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XH558's Road to Restoration

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

Part 4

Continuing our series, we look at the early restoration period in 2006.  

Work now began in earnest on the restoration, which it was anticipated would take at least a year. The schedule of tasks included not only the ‘Major’ service, but also rectification work as required, and a strengthening modification of the rear spar to extend fatigue life (Mod 2222). In addition, a lot of nonessential equipment was to be removed, including two radar systems, bomb bay fuel tank, electronic countermeasures and a substantial amount of electrical wiring. NDT examination of critical parts of the airframe would also be undertaken, using x-ray, ultrasound and eddy current techniques to detect any cracks or weaknesses in the metal. Inaccessible areas of the airframe would be examined using Olympus video introscope equipment, representing a considerable time and cost saving as the inspections would otherwise require skin removal. The introscope would also prove invaluable for checking engine internals.


Repairing the skins inside the fuel tank bays, and videoscope inspections to the wing structure.

Five Marshall Aerospace technicians would be supported by up to 10 Vulcan to the Sky fitters, and a further 10 logistics and administration staff and some subcontractors. In addition, up to 20 design engineers at the Marshall Aircraft Design Office in Cambridge would be involved. In total, the project would need over 100,000 man-hours of effort. The VTST engineers all received a 13 week intensive training programme from Marshall Aerospace in Vulcan avionics/electrical, airframe and propulsion, providing them with wide ranging knowledge based on solid understanding of all the aircraft systems. Many of the engineering team were also ex Vulcan or V-Force ground crew, ensuring an excellent skills base to begin with. Volunteers would also be of immense help, even though due to the training requirements they would not be able to work on the airframe itself.

The restoration to flight was not just about hardware though, the aircraft would need a crew to operate her. The Trust had been loaned the nose section of XM602 by the Avro Heritage Centre at Woodford (the Vulcan’s birthplace), which enabled the flight crew to practice procedure checks. Further invaluable help came from the operators of XM655 at Wellesbourne, who allowed the Trust’s air and ground crew to train on their aircraft. It would therefore be possible to run through engine start and stop procedures, emergency drills and other training requirements on a live Vulcan.


The ultimate sports convertible while work on the cockpit instruments and controls proceeded, while down in the bomb-bay, a whole host of cables and connections had to be sorted.

The Inspection phase had identified over 3,000 individual repair tasks, including the deletion of 47 systems and over 20,000 metres of rewiring. For rectification purposes the Vulcan airframe is split into six systems - hydraulic, pneumatic, oxygen, flying controls, fuel and electrical. Physically, the largest of these is the fuel system, with a total of 14 pressurised bag tanks (5 in each wing and 4 in the fuselage), holding a maximum of 74,000lb (9,200 gallons) of fuel. Any cracked or damaged skins in the tank bays would have to be replaced to avoid any risk of puncturing the bags.

A view across the hangar floor with the nose section of XM602 in the background. XH558’s engines and canopy are in the foreground.  Picture credits: David Petrie, Robert Miller and VTTST.

The structures bay in the hangar became a hive of activity, with repair and rectification of tank bay skins and a multitude of others. Particular attention was paid to the titanium sheets in the jet pipe tunnels. The heat generated by the jet pipes when in operation would be extreme, so it was vital the sheeting that would protect the airframe from the high temperatures was undamaged. 

Next week, a thorough cost review places the project at risk ahead of a planned roll-out in August 2006.

Extracts in this series are from various Vulcan to the Sky Trust publications available in our Book Store.

Read Part 5 of this story here:

Missed earlier instalments of this story? 

Catch-up from the beginning here: 

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