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10th Anniversary

by Ian Homer. Posted to category: General

of XH558’s return to public display

A collection of memories and images from July 2008.

Our thanks to all the contributors. 

Fred Howes recalls the rest his story, starting with XH558's first appearance since the restoration.

From the 5000’ mark her tail fin was just visible as she lined up, then first smoke, howling thunder and there she was, the great Tin Triangle rising steeply into the sky. Mighty, majestic, magnificent and a very emotional moment, just writing this brings back that strange excitement. Vulcan flew several passes with the BBMF Lancaster, which must have caused many lumps in throats. When she landed she rolled way down the runway with the nose high in the air to loud applause; a moment many must have thought would never come.

On Sunday I watched the show from the side of the A15 by 20 approach. The rain started just as I began the 2 mile walk. Amongst sunny spells and downpours, there was some great flying, the Spitfire and Typhoon pair I thought exceptionally good, and the RAF Role Demo from this viewpoint was stunning; hearing on the radio ‘GR4s in hot’ and seeing them appear over a hedge across the fields and flash past at 100’ at high speed with burners blazing was on the edge of frightening.

Looking forward to seeing and feeling Vulcan land, it was so disappointing to hear of the alternator problem; too late to get spares from Bruntingthorpe, she had to shut down. A further disappointment was the B52 spending the whole weekend sitting forlornly amongst the crowd. So my vote for the hottest display went to the old Mirage 2000, flying with blazing afterburner in pouring rain against black clouds and approaching thunder storm, and concluding with the just clear of the fence landing reminiscent of the past ACMI exercises.

Having started to walk back towards my car and watch the Red Arrows from further away, I was surprised to see Vulcan taxying towards 20 and line up. With more howling thunder and flying spray she accelerated to nose wheel lift and idled the engines, almost as good as flying!

The Reds then swept in with a sunny break, only 8 due I believe to a bird strike (presumably the bird would not be displaying either), to fill the sky with coloured smoke, noise and red jets. A good end to a mixed day.   

Fred's image of XH558 landing. 

Frank Almond writes:

Yes, we were at Waddington on that wonderful day!

Having supported the Trust from early Bruntingthorpe days through to today we (a family of four) were determined not to miss out on such a momentous event even though there were still doubts as to whether it would really happen.

When the moment came we were at the upwind end of the runway and could not see the aircraft as she lined up – but then we heard the ‘yowl’ and knew our dreams were about to come true. XH558 was airborne by the time she came into our sight but I could hardly see her for the tears running down my cheeks and everyone around us was dancing and cheering.

I saw 558 many times more after that each of which was emotional but nothing like as intense as that day at Waddington.

Congratulations to all who were involved in this great adventure and it was a great shame that it could not continue but as they say ‘all good things must come to an end’.

Good luck with XH558s new life.

From the Almond family.


Rich Evans sent in this account of the day.

I nearly didnt go. I remember looking at the weather forecast, the 3 hour drive and thinking, rather negatively, that the gods were against her - and today was not going to be the day.

It was my wife who actually pursuaded me to go saying, you'll really regret it if you dont! So off I went. 3 hours later, sitting in a 3 mile traffic jam, watching the rain bounce off the windscreen and listening to airshow radio announce that the Red Arrows had just scrubbed due to the appalling weather -  it was not looking good!

I finally got parked and sought out XH558, looking rather forlorn against a backdrop of low cloud and rain. But despite my pessimism, the weather was improving and I clearly remember the anticipation rising in the crowd as she was finally towed out to start up and then after what seemed an age, began the long taxi around the airfield, past XM607, to reach the threshold.

I couldnt see her line-up as the crowd was so deep, and we seemed to wait for ever, then finally, I heard the famous howl and remember saying out loud "go on, go on!" as she finally lifted into the air.

Seeing her in trail with the Lancaster was an absolute high point, but so too was the entire display, which was made all the more memorable by the amazing cloudscapes which I have tried to capture in the attached photos - it reminded me of the William S Phillips famous painting "Among the Columns of Thor."

I've taken 100s of pictures of XH558 over the years, but these are still some of my favourites.

The aerodynamic braking on landing was superb and seemed to go on for ever, but finally the nose wheel dipped and she was taxiing back in to loud applause and a waiting entourage of VIP and guests.

After the reception, there was a lovely moment when Barry Masefield insisted the engineers come forward to be publicly thanked and then, finally, it really was over - first public display complete - and what a display it was!

Barry Masefield and Andrew Edmondson lead the crowd's applause for XH558's engineering team, led by Crew Chief, Taff Stone.  Photo: Rich Evans.

The press and media are keen for interviews with the crew. Photo: Rich Evans.

L-R: Robert Pleming, (Trust CEO, just recovering from an operation), Andrew Edmondson, engineering director, with crew members, Martin Withers (Co-pilot), David Thomas (Pilot) and Barry Masefield (AEO). Photo: Suzanne Pleming. 

Make sure you receive our regular news updates as more images and stories from the day will be shared in upcoming editions during July - as well as our social media channels.

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