm, the whole thing expands, stretching the diameter of the inlet, bringing it into true with the feed (which I guess is also metal - however a metal pipe won't widen at the same rate as an inlet set in a metal wall).

      2. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

        Re: Not British

        The SR-71 engines were notorious amongst the pilots for being finicky, temperamental and downright difficult beasts to use. That was largely down to their complexity, since they had to function in a very wide range of conditions from sub-sonic right up to quite a high mach number (the exact details of which are classified). The basic problem they had to solve was how to deal with a supersonic airflow; they did it by slowing the air down to sub-sonic speeds and then speeding it up again inside the engine.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not British

          As the story goes, on a 1973 recon mission over the conflict zone during the Arab-Israeli war, missiles from both sides locked on to the Blackbird. Given the improved performance of said missiles, the pilot's response was to firewall the throttles, and then start doing the 360 scan for any launches. That Bird might have exceeded 3000mph/5000kph before they dialed back the thrust once out over the Med.

        2. John Sager

          Re: Not British

          Something that I've remembered from a posting in one of the rec.aviation newsgroups in the 90s, is that in supersonic mode there is a conical device on the front of the engines that moves forward to control the airflow, and the majority of the thrust in this mode is actually generated off this device, rather than from the exhaust gases. It's a bit like the low pressure on top of an aircraft wing contributes much more to the lift than any raised pressure on the underside.

          1. John 110

            Re: Also Not British

            RAF Leuchars in 1970 (or 71) having the shit scared out of us by the Dutch Starfighters (who hadn't gone home at all) as they came over from the back of the crowd on full afterburner. (Health and Safety - they'd heard of it...)

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: Not British

            The spike created a shockwave and it was positioned such that this shockwave was JUST inside the lip of the engine. Too far back and the airflow entered the engine too fast, causing damage, too far forward and the engine was starved of air and stopped producing any thrust at all in an instant (Called an unstart, these could apparently be very violent in the SR71 and A12). The compression of the air by this shockwave did the majority of the compression and most of the high pressure air was bled from midway through the compressor stage of the engine and injected directly into the afterburner through bypass doors. It mixed with the hot exhaust of the engine and provided a lot of extra thrust. (What percentage seems to still be classified because I find a lot of different values from "the majority", to "about half").

    4. scaley

      Must admit the sound of the merlin flying is the only engine sound that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end... wonderful sound

      (oh and the smell of castrol R)

      1. Glen 1 Bronze badge
        Big Brother

        The sound of the boss arriving on site

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      As a child I used to go to Lechlade and quite often see prototype Concorde's fly overhead, not only was the noise impressive but so were the trails of black smoke!

      The only time I saw a Vulcan was while I was at Cribbs Causeway it flew over quite low and set off a lot of car alarms.

      1. John 104

        I had the fortune of seeing the concord fly at an airshow in California back in the day. For $50 they would fly you half way to Hawaii and back. Being a poor teen, I didn't get that pleasure. I did get to see it taxiing on the runway at Brown Field. What a noisy racket. Not the wonderful growl/whine of a combat aircraft (of which I saw plenty living 10 miles from Top Gun school at Miramar). It was more like the hellacious assault of a Harrier. But still, jet noise.

        Years later, after grounding, I was able to do a walk through. Glad I didn't get to fly in it as it had about as much room as a Cessna 172!

        1. PhilipN Silver badge

          Mid ‘70’s low flights over Central London

          I was on a bus going through the Aldwych when Concorde went over. Less than a couple thousand feet? Believe the idea was to gauge Londoners’ reaction to the decibel level. I was virtually still a kid and loved it!*

          *but then as an actual kid lived in one of the flight paths out of Greenham Common. The windows shook way in advance, allowing time to run out and watch them go over

          1. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: Mid ‘70’s low flights over Central London

            I was in a pub in Exeter one evening in the mid 90s, when the bloke I was chatting with suggested I turn to the south and listen carefully. *whumff* Concorde had just gone supersonic about 15 miles out to sea.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Mid ‘70’s low flights over Central London

              About 21:12 every night ?

  2. MJI Silver badge

    Seen XH558 just before retirement, that howl at near full throttle.

