First Flight of Vulcan Prototype VX770 in 1952 remembered...
I was just coming up to ten years old at the time of the first flight of the Vulcan, but even then was pretty knowledgeable about all things aviation (one could say a total aviation freak) and was anticipating the Vulcan's imminent rise to the air.
I was at school in Bramhall in those days, not very far from Avro's home at Woodford. On the morning of 30th of August 1952 we had an extracurricular activity involving a visit to nearby Bramhall Hall and when the visit was over, were free to make our own way home. Myself and a couple of friends, strolling at an easy pace enjoying a nice summers day, had just reached the bus stop when the noise of nearby aircraft caught my attention…. and, looking in the direction of the sound, was greeted not only by the sight of the Vulcan flying close by in a gentle turn, but also accompanied by one of the Avro 707 development aircraft and a DH Vampire, both tucked beneath and to one side.
I was able to watch two more passes before the aircraft moved elsewhere; landed most likely. The 707 and the Vampire were, I later found out, trying to ascertain if there was any critical problem to be observed as a couple of items were seen to fall away from the aircraft on departure.* The Vampire belonged to number 613 (City of Manchester) squadron, Royal Auxiliary Air Force, based at nearby Ringway Airport. I believe the OC 613 squadron was also a test pilot with Avro which may explain the presence of an RAF aircraft but, in those days, life was a lot more laid back and if there were any sort of situation everybody in a position to be useful simply stepped up to the plate anyhow.
When it became evident I would not be seeing anything further, I dashed home (2 bus rides) and breathlessly reported my ‘sighting’ to our next door neighbour, who was the Chief Observer of the local Royal Observer Corps post and the person first responsible for my interest in aviation. I joined the RAF as a boy entrant in 1958 and my first posting after training was 617 squadron, RAF Scampton, equipped with Vulcan aircraft; I even managed to scrounge a flight in one.
*Editor’s note: The objects that fell off were actually the rear parts of the undercarriage doors that landed harmlessly in open farmland. Roly Falk was flying the Vulcan solo, while the 707A was flown by Jimmy Nelson, who had already flown that day and was low on fuel on the ground, so made a hasty take-off to help check over the aircraft, but landed as soon as the Vampire was airborne. No damage was found and the aircraft landed without further incident. The Vampire was piloted by Jack Wales.