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Survival Q and A


by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

Robert Pleming gives answers.

Since last week’s announcement, we have been reading through your comments on social media and have picked out the questions that occur most frequently.  It’s important that the supporters of Vulcan XH558 understand the reasoning behind our decisions, so have put together some more detailed answers that I hope will make the rationale more understandable.

Robert Pleming

What exactly is the £200,000 to be used for...what is the breakdown?

The £200,000 one-off appeal is a) to compensate for the immediate loss of the £50,000 per month profit from hangar tours and events, and b) to pay for the costs of restructuring the Trust, including redundancy payments. Restructuring is needed to cut the Trust’s cost base by the 75% necessary to place it on a long-term sustainable footing. This will allow the Trust to continue to trade and avoid administration until the tours and events business in the new hangar has restarted.

Why Doncaster Sheffield Airport?

When we it became clear that 2015 would be XH558’s final flying season, the question naturally occurred of where her final landing should be.  Whilst VTST and XH558 had been based at Robin Hood for four years, we reviewed all of the alternative sites that had a runway.

The charity has as one of its objects, “to conserve and return to full working order other aircraft and engineering artefacts in general which are of significant heritage interest and to maintain such in a purpose-built facility”.  

In support of the Trust’s educational and interpretational objectives, we also want to encourage other flying heritage aircraft to visit us, in the same way that railway museums demonstrate locomotives from other museums. It was therefore important that wherever XH558 went, the possibility of easily operating other flying aircraft had to be assured.

Being at a licensed airfield will allow us to taxi XH558 regularly and safely. The damage that can be caused to heritage jet engines by even very small pieces of debris can be terminal, we need to avoid unmaintained runways.

Other criteria included long-term security, availability of hangarage, catchment for visitors, ease of development, local and regional authority support, heritage relevance. Some sites – Duxford, Cosford for example – were excluded because they already had a Vulcan. Conscious that other airfields – Elvington and Dunsfold are examples – are being earmarked for housing development as brownfield sites, we were wary of considering privately-owned under-used airfields.

Peel Airports have demonstrated their long-term commitment to DSA in terms of land purchases and strategic planning (FARRRS etc). We concluded that remaining at DSA as an operational airfield with a future was the correct decision.

 

What is DSA’s attitude to VTST?

DSA recently supplied us with the following statement: Steve Gill, Chief Executive at Doncaster Sheffield Airport said; “Housing the Vulcan, a prestigious piece of British aerospace engineering, is an honour for Doncaster Sheffield Airport.  We have long been supportive of their vision to establish the ETNA Project to meet the important objective of inspiring future generations to engineering and aviation all from a dedicated tourist centre that fully meets their needs.  As we have for many years, we are deeply committed to working with the trust to realise this goal and to working with them, this remains unchanged and of sincere importance to us.”

  

Why was the last flight not publicised?

In the planning for XH558’s last few flights in September and October 2015, the South Yorkshire police, local authority and DSA raised significant concerns about the numbers of people who they estimated would try to witness XH558’s final flight. Based on the crowds seen at sites around the country during the “Salute to the V-Force” tours in June, some 50,000 people were expected to try to get to DSA for the final flight.

Given the poor road structure around DSA, very severe congestion was forecast, meaning that there was the potential for major disruption and delays to airport passengers. We therefore gained approval from Marshall Aerospace and the CAA for a 50% increase in the permitted annual flying hours from 50 to 75, so we could take the aircraft across the country to as many people as possible.  

In the event, on the advice of the police and other authorities, DSA only agreed to the very last flight, occurring on 28th October, on the basis that it was not advertised, for the very same reason about crowd sizes. As it was, we did manage to release an announcement just before the flight, and to stream the video.

 

What happened to the lease on Hangar 3?

Up until the end of December 2015, VTST was a tenant of Directions Finningley, the company that was the Head Lessee of Hangar 3. With Directions’ lease ending on 31st December 2015, DSA asked VTST whether we would consider taking over the lease, which involved managing all of the other many tenants in Hangar 3, and benefitting from their rents.

VTST was persuaded that the benefits of taking over the lease and being in control of the whole hangar outweighed the downsides as it provided us with significant opportunities to grow the successful tours and events businesses around the hangar and the aircraft, the profits from which would be used to look after XH558 and to support the educational objectives of the Trust.