    Funny but seen it overfly our home town 5 or 6 times.

    Had the Lanc fly low over it as well, that was good.

    Only other equivalents have been heritage traction railtours, either 1 loco twin engines, or 2 locos with big V16s.

    Our last office used to reverberate if a Chinook overflew, the floor bounced.

    1. Fonant

      Deltic. Hmmmm....

      1. Benson's Cycle

        A Deltic is not a V16. It is an equilateral triangle engine.

        A nightmare to maintain but my grandfather loved them because unlike steam engines they neither damaged his track nor filled his points and signals with cinders.

        1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

          Napier Deltec

          While it was horrendously difficult to look after and unreliable in service, it had a fantastic power/weight ratio in its day and is a marvel of engineering. There is an animation of the pistons firing and the three crankshafts' operation here:

          1. Benson's Cycle

            Re: Napier Deltec

            One of my earliest reliable railway memories (the other was the first electric MU on the Liverpool Street to Hertford line) was watching from a signal box as a Deltic hauled a train up from King's Cross. This must have been around 1963. The lack of smoke and vibration as it passed was noteworthy.

            The Deltics replaced more than twice the number of Pacifics successfully, so unreliability has to be seen in the context of later Diesels, not steam locomotives. Unfortunately, as with the Doxford engines versus the Sulzer engines, British engineering was often "clever", but simple and reliable tended to win out.

            1. Red Ted
              Thumb Up

              Re: Napier Deltec

              The clever bit about the introduction of the Deltics was the use of the reliability and supply contract that the engines (power plant not locomotive) were supplied and maintained by English Electric. This meant the availability of the locomotive was much better than other diesels.

              See "I tried to run a railway" by Gerry Finnes and "The Deltics a Symposium". The latter has a GA for the 4400HP 'Super Deltic'.

        2. MJI Silver badge

          But a 16CSVT is a V16

          DP2 used a Deltic body shell and 16CSVT

          Obvious that I was on about railtours with with 1 x 55 or 2 x 50, both options sound good.

          1. Benson's Cycle

            Obvious to whom?

            A Deltic is an engine built by Napier. If you mean a locomotive, that's a Class 55. The prototype was named Deltic.

            The locomotive with the V engine was DP2 and was, for obvious reasons,never named Deltic.

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Due to someone failing to deliver refurbished class 769 trains in time for the new timetable and class 15x DMUs being away for modifications, Tansport for Wales is running class 37 locos with mkIII carriages at peak times on the Rhymney valley line until the end of the year. They used to be common on the line but I had completely forgotten the noise they make...


              1. Richard Crossley

                Mark III's, they look like Mark IIDs or later

                According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia Mark III's had their underfloor workings enclosed, the picture at the top of the article shows carriages without the enclosures.

                Mark II Picture

                Mark III Picture

                Thumb up for mentioning Class 37s working on local hauled trains, I miss their "grumble"

                1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                  Re: Mark III's, they look like Mark IIDs or later

                  Sorry, yes, mkII. Can I blame the onscreen keyboard?

                  There are posters in the stations telling you how to open the doors using the external handles and warning you not to lean out of the windows. They actually had extra staff on during the first few weeks to make sure no-one emulated Vyvyan from the Young Ones episode 'Bambi'.


                2. MJI Silver badge

                  Re: Mark III's, they look like Mark IIDs or later

                  BR Coaches are easy

                  Underframes with trusses - Mark 1

                  Rounded ends roughly 64ft long - Mark 2 family

                  HST trailer or 75ft long with enclosed underfloor stuff - Mark 3

                  Mark 2

                  Older style slam door Mark 2 & 2A

                  Mark 2 has Mark 1 style corridor doors, 2A folding doors like rest of Mark 2s

                  2B 2C slightly longer and wider doors, no centre doors, a bog at each end. Early 2C look like 2B, later 2C have smaller toilet windows, same body as 2DEF but with vent windows.

                  2DEF, the aircons, more difficult this.

                  Generally the TSOs are easy 2D toilets same side, E & F diagonal, D & E 2 aircon fans, F 1 aircon fan.

