B.2 XH558 - Vulcan to the Sky Trust (taxiable), Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, Yorkshire
Vulcan B.2 XH558 at Sywell (last private display), 13th October 2015; Damien Burke
Starting off with what was the last flying Vulcan - everybody's favourite - XH558! Flying with the Vulcan Display Flight until replaced by XL426, XH558 soon came back into the limelight with the VDF when 426 was retired. Several years of airshow appearances later, a massive public campaign to keep her flying was ignored by the MoD's bean-counters, and XH558 was bought by the Walton family at Bruntingthorpe airfield. For a while she regularly carried out fast taxi runs, but living outside was doing her no good and eventually the financial effort became too much and so the aircraft was sold to a company formed with the intent of returning her to the sky.
After over two years of engineering work and the raising of over £6 million - both from donations and lottery funding - she took to the air once more and began a programme of test flights on 18th October 2007. From June 2008 she was on the airshow circuit each year and mammoth fund-raising efforts kept her going. A full report on the restoration to flight can be found here
Leaving her home at Bruntingthorpe in June 2009, she led a nomadic existence at various RAF airfields for a while but as of early 2011 found a new base at the former RAF Finningley (now Robin Hood Airport). Unfortunately late August 2011 saw the start run of bad luck with a fuel tank leak forcing cancellation of several appearances and needing urgent rectification. The very next flight after this work (enroute to Dunsfold to display) ended up with another cancellation - experiencing a hydraulic failure followed by an emergency landing at RAF Coningsby. The fault was fixed by the following Sunday but weather caused the cancellation of that day's flying which left just one more show that year (Leuchars).
With a partial repaint of the topside of the aircraft completed in May 2012, the run of bad luck continued with the loss of two engines to FOD ingestion at the beginning of the take-off roll for a display practice. After replacing the two engines, VTST were apparently down to only one serviceable spare engine and only just managed to afford the wing strengthening mods to extend her life beyond 2013. With the withdrawal of manufacturer support from BAE Systems and Rolls-Royce, it was finally time to say goodbye to XH558 in October 2015.
Her last public display was at the tiny grass airfield of Old Warden on 4th October; her final private display at another small aerodrome - Sywell on 13th October, after a couple of 'UK tour' goodbye flights on 10th/11th October. Shamefully VTST then kept the final flight a secret, so her final few minutes of air time were only witnessed by a few hundred people at most. She has - barely - been kept in running order since then and taxied a few times, but the ticket prices are reportedly out of most people's reach.
VTST were then asked to vacate their hangar at Doncaster, leaving XH558 out in the cold. Her future is - once more - in doubt. Fund raising continues to build a new hangar for her, but even die-hard fans are losing hope as there appears to have been absolutely no progress on the hangar front in several years now.
Information on this page current as of 07/12/2020
Find other photos of XH558 on the following sites:
Air-Britain - Airliners.net - Airplane-Pictures.net - flickr.com - WorldAirPics.com - JetPhotos.net - PlanePictures.net