Thunder & Lightnings

Avro Vulcan - Survivor XM603

B.2 XM603 - Harrow Estates / Avro Heritage Museum, Woodford, Cheshire

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Vulcan B.2 XM603 at Avro Heritage Museum, 10th February 2024; Jake Wallace

XM603 retired to Woodford on 12th of March 1983 from Waddington, and was lovingly looked after by the Avro Heritage Trust at BAE Systems' Woodford plant (with what appeared to have been on/off support from BAE themselves - mostly decidedly 'off'!). Just months after landing, the team cracked straight into a repaint project, giving the aircraft a coat of overall anti-flash white, first shown to the public at the Woodford RAFA Airshow in June 1982. This makes XM603 the only Vulcan to carry the overall white scheme.

At the time, three of her engines were in running condition, but the fourth was giving them problems for some time. The unfortunate death of their engine specialist Dougie Godfrey dealt a blow to the plans to replace the engine but they overcame this and installed another 301 engine.

The team had hoped to run all four engines up soon after the installment of the fourth engine, with the possibility of taxiing the aircraft at the Woodford airshow in 2000. Sadly this never came to fruition, with tighter restrictions being added when it came to working on the aircraft, and eventually engine runs were then forbidden. By 2008, the team preserving XM603 had been disbanded, leaving the aircraft abandoned, and sat alone, slowly deteriorating as each year past. The dreaded health and safety was quoted as the reason, with BAE Systems being accused of wanting the airframe quietly scrapped. In the years after that the aircraft's future had looked very bleak and she was thought likely to be scrapped at any point.

However, all was not negative - she played a vital part in keeping XH558 airborne, with various tests being carried out on her airframe to ascertain what useful life XH558 had without making destructive changes to XH558. XM603 also donated a couple of engines to XM655, which carries out regular engine and taxi runs at Wellesbourne. What with BAE's departure from Woodford, the future of XM603 began to look increasingly uncertain, however, the future began to look brighten up, when BAE donated a parcel of land including the former fire station to the Avro Heritage Trust. The trust over time slowly converted the building into a modern museum and commenced a restoration of XM603 with it being moved to the new museum site in 2013.

In 2015, a temporary scaffolding structure was erected around and over the aircraft which was then covered in a white sheet to protect the surfaces whilst the volunteers took on the large task of sanding and painting it. Also during this process, many repairs were carried to ensure structural integrity to help preserve the airframe for many years to come. By September 2016, the majority of the paintwork except for adding the smaller details such as all the stencils, with the temporary structure surrounding XM603 slowly being disassembled. On the 25th of October, the external restoration was unveiled!

Since 2016, the volunteers have been slowly working on restoring the cockpit and electrical systems, with the navigations being functional by 2020, and later the bomb doors too.

Going into 2024, aside from the slightly green top surfaces, XM603 is lovingly preserved by the museum's volunteers with another repaint on cards in the not-too-distant future!

Information on this page current as of 10/02/2024, last updated by Jake

Find other photos of XM603 on the following sites:

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