As plans are being finalised for her spectacular Diamond Jubilee season, the charity may be forced to cancel vital repairs and put staff on notice
The charity that operates the last airworthy Avro Vulcan, one of the most popular examples of British post-war heritage, will be forced to put all staff on notice if at least £100,000 cannot be raised by the end of February. The final weeks would be spent putting the iconic aircraft into a state of protective hibernation from which it may be prohibitively expensive to recover.
In a statement to supporters, the Board of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust said:
“Assuming that the Trust continues the Winter Service work on Vulcan XH558 to the schedule that returns her to flight in time for the first of the year’s planned flights, it is now clear that without additional income, we will run out of funds at the end of February.”
The news comes as plans are being finalised for the Vulcan’s spectacular Diamond Jubilee year, in which she will fly throughout the United Kingdom to celebrate the accession to the throne of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II on February 6th 1952. The summer season also includes the 30th anniversary of the Falklands Conflict, in which Vulcan 607 piloted by Martin Withers, now chief pilot of XH558, captained the first famous Black Buck mission that disabled the runway at Port Stanley. 2012 is also the Diamond Jubilee of both the Vulcan aircraft type and its sister V-Force aircraft, the Handley Page Victor.
The last airworthy Vulcan is one of Britain’s most popular heritage attractions. More than three million people are expected to watch her dramatic displays during 2012, many of whom attend airshows and other events specifically to see the delta-winged bomber. She costs around £2million a year to maintain and operate to the UK’s world-leading aviation safety standards, but receives no funding from the Government or from the RAF.
“This makes us entirely dependent on a combination of commercial income and the generous donations of companies, families and individuals who love to see her fly,” explains Vulcan to the Sky Trust chief executive Dr. Robert Pleming. “With many savings being made internally and the growing capability of our in-house engineering team, combined with steeply rising revenue from trading activities, our dependence on public donations reduces every year – this year we need only one third of our 2009 fund-raising target – but without this money, she may never fly again for the people of Great Britain.”
Dr. Pleming is a firm believer that Britain’s technical heritage should be alive, living, breathing and inspirational. “She is a powerful reminder of one of the most dramatic periods of recent British history. Visiting a static museum cannot compare to the spectacular sight and sound of her dramatic delta profile appearing low over the trees,” he said passionately. “We must not let our young people forget the knife-edge tension of the Cold War and the resolution of the people who stood guard over our Island during this often-forgotten conflict, or the incredible achievements of British engineers who continue to inspire the next generation.”
As well as raising £100,000 before the next meeting of the Board at the end of February, the Trust must raise a further £200,000 by the end of March. “This will allow the service to remain on-schedule and give us sufficient funding to reach the display season, when our commercial income will increase dramatically,” explains Dr. Pleming. “We have a vast range of fantastic plans to fly this remarkable aircraft – appropriately named The Spirit of Great Britain – at so many outstanding events that will never happen again. We have to do everything we can to reach the 2012 celebrations.”
Official Jubilee Flypast
“We would like XH558 to take part in the official Diamond Jubilee celebrations and are currently in discussions to make this possible,” revealed Dr. Pleming. “Success in these negotiations would also allow us to fly for the dedication of the new Bomber Command Memorial in London’s Green Park, should we be invited.” XH558 is one of only two Bomber Command aircraft still flying, the other being the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight’s Lancaster, operated by the RAF.
Throughout the Jubilee season, XH558 The Spirit of Great Britain will carry a Book of Good Wishes, recording the names and message of individuals, families and companies that would like to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. At the end of the year, the handcrafted leather volume will be presented at Buckingham Palace and a duplicate copy will be placed on permanent display at the Vulcan’s visitor centre in Doncaster. To find out how to take part, visit www.vulcansalute.org.
How to help the Vulcan fly
It is now four display seasons since XH558 returned to the air as the last flying representative of Britain’s famous V-Force. Many of the systems that were renewed during the restoration have reached the end of their service life, so have to be stripped, inspected and refurbished. Complex items like the ejection seats must be sent back to their suppliers for specialist attention and some extremely costly items like the brake parachutes must be replaced. “The aircraft is in outstanding condition, but the necessary maintenance schedule makes the 2012 Winter Service one of the most expensive we will be undertaking,” says Robert Pleming.
Supporters can sponsor maintenance of the brake parachutes, the oxygen system, the fire suppression system and the pneumatic system; the braking system and the ejection seat service have already been funded by generous public donations. Supporters can also sponsor the fascinating process of non-destructive testing, which uses x-rays and other techniques to look deep inside the aircraft’s structure, and an engine-swap (replacing two of her engines with two that are in storage) that will help to keep her flying for longer by managing engine hours. Everyone sponsoring one of these systems will receive a signed certificate and will have their names flown on a special commemorative plaque on the bomb-bay doors for the rest of the aircraft’s public life. Visit www.vulcantothesky.org and click on ‘XH558’s Winter Service’ to find out more about this and about other ways to help the last flying Vulcan return to the skies, or call 0845 5046 558 during office hours.
Follow the Winter Service
Progress of the service will be covered in the Trust’s newsletter – sign-up from www.vulcantothesky.org - which will also explain the service strategy and the progress of urgent fundraising. Pictures and videos of the service will be posted on the Trust’s Facebook page www.facebook.com/pages/Vulcan-xh558 and videos will be posted on the new YouTube channelwww.youtube.com/user/VulcanXH558Video .
To find out how to help keep her flying, visit www.vulcantothesky.org where there is also a history of the aircraft and a wide range of Vulcan merchandise including beautifully-illustrated books, a fascinating interactive flight DVD and a limited number of the highly-regarded account of the Falklands mission, Vulcan 607, signed by Black Buck 1, Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC.