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Press Release published

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

The last airworthy Avro Vulcan, one of the most popular and iconic examples of British aerospace engineering, could make its last public flight on September 26th.

"If I had been ordered to press the button that released the nuclear payload, there would almost certainly have been no Britain left to fly home to. The Vulcan is the most powerful symbol of a remarkable period in British history that we must never forget," Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers DFC

Vulcan To The Sky Trust rolls out ambitious plans to provide a commercially-funded long-term future linked to education and training.

The last airworthy Avro Vulcan, one of the most popular and iconic examples of British aerospace engineering, could make its last public flight on September 26th. Following successful restoration by The Vulcan To the Sky Trust, the legendary cold war bomber has packed airshows for the last two summers, helping to make them the second most popular visitor attraction after football. But now due to a substantial drop in donations during the recession and poor weather that stopped her flying at several profitable events this year, the Trust must raise £400,000 by the end of October.

In 2010, over a million people watched the Vulcan fly. "That makes this amazing aircraft one of the most popular attractions in the UK, but we survive on a tiny fraction of the budget of comparable heritage activities and receive no Government support," points out Vulcan To The Sky chief executive Dr Robert Pleming, who hopes to see the plane fly for the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

With the Vulcan now well established as an airshow star, the Trust has developed a business plan that will provide substantially greater commercial revenues from 2011. Combined with public donations, it is hoped that this will give her a secure future. "This will allow us to increase the role the Vulcan plays in teaching science, technology, maths and Cold War history and in inspiring the young engineers of the future," says Pleming. "Today though, 2011 looks a long way away."

The Avro Vulcan is an iconic example of British aerospace engineering at its world-beating best. The design brief was issued by the MoD in 1947 and the plane flew for the first time in 1952, just eleven years after the first flight of its predecessor, the Avro Lancaster. Its impressive list of technical achievements includes being the first successful large delta wing aircraft (leading directly to Concorde), innovations such as anti-lock brakes, and an agility that was so close to a jet fighter's that it was given a fighter-style control column in place of the traditional bomber pilot's yoke.

Success as a Cold War peacekeeper meant that the Vulcan might have flown its entire service life without ever entering combat if it hadn't been for the Falklands Conflict in 1982. After a marathon 4,000 mile flight supported by eleven Victor tankers, Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers and his crew released the bombs over Port Stanley Airport that forced Argentina's Mig III fighters off the island and initiated the campaign that recaptured the Falkands. Two years later, the last Vulcans were withdrawn from service.

Today, only one Vulcan is left flying: XH558, owned by the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, a Registered Charity. Returned to the air in 2007, she has become an airshow phenomenon. "People forget that airshows attract seven million people annually. That's second only to football," says Dr Pleming. "An appearance by the Vulcan builds even on this remarkable level, typically increasing attendance by 20-40 percent. Airshow organisers talk about 'the Vulcan Effect' and have described the aircraft as a national treasure."

But it isn't only the passion that people have for the aircraft that Pleming believes makes it an important part of our heritage. He sees it playing an important role in education and training, funded by commercial activities from sponsorship, hospitality and merchandise through to integration with apprenticeship schemes, motivational activities for management and VIP 'money can't buy' events for top-level incentive schemes and wealthy enthusiasts. The first of these activities are now being rolled out.

Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC (he won the Distinguished Flying Cross for his heroic Vulcan mission to Port Stanley) is a passionate supporter of the educational role of the plane. "Part of our mission is to ensure that young people learn about the knife-edge fear of the Cold War," he explains. "If I had been ordered to press the button that releases the nuclear payload, there would almost certainly have been no Britain left to fly home to. The Vulcan is the most powerful symbol of a remarkable period in British history that we must never forget."

Withers is also passionate about the aircraft's growing role in technical education. "This is one of the most iconic pieces of aerospace technology ever, and it is thoroughly British. The Vulcan fires young people with a passion to develop and build world-beating technologies. And we can help give them those skills through training modules that call upon the extraordinary knowledge, rigour and precision needed to restore and maintain the world's only flying 'complex' heritage aircraft."

The Trust hopes to fly the aircraft for at least two more display seasons, including the year of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012, which is also the 60th anniversary of the first flight of the Vulcan and the 30th anniversary of its heroic role in the Falklands conflict. "The airframe has limited time before it will no longer be possible to renew its Permit to Fly," explains Dr Pleming. "After that, we hope to develop a museum and educational centre around the plane, funded by conference, leisure and other commercial activities."

"But if we don't make it through October," concludes Dr Pleming, "The tremendous opportunities offered by this magnificent aircraft will be lost forever."

Win an incredible flight with the Vulcan
Only a handful of people outside Vulcan Bomber Command will ever know what it is like to fly alongside the incredible Vulcan delta-winged cold war bomber. Being one of those people, as a passenger in a unique twin-seat commercially licensed aerobatics plane piloted by a former Red Arrows air ace, is the incredible prize being offered by the Vulcan To The Sky trust. Tickets are just £5.58 each and can be purchased at:

If you want to be more certain that your name will be added to the exclusive list of people to have flown with the Vulcan, you can bid for the only other seat available. The auction is being held on ebay ( and closes on Friday, September 24th.

Subject to weather, technical factors and the health of the fortunate winners, both flights will take place on Wednesday, September 29th.

Further Information
Experience the Vulcan at:

Learn about XH558 at and sign her 50th birthday card

Help to keep her flying at:

The incredible history of the Vulcan and the struggle to keep her flying is told at:

Find out about Coventry Airport's Help For Heroes day at:

Press Enquiries
Richard Gotch at Market Engineering +44 (0) 1295 277050 / +44 (0)7831 569732

Tristan Honeywill at Market Engineering +44 (0) 1295 277050 / +44 (0) 7870 211887

Q& A with Dr Robert Pleming

How serious is the financial situation?
It's very serious. We need to raise £400,000 by the end of October. This will see us through to the end of the year and prepare the aircraft for the 2011 display season, but we have to know very soon that it will be available to cover our commitments.

How much do you need to operate through 2011?
We typically need about £150,000 a month to cover all our costs, including flight operations, maintenance and educational activities. We are fortunate in having many dedicated and generous supporters and commercial sponsors but the economic conditions are undoubtedly not favourable.

This is why 2011 will be an important year for increasing our commercial revenues through a wide range of activities we have planned to help close the gap. Any spare funds will go towards a permanent home for the aircraft and increased educational activities.

So will you still need donations in 2011?
Yes, absolutely. Running a Vulcan is quite expensive! We are also hoping to identify a permanent home as part of a museum with a training and events capability.

What will happen if the trust does go in to administration?
The most likely scenario is that the aircraft will be sold to a private collector, possibly in Russia or the US and will never fly in the UK again, but it could find a home as a ground display at a UK museum.

Interviews can be arranged with:
• Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers DFC, who piloted the Vulcan during the bombing of the airfield at Port Stanley
• Dr. Robert Pleming FRAeS, CEO of the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, whose vision and energy put the Vulcan back in the sky

Images can be downloaded from or email by

Contact Information

Rebecca Curry
Market Engineering Ltd
North Bar House

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Vulcan is a registered trademark of BAE Systems plc. Vulcan to the Sky and XH558 are trademarks of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust.

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