Why is Doncaster right for XH558?
Feb 3, 2017 by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General
On Wednesday this week, Vulcan XH558 was towed for safekeeping into storage as the charity prepares to build an exciting future with plans for a new Visitor Centre and Cold War Jets engineering facility. A site has been identified and the plans are being enthusiastically supported by the airport. You can read more about the Centre and about the airport’s commitment to the project in the press release here.
If you have time, do please take a look and consider if you would like to join more than 1,000 supporters of XH558 who have already donated to help keep her protected during this transition period and the hundreds who have left messages of support on our Just-Giving page here.
Why is Doncaster right for XH558? Although we cannot answer the hundreds of questions posted on social media individually, your thoughts are very important to us and we do want to answer all the most frequently asked questions. The one that most often crops up is, why is she at Doncaster Sheffield Airport (DSA)?
Vulcan XH558 landed at the Yorkshire airfield (then RAF Finningley) for the first time in 1961, becoming the first Vulcan B.2 aircraft to be assigned to the new strategy of Quick Reaction Alert for Britain’s nuclear deterrent. You can see some of the original Cold War features in this picture. They remain today; the picture of XH558 being celebrated by the airport here shows her on one of these pans.
Of course, DSA has impeccable Vulcan heritage, but when the decision was made to base XH558 there after she ceased flying, we needed to look at the practicalities.
Firstly, being a licensed airfield, the runway at DSA is ideal for operating jet aircraft. As the Trust holds ambitions to restore other heritage jets to flight and to hold special aviation days with visiting historic jets, a runway of superb condition and with permanent safety cover was paramount. Now we have established an agreed safety case for taxi runs, we do intend to begin these just as soon as financial constraints allow us to bring XH558 out of hibernation for ground running events. Whatever is flying, the runway is critical; even a tiny stone could do irreparable damage to a heritage jet engine. We can’t allow that risk for Vulcan XH558, Canberra WK163 or visiting historic jets.
The recently-opened Great Yorkshire Way link to the M18 motorway means that 6.2 million people now live within 1 hour’s drive of the airport, making tours and events accessible to a vast number of families and enthusiasts. The future use of the site as an airfield is guaranteed well beyond 2030 – a position that can’t be known with other private sites or even RAF stations, many of which are already facing the threat of development for housing or industry.
DSA is an enterprise development zone meaning that grants and support for new developments are easier to obtain; DSA is one of the Sheffield City Region’s Local Enterprise Partnership’s top priorities, with commitment to developing the site as a leading regional airport with a superb, highly accessible infrastructure; exactly what is needed for a Visitor and Engineering Centre of the quality of the one shown in the developers’ illustration.
Our plans now focus on a dedicated purpose-built facility to be ready for early 2018.
It is partly because of the long-term future of DSA as an expanding airport that developers are willing to use their own money to create the superb facility that will be XH558’s interim home, our new Visitor and Engineering Centre, while plans for independently funding and constructing the ETNA Centre are progressed. That means that from early in 2018, if these plans continue to develop as well as they are now, we will have a superb new facility that we can lease at an affordable rent until ETNA is ready, without having to fund any investments in roads, safety, emergency services, runway improvement or even (most likely) the building itself.
That means our resources can be focussed on developing the visitor experience that XH558’s supporters deserve, and to continue to ensure the most spectacular possible displays of British heritage jets at airshows. And because the new Visitor Centre will be modern, efficient, safe and with outstanding access, we can re-start the tourism and events businesses whose profits help to look after XH558, and return to inviting schools and young people to our educational facilities to inspire them with a passion for aviation and engineering.
It sounds like an ambitious vision, but it is coming together quickly and, if you look at the comments on our Just-Giving page, is winning a lot of support.
We hope you will be committed to it as we are and that we can meet you in 2018 at ‘The new Vulcan Experience’.
If you are, then do please donate from the button below. Your donation will be doubled by our passionate and very generous philanthropists who, with your help, want to make this happen.
Difficult Question of the Week
Q: Why can’t XH558 move to a different location?
A: XH558 can no longer fly legally due to the removal of the support from the technical authorities required by her CAA categorisation as a “Complex” ex-military aircraft. This is not going to change: the CAA relied on the technical authorities to underwrite XH558’s airworthiness. She cannot be transported by road because that would mean taking her apart, from which recovery to a taxiable state would be very difficult indeed due to the complexity of her systems and construction.
We hope that having read the lead article you will agree that even if she could be moved, Doncaster Sheffield Airfield is the right location for her.
We have reviewed more of your questions and have added additional answers to help in our extensive Q & A here.