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Three Vulcan Boys

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

meet the team ....

Here are biographies of our three special guests. - 'The Three Vulcan Boys'.

Martin Withers DFC 

Born in Surrey, Martin Withers studied at Trinity School Croydon and then went on to Birmingham University to study Law, where he discovered the University Air Squadron (UAS) and fell in love with flying and the RAF.  Although he did gain his LLB (Hons), it was not long before he elected to change professions.  Joining the RAF in 1968, Martin trained at RAF Stations at Church Fenton, Syerston, Oakington, Manby and Strubby and was then posted to the Vulcan aircraft. His first tour as a co-pilot was at Waddington in 44 Squadron and he then served as a captain in 50 Squadron also at Waddington, and in 1980 was assigned to Scampton as a Vulcan flying instructor on 230 OCU.

When the OCU closed, Martin transferred to 101Sqn back at Waddington as the squadron QFI and Pilot Leader and was subsequently selected as captain-pilot of “Black Buck 1” for “Operation Corporate”, known today as the Falkland Islands Conflict.  For his part in an extraordinary mission bombing the runway at Port Stanley as leader in “Operation Black Buck”, he was awarded the DFC, with his entire crew being “Mentioned in Dispatches”.

Martin retired from the RAF to become a commercial airline pilot. He first flew turboprops before moving up to the Airbus A320 and the Boeing 757, and then on to 767’s before retiring.

Martin suddenly found himself suitably qualified to fly Vulcan XH558 and was asked to join the flight-crew team where he became Chief Pilot and Air Operations Director of the Vulcan to the Sky Trust. The role not only involved flying, but rostering the various crews, dealing with airshow organisers and acting as liaison with the Civil Aviation Authority for various display permissions, including complex round the country tours and even a safety case for flying along the Thames for the Queens Diamond Jubilee River Pageant. Sadly, this did not materialise due to technical issues, but would have been doubtful anyway on the day due to heavy rain and low cloud.

Martin lives near York with his wife Laura, and has two grown-up children. 


Adrian Sumner

Adrian joined the Royal Air Force in 1966.  After training as a multi-engine pilot, and completing the Operational Conversion Unit (OCU) at RAF Scampton, his first tour was as a Vulcan Co-pilot from 1970-1972 on IX Squadron at RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus,  He was then posted as a Vulcan Captain onto 44 Squadron at RAF Waddington from 1972-1974.  Later that year Adrian completed the course at Central Flying School to become a Qualified Flying Instructor, which was followed by a short tour as a Bulldog Instructor at Glasgow University Air Squadron (UGSAS).   He then returned to Vulcans at RAF Waddington in 1976 on promotion to Squadron Leader, as a Flight Commander and Qualified Flying Iinstructor on 50 Squadron, where he was also the squadron display pilot for the 1980 Season.  Adrian's final association with the Vulcan was as the last Officer Commanding the RAF Detachment at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Nebraska, USA from 1980 to 1982.  He then returned to the UK for a 3 year tour as Squadron Leader Operations at RAF Lossiemouth.

The rest of Adrian's Service career was mainly associated with Flying Training.  Firstly, as Officer Commanding the Dominie Squadron at RAF Finningley (1985-1988), followed by a ground tour at Support Command Headquarters, RAF Brampton.  After which he attended the Joint Services Defence College (JSDC) at Greenwich during 1991, before returning to RAF Finningley later that year on promotion to Wing Commander, as Officer Commanding Operations and Pilot Training Wing (OPTW), where Adrian flew the HS125 Dominie, and was also Chief Instructor on the Jetstream.  He then completed a 3 month deployment as Deputy Commander for Operation Warden at Incerlik, Turkey, monitoring the 'No Fly Zone' in Northern Iraq at the end of 1993, before his final 3 year tour with NATO at the Supreme Headquaters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Mons, Belgium.  Adrian retired from the RAF in 1997 as a Wing Commander, and then he flew as a Captain on the BAe146 for 2 airlines, following which he worked as a contract pilot and Qualified Flying Instructor on the Royal Navy Jetstreams at 750 Squadron, RNAS Culdrose, in Cornwall.

Adrian fully retired in 2008, after 41 years of flying with over 9500 flying hours, and now lives with his wife, Lesley in Retford, Nottinghamshire.


Mal Stainforth

  • Joined RAF in 1970
  • 3yrs at University of Southampton
  • Trained as a navigator, graduating in June 1975
  • Posted to 101 Sqn flying Vulcan as Navigator Plotter in 1976
  • 1979 posted to Finningley as Navigator Instructor
  • 1983 posted to 29 Sqn flying Phantom FGR2
  • 1986 returned to Finningley as Navigator Instructor
  • 1989-1990 completed Aerosystems Course (post graduate systems engineering)
  • 1990-2000 flight trials instruction
  • 1995 promoted Sqn Ldr
  • 2000-2011 Space Specialist at Air Warfare School teaching military space

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