DSA had the right to cancel our lease after one year. Because of the growth in the airport’s cargo business, the airport needed to reconfigure the use of its available hangar space, and so consequently in August 2016 asked the Trust to move into a smaller space in Hangar 1, originally with the ability to carry on its important hangar tour and event business. 

Towards December 2016, it turned out that the expense and time required to implement Department for Transport and Health & Safety requirements meant that the public would not be allowed into Hangar 1 after all. Our tours and events business – our major revenue stream – had to close.

 

Why did we need 22 people just to look after XH558?

We didn’t. The Trust inherited five people when it took over the lease of Hangar 3 to run the Hangar as a business. The rest of the team were employed: to manage our 60 volunteers, to run the merchandise business, to carry out charitable fund-raising, to promote the Trust’s activities, to liaise with supporters and administer the database of supporters, to provide engineering support to XH558, WK163, and the Spirit of Doncaster project, to comply with mandatory governance requirements and to manage the Trust’s activities. This team of 22 employees were responsible for a revenue of over £2,588,000 in the year immediately after the final flight ending on 31st October 2016 – an impressive £118,000 per employee.

What are the retained staff being paid?

Individual agreements are confidential but are industry average for the roles and responsibilities. Personnel costs have been set to be affordable. Two engineers are each being paid a small retainer and will be available on a sub-contract basis as and when needed.

In addition, there are three employees dealing with the vital merchandise revenue stream, two people looking after finance, data and outbound communications such as social media and the newsletters, one employee managing the New Hangar Project, and three employees delivering a profitable service contract to new tenants in Hangar 3. Two further ex-employees are available on a contract basis when required, whilst the Trust uses the services of established consultants for specific projects when needed and affordable. Their work is cash-positive to the business.

Why did we buy the Canberra?

In early 2016, Mike Collett of Classic Air Force at Coventry approached us with an offer to sell us the entire Classic Air Force fleet. After some negotiation, we concluded that to purchase the whole fleet was beyond our capabilities, but agreed to purchase Canberra WK163, given its exciting history, and the fact that once it had been returned to flight, it was highly likely to be the only Canberra  - the RAF’s first jet bomber – to be flying in the UK. She will be the largest jet-age aircraft still flying in the UK, bringing a remarkable spectacle back to British airshows.

It will take a separately-funded project, probably including a Heritage Lotter Fund grant application, to return WK163 to flight, but given this aircraft’s uniqueness and importance, we are confident that we will be successful. After all, we have done this before…..

 

How much would it cost to keep XH558 in hanger 1 for the rest of the year?

Our tenancy in Hangar 1 is currently until the end of April, when the airport expects to require yet more space for cargo operations. It is possible that we may be able to remain for longer. If we had to pay for it, the monthly rental would be about £8,000 plus VAT.

What's costs associated with the new hanger is the trust paying for?

The Trust cannot afford to pay anything for the development of the new hangar; initial planning work is being performed pro bono by a number of firms, the costs of construction will be an investment by a developer, who will then lease it to the Trust. Supportive contractors are offering their services at cost, significantly reducing the capital required.

How does the trust ensure that they will not be given notice on the new hanger?

The Trust will ensure it has a long lease on the hangar, something that was not possible for Hangar 3 and Hangar 1.

How long will it take to bring XH558 back to current standards after a year in storage?

The aircraft has been inhibited for long-term storage; there is a documented process for bringing it back to running condition, which could take a few weeks. This cost is factored in our budget and allowed for as part of the appeal.   

Other popular questions:

Aircraft / Storage

Q – Will the aircraft be safe in storage?

A – Yes. They will be inside in a dry environment in an area dedicated to the Trust. Chief engineer Taff Stone will ensure they are maintained in their current condition.

Q – Will engine runs continue?

A – No. Without the ability to carry out engineering activities, we have had to inhibit the engines to ensure their condition is maintained without running.

Q – What happens at the end of April when the free tenancy finishes?

A –We hope to extend the free period, but will be making other plans as a contingency.

Q – Could you move to a different airfield?

A – XH558 is no longer permitted to fly and cannot be moved by road.