                  2F has different toilet hatches, door windows went smaller partway through 2E.

                  Mark3 usual home is between a couple of power cars, but there were many loco hauled 3A for WCML, slightly different grey band location, buffers, and roof vents are different to HST stock.

                  The mark 2 stock was interesting, 2 and 2A differences were mainly on brakes and gangway doors. 2 built vac brake, 2A built air brake.

                  2B was the new no centre door option, 2C was a slight facelift with later ones being ready to convert to air conditioning (hence different toilets). They were supposed to be 2D.

                  2DEF were a continuous build with 4 or so design changes. A few outliers like 2D FOs with single aircon fan equipment.

                  2D to 2E was to go from 62 seat to 64 seat, change of interior, half way through door windows were made smaller.

                  2E to 2F, mainly change of aircon kit, but also change of seats.

            2. Nier

              An "opposed-piston valveless, supercharged uniflow scavenged, two-stroke Diesel engine" Rather fun that.

              I remember seeing them on RN minesweepers in Borneo waters back in 1965

    2. 4whatitsworth

      That Howl though!

      I saw XH558 a few times over the years near bruntinghtorpe and a few times on her farewell tour. Took the wife to Weston Supermare to see the Vulcan and she physically gripped my arm and said bloodyhell when the big V flew over us and then stood on its tail, what an immense sound.

      And Deltic's well thats another story. What an absolute beast of a locomotive that was/is.

      1. MJI Silver badge

        Re: That Howl though!

        Last time was overflying Pershore at 97% throttle, saw it though quite a bit before, my wife said "The Vulcan is over there".

        Stood on the bridge over the Avon watching (and listening) to it climbing away from Throckmorton.

        Also seen Vulcans at air displays in the early 70s, went to Anglesey camping a few years in a row, seen a Vulcan, Harrier (hovering). Saw two Hunters crashing into the camp site one year.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: That Howl though!

          XH558 overflew our house after some work a few years ago, sat in garden watching it, with 2 support aircraft.

          3 or 4 times that day.

          Weirdest was it heading north across the town as we were heading home, side view, looked rather odd, but it could only be 558.

          My dad though has partial V bomber induced deafness caused by a workshop near the end of a runway for a year or so.

          He has also seen the only flying TSR2.

          1. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

            Re: That Howl though!

            "He has also seen the only flying TSR2."

            You could buy circuit boards from the TSR2 in Lisle St. (London) in the 60s for a shilling. There would one transistor per 3x3" board! AC because I'm so old :(

            1. Jan 0

              Re: That Howl though!

              Ah, Lisle Street memories!

              "Would the young gentleman like a red spot or a white spot?"

              1. Citizen99

                Re: That Howl though!

                "Would the young gentleman like a red spot or a white spot?"

                I remember buying the tiny Red Spot and Blue Spot transistors individually as a teenage hobbyist (in UK). By appearance they seemed to have been produced by BTH (British Thomson Houston), evidently screened-out rejects from the production line.

                Red Spot for Audio, Blue for frequencies up to RF like your MF superhet oscillator/mixer stage. Performance very much a lottery.

                I had one that self-combusted from thermal runaway due to high internal leakage current. This was the days of germanium, before silicon.

          2. CountCadaver

            Re: That Howl though!

            Saw XH558 at Leuchars air show, rained solidly that day and due to CAA regs not permitted to fly in the rain (madness given it was an all weather ex RAF aircraft with ex RAF crew at the controls.....only in this country, only in this country, they did a few fast taxis, wife said she's never heard so many grown men groan so loudly when they throttled back right before take off......

          3. dak

            Re: That Howl though!

            When I worked at Ferranti in 1981 there were people there still VERY bitter that the TSR2 contract had been ended so ignominiously.

            1. MJI Silver badge

              Re: That Howl though!

              My dad later worked with one. They had armed guards enter the place to steal the tooling so they could destroy it.

      2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

        Re: That Howl though!

