Farewell to Flight
Why 2015 must be XH558’s last flying season
At the end of the 2015 flying season, Vulcan XH558 will land for the last time. By then, she will have far exceeded the 250 flying hours promised before her restoration and will have completed significantly more flying hours than any other aircraft of her type.
As a charity funded largely by XH558’s supporters, we are deeply aware of our responsibilities to those who support and pay for this magnificent aircraft, so have done everything we can to see whether another year might be possible. We have conducted a detailed evaluation of the factors that affect her continued flying life and, most critically, have taken advantage of the extended fatigue life to modify the way we fly her so that more engine life might be released. The results of our research have been discussed at the highest levels with those who influence the future of the last airworthy Vulcan.
Unfortunately, having evaluated a great many factors, the three expert companies on whom we depend – BAE Systems, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and Rolls-Royce, together known as the ‘technical authorities’ - have collectively decided to cease their support at the end of this flying season. Without that support, under Civil Aviation Authority regulations, we are prohibited from flying.
At the heart of their decision are two factors. First, although we are all confident that XH558 is currently as safe as any aircraft flying today, her structure and systems are already more than ten percent beyond the flying hours of any other Vulcan, so knowing where to look for any possible failure will become gradually more difficult. Second, maintaining her superb safety record requires expertise that is increasingly difficult to find. Our technical partners already bring specialists out of retirement specifically to work on XH558; a solution that is increasingly impractical for those businesses as the necessary skills and knowledge become distant in their collective memories.
This is an immensely sad decision for everyone who has worked so hard to return her to the skies and to keep her there. The decision is not about funding or parts supply, it is about mandatory third-party support; sadly it is one that Vulcan to the Sky Trust is not able to reverse.
For more information on why, please refer to this Q&A:
A Valuable Future for XH558
Everyone reading this will agree that seeing and hearing XH558 overhead is a thrilling experience, but supporters joining us for tours at her Hangar say that even on the ground, XH558 is fascinating and exciting. In her new life, still able to accelerate dramatically along the runway, XH558 will build on this excitement to inspire and educate new generations of young people, focussing on the technical skills that our country needs so badly. To find out more about XH558’s future at the heart of a new type of engineering inspiration centre, click here.
To select the tour of XH558 that will be best for you and your friends and family, click here.