Monday, 21 September 2015

Vulcan at Coventry Airport on 13 September 2015

As most aviation minded people know, this year will see the grounding of Vulcan XH558 after 8 years on the displays circuit. Sad, of course, but more so, happy that we had the opportunity to see this icon in the air drawing crowds by the thousand to every appearance it made.

On Sunday 13 September 2015 was going to be the last Vulcan To The Sky Club's members day with the Lady herself still flying. The visit to the Classic Air Force was a fitting one as a potential Avro future flying successor made an exceptional appearance. The Avro Shackleton of the Shackleton Preservation Trust made not just an appearance on the flightline to run up its Griffon engines, but performed a taxi run along the crowd line. On its return "leg", John Corley, who was at the controls, stopped in front of the crowd, put on the brakes and made the Griffons produce the sound that made the Shackleton famous as the "Growler".

Avro 696 Shackleton MR2 WR693 taxies out from her parking position on the flight line

The day started under glorious sunshine, but as the time went on more and more cloud appeared and by the time the star of the day, XH558, appeared it was decidedly grey. 

The Vulcan To The Sky Trust was represented with the Vulcan Village as well as a number of people, including VTTST Chief Pilot Martin Withers, seen in the picture on the right after a visit to the flightline. Several other V-Bomber crew members were in attendance, which included AEO Barry Masefield and Bob Tuxford, and in the main hangar each related their own story to those gathered. Those stories, as expected, were entertaining, full of history and humour, which were very much appreciated by those gathered to hear them.

Vulcan flyers relate their stories, 

The Classic Air Force was represented with many airframes, some airworthy, some less so and there was plenty opportunity to take a "discounted" flight in either the Proctor or the Dove, though the former was fully booked very early in the day. Both aircraft flew non-stopped between the various displays.

Here are a few pictures of what was on show on the ground.

Gloster Meteor T7, should have flown but was grounded with a fault

English Electric Canberra B2 Record Breaker, not likely to fly again

Miles Gemini, seen flying in the July Air Pageant

De Havilland Venom, one of two airworthy airframes.

Ex-Swiss Air Force Vampire T-55

Douglas DC-6B G-APSA

One of a trio of Jet Provosts

Second ot a trio of Jet Provosts

Third of a trio of Jet Provosts
Vampire T-11

C-47 Dakota G-AMRA

C-47 Dakota G-ANAF

Gloster Meteor T7 - Note the rather complex rudder/elevator arrangement

Auster WE569

Dan Griffith piloted Gloster Meteor NF11, his favourite aircraft and took Tim Skeet for a check ride during the morning. Here he can be seen ensuring that Tim has been strapped in correctly.

Percival Proctor - Had a busy day performing pleasure flights

The De Havilland Dove was no less busy, eager passengers forming a long queue for the experience

The flying for the day was opened by this beautiful 1937 built De Havilland DH-87B Hornet Moth.

John Corley start the De Havilland Venom's Ghost engine and she becomes a fire-breathing dragon

Dan Griffith lead John Corley in a number of close formation passes

One of several great topside passes by the Meteor NF11

The Venom was also displayed with great panache

Dan Griffith returns to the flightline at the end of his display

And so does John Corley
And then, as the Venom was taxiing in, the final display item having made her way down from Robin Hood Airport near Doncaster (better known to most of us as RAF Finningley) made her entrance, Avro 698 Vulcan BV2 XH558, the aircraft everyone on the airport and well beyond its fences had come to see. This has become known as the "Vulcan Effect" and clearly, from reports after the show and video clips posted on social media and YouTube, thousands of people had found somewhere to see, photograph or video XH558, but more importantly had come to bid her farewell in her last few weeks as a flying.

XH558 completed her first pass over the Baginton runway

Topside pass? This is not something the Vulcan is very good at, much better at pulling the crowds

Bomb doors open in this pass, but no undercarriage down pass.
The final display at Coventry Airport by XH558 was not a full one. Although the commentator quoted Shoreham as one of the reasons, but we know that the aircraft does not perform any high energy manoeuvres so is not restricted. The second reason given was perhaps more plausible that being the vicinity of housing areas close to the airport.

Only twice was the roar of the Olympus engines heard, ones when the aircraft arrived over the runway, the second on its final pass when it climbed out for its departure back to base at the conclusion of her display at Coventry Airport. 

The atmosphere in the crowd during her display was one of strong emotions and, to use a cliché, "not a dry eye in the house", including mine. Having joined the supporting club back in 1993, shortly after XH558 was delivered to Bruntingthorpe, there have been many great moments, many pennies invested to keep this lady flying and many friends made, most of whom were present on this memorable day in September 2015. I am proud to have been associated with this beautiful lady and with my name printed somewhere on her bomb bay doors that association lives on together with many others, whose names are also displayed on those same bomb bay doors.

Just a couple more opportunities now to see XH558, Gaydon (4 October) and somewhere along its southern route over the weekend of 10/11 October 2015.

Theo Claassen
21 September 2015

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