        And Deltic's well thats another story. What an absolute beast of a locomotive that was/is

        A few years ago, the war department and I had booked to go on a heritage rail excursion that was pulled by a Deltic (55022, Royal Scots Grey IIRC). We were sitting in the station waiting room and she was getting twitchy about whether or not our train had arrived, and was getting a bit vexed with me for just sitting there saying "relax, it's OK, it's not here yet". She was just starting to nag me about my attitute yet again when the whole station started shaking to the sound of a Deltic engine.

        "That's how we know when our train has arrived" I said.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: That Howl though!

          RGS - same one we had locally, seen all 6 preserved and a few in BR service.

          York station with a few in, well the whole place shook.

          And people wondered why I thought the 3 main attractions in York were station, depot and railway museum.

          On a school trip and we cabbed 12

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      I had a summer job in Horton, which is just at the end of the Heathrow runways. In a crappy old warehouse with no insulation (sound or heating). When Concorde took off you stopped what you were doing becuase you couldn't hold a conversation. Not only could you not hear what the other person was saying, you couldn't hear what you were saying either. And your tea tried to escape from your cup... Although the Concorde version of the Olympus had reheat, which the Vulcan didn't (as I recall).

      I've also had the pleasure of being accidentally on the run-in to a couple of airshows, and so had the RAF Battle of Britain flight overfly me at low altitude. 6 Merlin engines make one hell of a din! Amazing noise.

      I think I need to go to an airshow - not done that since I was a kid.

      1. CountCadaver

        I was at Leuchars airshow as an air cadet in the 90s, I remember being in a BT show trailer looking at their "high speed internet" demo when the whole trailer shook like hell, IIRC it was a Belgian F16 over the crowd at <100 feet, never see that now after several people were killed from an aircraft crashing into the crowd a few years back.

        Last time I was at Leuchars airshow (a few years before they turned it into an army base) it was a sad shell of what it had been in the 90s, a lot less air craft, no where near as many aircraft demos, a very small number of vendors, high ticket prices and feckless traffic marshalling so it took 4 hours to get 50 feet out of the car park

        1. Muscleguy Silver badge

          The stupidity of the move is that all the aircraft are now based out of Lossiemouth which is fogbound for a lot of days a year compared to Leuchars.

          We stay in the East of Dundee and would often hear the Tornados and then Typhoons go over. When we first moved up here the Marines up the coast at Condor were still flying Harriers. Which reminds me since they kiboshed Condor I haven't heard a Chinook go over in an age.

          Now we just get armament noise from Barry Budden firing range. Sometimes it sounds like a full scale invasion is coming. If we ever get invaded from the east most people here would just shrug and assume It's the Budden.

          I have run along the cycle path by there (rail line beside on the left, golf course beyond that, Budden to the right) with an absolutely furious automatic small arms fire noise coming from the right. A passenger unit was passing at the time as well. I wasn't worried but. When they aren't firing you can walk around it and see the huge earth berms behind each range. Well other than the marine exclusion zone where they fire the artillery.

          1. CountCadaver

            As a teen lived a few miles north of Dundee, been gliding as a teen at Condor (gone now, shame), shooting at Buddon as a cadet, where on an ex someone picked up an unexploded grenade from the grenade range - 90s....

            Those berms are the bullet catchers with the shooting butts on the otherside, where the target frames and target storage is, one of our cadet leaders was sunbathing underneath one of the frames (against regs even at that time) bullet ricocheted off the frame and just missed him, shame as he was a twat......

            We also used to get a ceasefire whenever a ship went past, just in case a bullet went high, as it would have fallen over the water...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Something for those that may not know, another sad chapter closed on British aviation with the last airworthy BAC1-11 no longer flying with it's last flight the 29th May this year:

    It's a plane that has a special place for me as it was the first aircraft I ever flew on and was lucky enough as an 11 year old boy to be invited into the cockpit and sit in the captain's chair during the flight, thanks Captain Oveur (can't remember his name) for an unforgettable experience and BA when you weren't shit, an airline I now refuse point blank to fly with.

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      The BAC 1-11 was a nice plane, in the '70s I worked on airframes and did the physical installation of a glide slope indicator on one belonging to the current Saudi King (then crown prince).We flew it ti Luton to try a couple of passes to test the landing aid. Our Chief engineer skippered so I was No2 and got to play at the controls, the chief wouldn't let me try an actual landing though .

