Susan Kennett (daughter of Avro Chief Designer, Stuart Davies) recalls her memories of first flight of the Avro Vulcan prototype.
VX770 landing at Farnborough a little after the first flight. Note the double air brakes under the wing, later reduced to single units on production aircraft.
August 30th 1952, a Saturday I believe. A beautiful summers day and we assembled in front of the Club House at Woodford to watch this historic event - namely, the first flight of 698 as she was called. She did look rather lovely as we waited for her to move.
Roly Falk started off down the runway on what I, at nearly 13 years old, thought was the take off, but he was teasing us and just doing a test taxi run. Anyway, shortly afterwards, she lifted off and started doing the thing at which she excelled - showing her paces. Everyone was chatting about how well that part had gone but my father, a man of few words on this sort of occasion, enquired what else would be expected, as the 707s had been busy for several years testing the delta shape on a much smaller scale. After, perhaps, 30 minutes, the plane returned but I seem to recall that something fell off! Was it a cover to the undercarriage? I feel sure there is a more technical term!
Anyway, a couple of planes, one a 707, I seem to remember* flew up to check everything was OK and it was decided that the wheels were locked down and all would be well. My father continued to be upbeat about this small incident on the basis that the plane was not flying very fast! The 698, soon to be known as the Vulcan, landed perfectly with the parachute streaming out behind her and slowed to a halt whilst the assembled audience clapped.
Roly Falk reported that everything had gone very well. In those times of austerity ( I think we still had food rationing) I seem to think that we had nothing much to celebrate with other than tea and biscuits. Several days later, at the Farnborough Air Show, Roly Falk again demonstrated the white 698 with a red 707 on one side and a blue one on the other. I recall that the spectators at the show rose to their feet in applause.
*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 other aircraft, a de Havilland Vampire, was airborne. No damage was found and the aircraft landed without further incident. The Vampire was piloted by Jack Wales.
This article is reproduced from our Avro Vulcan 60th Anniversary Book (Page 50) and is available from our webstore here for just £20 plus postage.