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#TheXH558Story - Part 3

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

Avro Type 698 prototypes

Our serialisation of #TheXH558Story continues as we discuss the development of the first prototype Avro Type 698 – the first full-size aircraft that would become known as Vulcan.

The 707 had vindicated the delta design concept, and in the meantime the Type 698 was taking shape, the mighty wing being built at Woodford with the rest of the airframe constructed at Chadderton. Its intended engines, the Bristol BE 10 (Olympus) had run for the first time at Patchway (Bristol) on 6 May 1950, producing 11,000lb of thrust, but with ground runs still ongoing in 1952, Avro chose Rolls-Royce Avons to power the prototype.

The sections built at Chadderton were transported by road to Woodford (not without some difficulty) for final assembly, with Avro keen to have the aircraft ready for the 1952 SBAC show, not least to beat their rivals Handley Page.

The central section is seen navigating under a railway bridge at Hazel Grove. The bridge still exists today.

In the last week of August, VX770 emerged from the Woodford assembly hangar, having taken just 28 months to build. Ground running trials proceeded apace.

A ground running image of Type 698 prototype VX770 on the runway at Woodford.

(Courtesy of )

On 30 August 1952 VX770 was ready for its first flight, in the very capable hands of Avro’s chief test pilot. Roly Falk described the occasion: “It was a large aircraft and was, of course, unlike anything of its size which had flown before. My experience on the 707s had, however, given me the greatest confidence. One fast taxi run was sufficient to satisfy me with regard to ground handling, wheel shimmy and nosewheel lifting speed. A short run and the aircraft lifted smoothly into the air, the undercarriage up when well clear of the ground in case of any unexpected change in trim and a climb to about 10,000ft, some preliminary manoeuvres in order to get the feel of the controls and that was sufficient for the first flight.”

The very first sight of Avro Type 698 VX770 as it takes to the air on 30th August 1952, piloted by Roly Falk. 

The only snag on the flight was that both fairing panels behind the main undercarriage fell away when the wheels were lowered for landing, and the prototype subsequently flew without these for several weeks until a series of modifications were carried out. The required flying hours were completed just in time to allow an appearance in the air at the SBAC show, with the Type 698 making five flights over the week.

VX770 lands at Farnborough. Notice the twin sets of lower air brakes, which were later modified to single units under-wing on production aircraft. 

Accompanied by two 707s, VX790 in blue and WD280 in red, the all-white 698 was a dramatic sight and unsurprisingly received enthusiastic headlines in the press. Shortly after, it received its name - Chief of Air Staff Sir John Slessor decided that both the Handley Page and Avro bombers were to begin with ‘V’ - the Vulcan was born.

Now, sit back, relax and go full screen while turning up your speakers to enjoy this British Pathé footage of the Farnborough 1952 line-up with Avro 707s featured at the beginning and "The Flying Tiangle" right at the end, just weeks off the production line. 


Next week, across our social media channels and our Friday newsletter, we look at the development of the second prototype - VX777. 

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 Extracts are from our Avro 60th Anniversary Book.

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