    2. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

      I remember flying on BAC1-11's from Belfast to Heathrow, when BA phased out the Tridents. IIRC half the seats were rear-facing, so you spent a fair amount of the flight hanging on your seatbelt!

      1. Down not across Silver badge


        I flew on BA Trident couple of times. Back then BA was pleasure to fly on. How things have changed.

        1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

          Re: Trident

          Back then BA was pleasure to fly on. How things have changed.

          True, but in the mid-80's it cost close to £200 for a London-Belfast open return shuttle ticket, today Easyjet will do it for a quarter of that, even cheaper allowing for inflation. Hard to maintain the same level of service in a market like that.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: Trident

            BT still employs the staff - they just seem to insist they dont leave the galley until they really need a piss.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Trident

          When I went to Spain to work during uni holidays, flew BA out to Spain, spoke to my cousin's then wife a few weeks after I got back (she had been cabin crew on BA until she had unexpectedly got pregnant) she then says "You should have said, I still have pals who work that route, could have got you business class upgrade and free booze etc"....would have been nice to have known that in advance..........

          THough did flyFlyBe a few years back when coming home from a job, was a few kilos over on one bag and was trying to rearrange stuff between them, when the manager stopped me and said to the girl working the desk "I'll show you how to override the weight scale when its not reading correctly"

          Decent of him as I was knackered (I think it showed) and really just wanted to get home to the Mrs after months away.

  4. Scott Broukell

    For me it has to be any number of Merlin engines, more especially if they are running over half chat. That said, I cannot deny that the awesome ground-shaking roar of the Olympus, et al, have a sonic presence that goes right through you to the core with an energy that can leave you quite pleasurably breathless. But for me the shear harmony of numerous pistons, valves, con-rods, widgets and cranks etc. that are orchestrated oh so beautifully, especially in the case of the Merlin, sing out to the soul in a truly inimical manner. In a word - delightful.

  5. trevorde

    Bluebird next starring role

    In a James Bond film - either stolen by the villain or used by Bond as an implausible getaway vehicle

    1. Ivan Headache

      Re: Bluebird next starring role

      And he'll know exactly what to do to drive it.

    2. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Bluebird next starring role

      Kind of been done already in Condor Man - although not with a turbine hydroplane!

      Jackie Wilson (Ex World Champion inshore powerboater) drove the boat in the film and my late godfather was the art director...

  6. Starace Silver badge

    Looks knackered

    If the corrosion in the cockpit and some of those other pictures is anything to go by it's probably ruined.

    And that's before you even think about cleaning out degraded fluids, dealing with all the seals that have rotted and all the miriad faults you'll find with a complex machine that's been poorly stored for years.

    Even if it had been in proper storage you'd be asking a lot and this wasn't properly stored.

    Icon shows the likely outcome of a test start.

    1. 4whatitsworth

      Re: Looks knackered

      There wont be a test start until theres been months of renovation or as you say......bang.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Looks knackered

        ...and if they ever do get it to run, there's not going to be any taxiing. There's no longer a runway and I very much doubt Nissan will let them do a lap of the test track :-)

    2. wallaby

      Re: Looks knackered

      When we were sent to steal parts from all the Vulcans in 82 to convert those still airworthy into tankers for the Falklands "conflict", some of them were in a pretty shoddy state then and that was only after a short time out of service - its amazing how these old kites degrade when they aren't being looked after.

      One of the happiest days of my life was stowing away in the bomb aimers seat for a test flight, even after 36 hours on duty without a break.

      1. Ben1892

        Re: Looks knackered

        Was one of the parts actually being used as an ash-tray in the officers mess - or it that a myth?

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Looks knackered

          I have the bomb aimer from a Heinkel Bomber. It has been used for 60 years to turn the equatorial mount on an 6" reflector!

          1. Steve K Silver badge

            Re: Looks knackered

            Doesn’t he want to go back to Germany by now?

        2. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

          Re: Looks knackered

          It's true - part in question was the end for air-to-air refuelling.

