The original aircraft of the Vulcan Display Team
(VDT) or Vulcan Display Flight (VDF) - depending on who you talk
to - was XL426, which now resides on the perimeter of Southend
airport. However in 1986 it was decided that Vulcan XH558 should be
given the honour of display aircraft as she had the greatest number
of flying hours left before needing a major overhaul.
The VDF worked on a
purely volunteer basis. Each
April the Ministry of Defence (MOD) participation
committee would issue a list of air shows that XH558
would be able to appear at. It was vitally important that all
the air shows which the Vulcan was to attend ran to time. A few
minutes delay would often mean a rush to the next
venue which could cause fuel problems as the display aircraft only
carried a small amount of fuel so as
to be able to "perform" better.
As the display Vulcan
was representative of all Vulcan
squadrons it was painted with the insignia of No. 1 Group
(A black panther's head). This symbol was used when
the Vulcan was taking part in military bombing exercises
and prevented "squabbling" between
the different RAF squadrons!
Each display was
similar in format.
Below are diagrams
the path of the aircraft with notes to aid clarity.
Arrival from the left
Second fly past from right
Left hand steep turn 500 ft
air brakes extended
Under carriage up and A/B in
Seventh fly past (low level)
Climbing turn to depart
story of the VDT is ultimately a sad one.
Although XH558 was one of the most eagerly anticipated
aircraft at any airshow she visited, the MOD ruled that the VDT would cease flying and that the aircraft
would be put up for tender.
signatures were collected in order to try and
persuade the MOD to re-think its decision but, on
Sunday 20th September 1992 at the Cranfield Dreamflight air
show, XH558 performed her last RAF display. The ground crew had painted
FAREWELL onto the inside of her bomb doors, and emotions ran high as XH558 completed her final circuit and came into land.
XH558 was sold to a
private owner and took part in her
last flight to Bruntingthorpe on the 23rd of March 1993.
It has taken over 15
years to restore XH558 to air-worthy condition.
Eager crowds are
expecting to see the beautiful delta shape and hear the
chest-thumping roar of Olympus engines when they visit their air
displays in the 2008 season. Congratulations, and hearty thanks,
need to go to Dr Robert Plemming and his team, without whom there
would be no more Vulcan air displays.