Friday, 10 June 2011

Vulcan Returns Home!

As the UK Airshow season gets into full swing it's fantastic to see the Avro Vulcan take to the skies - here returning to Bruntingthorpe last month - but for how long?  With a shortage of funds and a deadline of July to raise the money, there's a big risk it may be prematurely grounded.  Your help could make the difference!

I was one of the fortunate few who got access to Bruntingthorpe for the arrival of XH558 for their annual Cold War Jets day.  Bruntingthorpe is of course the spiritual home of the Vulcan as this is where all the restoration work took place to get the aircraft flying again, before its move to RAF Brize Norton and then RAF Lyneham.  This year it has relocated again, for probably the final time, to Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield, the historic site of former RAF Finningley where the RAF’s V-Bombers – Valiant, Victor and Vulcan – including XH558 from 1960 to 1968 – were based.

The Saturday arrival was not open to the public though there were still a few hundred people there to see XH558's arrival (still much better than fighting a path through the 7,000 reported to be there for it's departure on Sunday!).  There was eager anticipation all around as everyone tried to spot the plane in the distance, with the occasional bird causing a few false alarms!

Eventually we had a confirmed sighting - not so much confirmed by the plane as it has a surprisingly small profile, but by the trail of black smoke behind!  Not very environmentally friendly it has to be said!!

With the new scanner in hand (Xmas present from the Wife - thanks Love xx) the pilot contacted the control tower and, following the usual exchange of wind, visibility and barometric pressure, confirmed they would be doing a gear down missed approach, completing circuit right and landing on the second approach - what a fantastic photo opportunity!  Rarely would we get so close to the aircraft as it approached, even though we were kept near the runway threshold for safety.

The tree line at Bruntingthorpe is very close to the end of the runway so the aircraft disappeared from view as it lined up for final approach, and then there it was, looming over the trees, and so close!  Surely there were going to be branches stuck in the undercarriage!!

What a majestic sight - simply awesome as the sky filled with this mechanical monster.  I was shooting with the 100-400mm zoom to get a nice shot of the aircraft as it cleared the trees, but then it filled the viewfinder at it drew level - a bit too close!  The pilots then gently eased the throttles open and rose slowly into a right hand bank, giving a nice topside view of the delta shape.  Maximum zoom once again - nice!

The second approach was executed as smoothly as the first, descending to touch down just a little beyond where we were standing.  I cursed myself for not thinking ahead and getting a higher vantage point to shoot over the crowd.  Note to self - take steps.

The aircraft rolled down the runway in a nose up position, using the aero drag to slow the aircraft to save brakes and the need for the chute (£20,000 a time to deploy I'm told - OUCH!), before taxiing back to the threshold ready to be positioned for a photocall with the Victor and other cold war jets.

And so brings me to the plea to all who read this post and, like me, want to see more of this magnificent aircraft.  Unless enough funds are raised by the end of July to keep XH558 flying through the season then it may be a premature end to this aircraft's second life.  Please click here and donate - any amount will help, no matter how small.  Thank you.