      2. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: Looks knackered

        I wouldn't worry too much about corrosion or degradation of the engines. Those things are absolutely soaked in oil usually.

    3. Chozo

      Re: Looks knackered

      Never underestimate British boffinry, especially the retired ones.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More middle aged balding men tinkering

    Meanwhile in the US there's a small team bringing an Apollo AGC back to life.

    1. stiine Bronze badge

      Re: More middle aged balding men tinkering

      Wow. Thank you for posting the link to the AGC rebuild videos.

    2. MrBanana

      Re: More middle aged balding men tinkering

      And also the electroluminescent DSKY display

    3. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

      Re: More middle aged balding men tinkering

      Oh, yeah. That video series is a (vy well done) real rime sink! Kudos to the team that took on that task. Sad about the nonfunctional read/write memory module, though.

      If the owner gets it running, my suggestion would be to acquire a working writeable memory module by donating the working unit to a museum which already has an AGC, thereby gaining the ability to swap their working RAM module into his working system, and be able to display a completely functional AGC.

      // probably won't run Linux, though

  8. Red Ted

    11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

    I always find it amazing the level of technological development that occurred between 1941 (first Avro Lancaster flight) and 1952 (first Avro Vulcan flight) to enable that advancement of aircraft design.

    1. Benson's Cycle

      Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

      Other examples:

      Mobile phones between 2007 and 2018

      Marine steam engines between 1885 and 1896

      Steam turbines between 1890 and 1901.

      It seems there's a pattern there.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

        More time has passed since man walked on the moon than the interval between the Wrights at Kitty Hawk and those moon landings.

        We seem to be slowing down a bit.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: We seem to be slowing down a bit.

          Apparently the Apollo project cost about 2.5% of US GDP; and did that for about ten years.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            Re: We seem to be slowing down a bit.

            I've heard it was nearer 4% towards the end. Did their economy a power of good though!

        2. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

          Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

          Kittyhawk 1908

          Apollo 11 1969 - 61 years

          Apollo 17 - 1972

          Now - 2019 - 47 years

          But we are slowing down a lot!

          1. OssianScotland Bronze badge

            Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

            Kittyhawk 1903 (December 17th). By 1908 they had got quite good at it.

        3. MrBanana

          Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

          A friend of mine had a grandfather that, as a child, travelled by stage coach to the west coast of the US, and he also saw a man land on the moon.

          Meanwhile, I can barely get a train to anywhere because of those feckless feckers at South Western Railway and my Vodafone signal is invariably shite. What times we live in.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

            "A friend of mine had a grandfather that, as a child, travelled by stage coach to the west coast of the US, and he also saw a man land on the moon."

            My own grandad vividly remembered the newspaper headlines announcing the first powered flight by the Wrights. He also saw the moon landings and took a trip on concord.

          2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

            Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

            My mum was born in 1920. She told us stories about having a crystal set, fetching water from the well at her family's summer cabin, and driving a Model T. One of her family friends became a pilot in the 1930s.

            She lived to see TV, satellites, the Bell Telephone System, computers and space travel. She didn't quite make it to the iPhone, which might be just as well...

          3. sitta_europea Bronze badge

            Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

            "... my Vodafone signal is invariably shite."

            Well give them the boot then! That's what I did, and I've never made a better move. Better price, better signal, better service, everything's better than Vodafone.

            Correction: ANYTHING's better than Vodafone!

        4. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

          The rate of technological growth is inverse to the rate of management theory growth.

      2. Red Ted
        Thumb Up

        Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

        "Steam turbines between 1890 and 1901."

        Parsons in the Turbinia at the Spithead Review is now what would be called a 'Disruptive Technology'. There were two possible outcomes of a stunt like that, either getting thrown in jail or suddenly having a bulging order book!

        Turbinia at Speed is an amazing photo, the bows are out of the water and the person on the conning tower is having to lean in to the wind quite a lot!

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

          Re: 11 years from Lancaster to Vulcan

          It was quite hard to arrest him, as his boat was so fast, they couldn't catch him...