Q - What will happen to the stores and the stock at Stratford?

A – It is important that we keep the spares in excellent condition, so the Stratford operation will continue unchanged.

Q – Are Vulcan supporters paying to look after the Swift? What will happen to that aircraft?

A – The Swift is moving to the same storage space provided free of charge by the airport, so there are no costs to the Trust. The Swift comprises a valuable addition to what we will be able to display to our visitors, so represents extra value at no cost to the Trust.

Canberra Restoration

Q – What will happen to the Canberra restoration?

A – We still intend to return WK163 to British airshows, but have postponed her restoration until funding is available. Until then, we will maintain her is her current condition.

Q – When will WK163 fly again?

A – That depends on how quickly we can raise the necessary funds specifically for this project

Q - I contributed to the Canberra Shares package. What has happened to the money I spent?

A – Donations to WK163 have been used to move her to our facility at Doncaster, to strip and analyse her airframe, remove the engines and to begin a restoration plan. Thanks to your donations, she is now dry and safe and it will be faster and easier for us to finish returning her to the skies when further funding becomes available. No money has been diverted from XH558 to WK163.

Q - How can I get involved with the ‘Independent Canberra Restoration Project’ activity mentioned in previous communications?

A – All developments will be announced in the e-newsletter (you can sign-up from www.vulcantothesky.org) and on social media. If you follow XH558 on any of those, you’ll also be amongst the first to hear when we restart restoration of WK163.

Q - If you are unable to get WK163 flying by 2018, when do you expect you will be able to get it flying?

A – That depends on how quickly we can raise the funding. We will re-launch the fundraising for WK163 as soon as we are sure that we have sufficient income to maintain XH558 in superb condition and to provide access for her supporters in her new home.

Q - Will the new Canberra organisation be separate from the Trust? A new charity?

A – No. There will be separate fund-raising for WK163, but she will still be an important part of Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s long-term ambition to become a world-class guardian of British jet-age aircraft

Q – How can I find out more about the Canberra?

A – There is an article here: http://www.vulcantothesky.org/canberra-wk163.html

Location, Visitor & Marketing Activities

Q – Will I still be able to visit for Tours?

A – Not while the aircraft are in storage as the airport does not permit public access and has not allowed us to make the necessary upgrades to the facility.

Q - When will I be able to visit after the move?

A – We hope to restart tours as soon as the new hangar is ready and the move complete. Currently we expect this to be around the end of the year.

Q – We were promised the Vulcan would taxi. Why did this not happen?

A – We have been working closely with the airport to make taxi runs possible and believe that all the issues are now covered, allowing taxi runs as soon as we have a new hangar for engineering activities.

Q – Why is she not at Bruntingthorpe?

A – There are many reasons, mainly related to the need to have a top-quality runway with emergency support so we can taxi XH558 regularly for her supporters. An operational airfield is also essential to allow flying of other important Jet-Age aircraft such as Canberra WK163. There are also very few locations that offer long term security and do not already have a Vulcan. More details on this will be published in the newsletter soon.

Q –Will I still receive my rewards for the Canberra / Transformation campaigns? And the Raffle?

A – The Trust will meet all its commitments including the Raffle, which is an important part of our fund raising. We still plan to have a board in reception where everyone who donated at the qualifying level will have their name displayed with our thanks and this will now be at the new hangar. We are looking at options for delivering the VIP events and will let you know soon.

Q – Will the webstore continue?

A – Yes. The webstore is an important part of our commercial income and will continue to offer many new and unique items, as will our eBay sales.

Q – Why are eight full time employees still required?

A – Three of these eight are subcontracted to the new lessee of Hangar 3. The others are working on a combination of commercial activities (such as the retail business), fund raising and progressing plans for the new hangar.

Q – Could XH558 be moved from Doncaster?

A – She is no longer permitted to fly and is too complex to disassemble and reassemble into a working aircraft.

Q – How will you pay for the new hangar?

A – The developers are paying for the development on land already identified by the airport. Vulcan to the Sky Trust will be leasing it from the developers so we will not need to invest any supporters’ money in the building or the infrastructure.

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Many thanks for your interest in the work of Vulcan to the Sky Trust and do please email newseditor@vulcantothesky.org if you can’t find what you need here.





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