XH558, The Delta Wing Lady Of The Sky…
Random posts like this have never really been my thing but when something is important to me I thought it’d be dope to share it with you. XH558 more than likely means nothing to 99% of you but to some you may know what I am on about. If you follow my Twitter (@ShermanUHTN) then there is a good chance you have seen me talk about aviation. Now, some of you may think I sound like a sad old man who sits in an arm chair all day watching planes in the sky. WRONG. I am 21 years old and going to airshows has been a passion of mine for the last 3-4 years.
RIAT (Royal International Air Tattoo) is the biggest and greatest military airshow in the world, and luckily enough for me Fairford where it is held is 30 minutes down the road. Aircraft from all over the world fly in and take part in the show whether it be static display or flying. I have seen a lot of planes fly, going from the B-52 to the Breitling display team. A great variety. But there is one plane that grooved a place in my heart and that is the Avro Vulcan.
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The Vulcan bomber served the RAF from 1953 until 1984 before budget cuts forced it’s retirement from service. Today, there is only ONE flying and that is the XH558. XH558, the twelfth Vulcan B2 built, first flew in 1960 and was delivered to No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit RAF at RAF Waddington on 1 July 1960. Almost immediately the aircraft moved with 230 OCU to RAF Finningley where the aircraft spent some eight years before returning to Lincolnshire in 1968. Most of its operational service was with the units of the Waddington Wing including No. 50 Squadron RAF. The aircraft was converted to a B2 Maritime Radar Reconnaissance in 1973 and flew with 27 Sqn, subsequently to the air-to-air refuelling variant K2 in 1982. It was returned to standard B2 configuration in 1985 and was the last Vulcan in service. From 1986 to 1992, it was the RAF’s display aircraft.
On 5 July 2008, XH558 performed the first post-restoration display at RAF Waddington with a flypast with the Avro Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and then a solo display. Due to engine life restrictions (in cycles) plus a fuel bill of £3200 per hour, the yearly flying hours for XH558 are limited to approximately 70. In 2008, three appearances were cancelled due to technical problems, two due to bad weather and three due to a fault in No 2 engine.
2012 has been the most successful year in recent years for the Vulcan, even if two engines blew during take off from Robin Hood airport for a practice flight in May. The failure was attributed to ingestion of silica gel desiccant bags and both port engines were beyond repair. Fear not though as the two Olympus 202 engines were replaced (with the last two engines) and XH558 finished it’s flying season strongly.
On Saturday (29th September) I saw the Vulcan fly for the last time this year. To celebrate it’s 60 year anniversary XH558 flew over the country making appearances at airfields that has a role in her creation. Videos & pictures below.
Skip to 40 seconds for the famous howl. Love the car alarms being set off and the kid crying.