  9. PM from Hell

    Even a Gnat is loud if you are close enough

    I had a very close encounter with a Gnat climbing up a cliff face in a welsh valley. As I came over the top a Gnat came over me I didn't hear anything until I put my head over the edge, it was following the valley floor at what looked like 50ft. I also had the experience of cycling past the end of the runway at RAF Waddington when a Vulcan took off over me. They had warning lights to stop traffic as the came so low over the perimeter fence but they were so far apart that it hadn't been flashing when I passed it and I was just about level with the centre of the runway as be beast flew over. I got a very good look into its undercarriage bay. Having spent 1- years living in Lincoln we did get a bit blase about the Lancaster as we would see it on a daily basis during the show season and at least once a week through the spring. Every school in the county could request a flypast for school fetes etc and the RAF tried to grant them. because of where we lived we always got one because we were on the flight path out of the county.

    1. tuppence

      Re: Even a Gnat is loud if you are close enough

      fortunate enough to have lived at Scampton 69-72... very noisy place then!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suspect the crew at Bruntingthorpe might want a word...

    XH558 still has regular engine & taxi runs so getting another Olympus running is very good news, but not exactly unique.

    Now, if they were to restore all four to flying condition and get the airframe back in the air...

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      Re: I suspect the crew at Bruntingthorpe might want a word...

      It's the airframe certification. Now, wait until after Brexit and UK has become a proper banana republic and we can just slip 10 grand to the inspector and, bingo, airframe certified. I knew there had to be a good reason for Brexit.

      I really, really want to see a Vulcan flying again!

      Got some lovely photos at Welshpool when it was on its final tour.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: bingo, airframe certified ... good reason for Brexit.

        I have tried this in the sandbox upon loading the "Kerbal Brexit Simulator" add-on, and can confirm that it works :-D

      2. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: I suspect the crew at Bruntingthorpe might want a word...

        I'd rather it was fixed properly so we could see it flying more than once.

        1. MJI Silver badge

          Re: I suspect the crew at Bruntingthorpe might want a word...

          The problem is that the air frame is life expired, they have a life span on certain components, such as wing spars.

  11. AIBailey Silver badge

    So let me get this right?

    The restoration work on a world record breaking boat has ground to a halt, so just for something to keep them amused, these guys are restoring and restarting a Vulcan engine that's not been run for 36 years.

    Just for something to do?

    There aren't enough of these ( ----^ ) for them!

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this right?

      If I read correctly, the Vulcan engine is needed to start the boat's jet. Whether it's the starter off the Vulcan or whole engine is needed is a bit confusing.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: So let me get this right?

      "The restoration work on a world record breaking boat has ground to a halt,"

      Maybe you just worded it badly, but it didn't exactly grind to a halt. It's finished. Still needs regular maintenance of course, but the no more restoration.

      But yeah, trying to refurbish a Vulcan engine just to stop boredom creeping up on them....

  12. Csmy

    Was lucky enough to have a guided tour from dad when one of the last ones to have a major service rocked up at kinloss. Great stuff.

    1. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

      When my Dad was OC Admin at Scampton (mid 70s) I had a holiday job for two summers cleaning Vulcans. Hot and sweaty, but such fun. One one day I got to clean the Lancaster at the gate.

  13. Wily Veteran

    Not always a welcome sound.

    The only time I ever heard a Vulcan was a few seconds before it dug a crater about a mile from my childhood home. The walls of the house shook, the windows rattled and we wondered if we were having an earthquake. Then the big boom. Something I strongly remember but definitely not something to get all misty-eyed about. The crash missed the one-time home of Charles Lindbergh's mother but not by much. (BTW, I went to high school where she taught chemistry albeit decades after she left).

    From Wikipedia:

    On 24 October 1958, Vulcan B.1 XA908 of No. 83 Squadron crashed east of Detroit, Michigan, USA. A complete electrical failure occurred at around 30,000 ft (9,100 m). The backup system should have provided 20 minutes of emergency power, allowing XA908 to reach one of several airports in the area, but backup power only lasted three minutes due to a short circuit in the service busbar, locking the controls. XA908 went into a steep dive before crashing, leaving a 40-ft (13 m) crater in the ground, which was later excavated while retrieving wreckage. Despite extensive property damage, there were no ground fatalities, only one person on the ground was hospitalized. All six crew members were killed, including the co-pilot, who had ejected. The co-pilot's ejection seat was found in Lake St Clair, but his body was not recovered until the following spring.[218] They were buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Trenton, Michigan, alongside 11 RAF student pilots killed during the Second World War in accidents at nearby Naval Air Station Grosse Ile.

