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by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

we start at the beginning.....

Welcome to #The XH558 Story

Over the next eight weeks, we will be taking you on a journey from the very beginnings of Vulcan aircraft, their development and service life through to 1960 and Vulcan XH558 – the first of the B.Mk 2 models to enter RAF service. We will then trace her various roles, right through the years, with archive images and video, before we look at XH558’s role in the Vulcan Display Flight and eventual retirement in 1993. We will then trace the origins of the restoration project and of the restoration itself, follow first flight, and travel through the highlights of eight glorious seasons of flying displays.  Features will be spread across our newsletters and social media channels. Make sure you look out for #TheXH558Story and follow these newsletters for a featured article every Friday.

Our first article today looks at the very reason why Vulcan aircraft were developed, and describes how a highly talented team at Avro had the vision to create an aircraft type that would fly on for nearly 63 years!

1945 – The dawning of the atomic age.

In July 1945, Prime Minister Churchill, President Truman and General Secretary Stalin met at Potsdam in occupied Germany to help shape the European political landscape just weeks after the German surrender.

Work was well advanced on developing a weapon of huge destructive force, indeed Truman was told of the successful first test of the atomic bomb whilst at Potsdam. It would be later that year when two atomic bombs would bring an end to the war in Japan.

Churchill, Truman and Stalin meet in occupied Germany, just nine weeks after the German surrender (VE Day).

With the Soviet Union occupying large areas of Europe and a more sceptical American president freshly in office, a new world order was emerging between the two superpowers. To keep Britain’s position on the “top table”, in August 1945 Clement Attlee, who had just superseded Churchill, proposed to his Cabinet that Britain should develop its own atomic bomb, together with the means – an aircraft - to deliver it.

The Royal Air Force Staff requirements for such an aircraft were covered in specification B.35/46 and this was issued to the aircraft industry on New Years’ Day 1947. It called for a high altitude, high-speed, strategic bomber capable of delivering a single 10,000 lb (4,536kg) weapon to target 1725 miles (2,780 km) distant. Six companies including Vickers, Handley Page and Avro were invited to tender.  

 Roy Chadwick’s original concept that would later be adopted as the basis for the Avro proposal for the Type 698, later to become Vulcan.

The Avro design team under Roy Chadwick started initially with a conventional layout with swept wings, but by progressively shortening the fuselage and then removing the tailplane, a delta-wing planform emerged. This was a bold step by the designers because little was known about delta aerodynamics at the time, and the concept of a 'flying triangle' of these proportions was a daunting prospect. However, by March 1947 Chadwick had made a firm decision to go ahead with this configuration.

Some of the early designs bore little resemblance to the aircraft we know today, but by the time of the tender (then known as Avro Type 698), was submitted to the Air Ministry in May 1947, the triangle had grown a nose with large engine intakes at the side.

Such were the advanced requirements of the B.35/46 specification, that the Air staff wisely decided on an 'insurance' design for an aeroplane of a more conventional nature. Out of this came a type, later known as the Vickers Valiant, that was to be first into production, becoming the first generation of V-Bomber.

The summer of 1947 saw the tender for the Avro Type 698 firmly in the hands of the Ministry of Supply, but the Avro team suffered a grievous loss with the death of Roy Chadwick, who was killed in the crash of the Tudor 2 prototype at Woodford on August 23rd. It was feared that Chadwick's death might cause the Ministry to lose confidence in the new delta, but having accepted the proposals one month before, it was to be Assistant Chief Designer Stuart D. Davies, who had survived the very same accident, who would pick up design leadership of the delta programme.


Left: Roy Chadwick and right, Stuart D. Davies, who would take on the design challenge to develop the Avro Type 698.   

You can follow this series right here in latest news, with highlights in each Fridays' newsletter, while related images and videos will be posted across our social media channels.

Look for #TheXH558Story

Vulcan XH558 needs your help to secure a bright future as the central attraction in a new inspirational and educational facility.

You can help immediately, by making a donation to XH558's Survival appeal from the donation button below. Thank you for anything you can give.

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