Urgent survival plan launched to save Vulcan XH558
- Philanthropists offer to match public donations as Vulcan to the Sky Trust slashes costs to survive until new home is ready
- Tough decisions made as wide-ranging redundancies announced at every level
- Trustees determined to return Canberra WK163 to the airshow circuit and Vulcan XH558 to regular taxi runs
She was one of the world’s most powerful jets, a triumph of British engineering who protected our country through more than two decades of terrifying Cold War. When she landed for the final time just 15 months ago, she was the country’s most loved aircraft, followed by more people than the Red Arrows. Now she is facing an uncertain future, to be towed out of her period hangar home at the end of January to be placed in storage.
“Over the past six months we have been working with the airport on our plans to progress a superb, purpose-built hangar for XH558. While both parties are confident of a successful outcome, the short term challenge is that we must vacate Hangar 3 as our lease has expired,” explains Dr. Robert Pleming, chief executive of Vulcan to the Sky Trust, the charity that owns and operates Vulcan XH558. “This creates a funding challenge because the revenue-earning businesses that are vital for her care must be temporarily suspended. We have had to make some very tough decisions.”
Yesterday (January 17th), Robert briefed colleagues on the changes. At the heart of the cost savings is a dramatic reduction in employee numbers, from 22 to just eight full time, supported by volunteers and part-time staff. Both Robert and business development director Michael Trotter will be moving to part- time roles where they will continue to provide strategic direction for the Trust.
“I am very sad to lose many highly talented colleagues who have worked incredibly hard to achieve a remarkable eight years of display flying that many thought would be impossible. I speak for everyone who has enjoyed seeing XH558 fly when I say I cannot thank them enough,” Robert told staff and supporters. “This is a bitter decision, but one that is necessary to ensure Vulcan XH558 continues to be protected while the Trust is rebuilt around our goals for the future.”
Engineering director Andrew Edmondson, one of the world’s leading specialists in vintage jet restoration, maintenance and operation, is being retained to manage rapid progress towards a new beginning for the Trust. Chief engineer Taff Stone will move to a freelance role responsible for the on-going care of Vulcan XH558 and Canberra WK163. These and other cuts will slash the Trust’s monthly expenditure by 75%.
Aircraft to be placed in storage while a new hangar is constructed
The first phase of the plan is to move the Trust’s aircraft and other assets that are currently in Hangar 3 to a temporary storage facility that the airport is providing free-of-charge until the end of April. During that time, the Trust hopes to conclude an agreement to build a new hangar at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, allowing resumption of tours, events, educational visits and engineering activities by the end of 2017. These businesses will then fund the lease of the hangar from the developers until the larger, more ambitious ETNA facility is ready.
An artist's impression of the planned interim Hangar.
Philanthropists offer to match public donationsTo hibernate the existing operations, re-home the vital specialist tools, displays, period artefacts and other key assets, and secure Vulcan XH558 and Canberra WK163 in the new storage location, is expected to cost around £200,000 more than the Trust can afford given the cessation of tours and events. Half of this has been promised as matched-funding by a group of philanthropists close to Vulcan to the Sky Trust, against donations from XH558’s supporters and those who believe in retaining Jet-Age aircraft in British skies. “Every pound donated will effectively be doubled. This is a very generous offer,” says Pleming. “The Trust needs these funds urgently to survive. I encourage everyone who shares this vision to do whatever they can to help today.”