  14. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

    I feel sorry

    For the people that have never heard or more accurately felt in their bones the flyby of a Vulcan bomber or an F1 car with a real engine before they went all turbo.

    Those were real machines and awesome power that nothing we have now can compare to!

    Starting up a Challenger 1 and some manuvers around the vehicle park / neutral turn was my all time best power / mechanic experience and I used to fix the things. Those were the days...

    Oh yeah and Concorde!

    1. PerlyKing Bronze badge

      Re: an F1 car with a real engine before they went all turbo

      Yes, damn them and their 50% thermal efficiency. Whatever will engineers do next?

      1. LeahroyNake Bronze badge

        Re: an F1 car with a real engine before they went all turbo

        Superchargers were banned by the FIA, not sure about intercoolers. Both viable alternatives and you could still use a MGU with it for extra electrical power.

  15. CountCadaver

    British Warplanes Flight

    I reckon the government should expand the BBMF / create a variant with the iconic post WW2 warplanes - Lightning, Vulcan, Buccaneer (any other suggestions?, shame the Nimrods were all hastily smashed to smithreens.....)

    Hunt is saying he'll issue £18 Billion to the military.....

    Perhaps someone should have a word in Boris's earhole about this - British ingenuity, Showing our great engineering heritage etc......sounds like the kinda idea that would be right up his street........

    1. werdsmith Silver badge

      Other Suggestion


      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Boris ... Other Suggestion ... Canberra

        Yes, let's send Boris to Canberra! We could see if our Australian friends could find a use for him! :-)

        1. CountCadaver

          Re: Boris ... Other Suggestion ... Canberra

          No - Leave Boris here as Emperor of the Ravens and Sheep and the rest of us can bugger off to Australia.....sounds like a better plan...

  16. earl grey Silver badge

    " being a simply excellent thing to do in its own right"

    Quite right. More proper beers for all involved.

  17. Tom 7 Silver badge

    Not old enough.

    My granddad was engineer on the R33. Recently we've found his engine maintenance manual. There is one in storage somewhere if only we can track it down!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My granddad was engineer on the R33

      I'm not sure a Nissan Skyline GT-R R33 counts as that old... :-)

      (Oh, I suppose you actually mean the airship, in which case I think perhaps you might win the "old")

      1. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

        Re: My granddad was engineer on the R33

        Those Skylines arnt spring chickens either!

        I user to have an R12 from '77

    2. dak

      Re: Not old enough.

      Exactly 100 years ago today the R34 (R33's sister) was heading west on the first ever east-west transatlantic crossing by air.

      A few days later it made the first ever return trip.

  18. Stuart Castle

    I live a few miles away from Biggin Hill Airport. Every year, during the Biggin Hill airshow, we have all sorts of Military aircraft fly over the house, from the tiny display aircraft (like the Red Arrows) through to the massive bombers.

    For that weekend, every 30 seconds, all we can hear is loud jet engines, and it's amazing.

    I also like (where possible) to sit in a car near the end of the runway at an airport. Sadly, with modern security procedures, it's not possible to get really close, but I used to get a rush when I could see an airliner at full throttle a few dozen feet overhead. You don't so much hear the roar as feel it.

    1. Cederic Bronze badge

      I've been in the rough area 40 yards off the end of an RAF runway in Germany as Tornado pilots performed circuits and bumps. At night.

      It's not even the noise I remember. It's the woodland lit up by the lilac flame from two RB199s on reheat.

  19. Prst. V.Jeltz Silver badge

    we used to have a Vulcan parked right at the entrance to Blackpool airport - you virtually had to drive under it!

    They got rid of it for some reason .

    now we havent even got the airport anymore .

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      It's far better for the Northern Powerhouse that you should drive down to London and get a plane that flies back over your house to get to the US for some reason.

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