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So, we got buzzed by this thing on Saturday

Last airworthy Vulcan bomber. After the Trooping of the Colour, where members of the armed forces drop by to wish Her Maj a happy birthday, this little number (XH558 to his friends) zoomed down to Hastings and then up the coast and right over our heads.

It was billed as the last flight of the Vulcan, but engineers have since found a way to strengthen the part of the structure they were worried about. So, not the last, but it doesn’t have a whole lot of juice left.

Not RAF. It’s in private hands. It was built in 1960 (like me!), decommissioned in the Nineties and bought by a private family, in unflyable condition. Since restored entirely by private donations. First flight after restoration: 2007. It takes eye-watering money and volunteer work to keep this thing going, so it stands a real tribute to the love Brits have for their feats of engineering.

It was a beautiful thing. It circled over our heads for a while and then took off up the coast with a roar like the last judgment, the kind of sound you feel in your breastbone.

Oh, the poor sheep.


Comment from Uncle Al
Time: June 17, 2013, 10:38 pm

What a thrill and honor to see that beautiful airplane overhead! I do envy you, Stoatie.

I have extremely mixed feelings about such aircraft. I love flight and flying but hate the militaristic/imperial motivation of so much of it. That this aircraft, designed and built to do bad things, has been acquired by a private party and restored to flying condition by private donations, is wonderfully heart-warming to me.

Thanks for the foto!

Comment from Scubafreak
Time: June 17, 2013, 10:39 pm

Dammit, if they can keep FIFI flying, then they can keep the Vulcan flying. After all, FIFI is more than 20 years older than that thing….

Comment from P2
Time: June 17, 2013, 10:39 pm

The beast had a role in one if the first James Bond films I saw back in early 70’s. I even got to play around with one at the Mildenhall Air Tattoo while I was stationed in East Anglia… They’re a pretty impressive chunk of engineering…..

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: June 17, 2013, 10:41 pm

Pictures by Uncle B. He’s a much better photographer than me (goddamnit!). I would have led with this nice big shot (right as it went over head), but I thought it was more fun in the context of English countryside:

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 17, 2013, 11:29 pm

The way I look at it is that it’s one of the handful of reasons I didn’t grow up speaking Russian.

The wonderful thing is that this magnificent plane is kept aloft by the pride and goodwill of people of this country. Our successive governments of traitors would have sold it as scrap to the Chinese 30 years ago, God rot them!

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: June 17, 2013, 11:45 pm

2)Extreme envy!

Brings to mind a visit to the Long’s Peak Highland Games here in Colorado. It is one of the bigger Games in the country, and also a major piping competition. The mass band of the winners in the different band grades is about 300 pipers.

The games has strong ties to Britain [the sponsor is a Baron], and we usually have a UK regimental band present, and a lot of other Brit visitors.

It was the fall before we went into Iraq and everybody knew it was coming. HM regiment of Scots Guards were the guest band, and I spent some time talking with them and they were promising that the Guards would be with us when we went in [they were wrong, it was the Blues and Royals instead]. Right afterwards was the opening ceremonies, and there was a flyover. A real, honest to Ahura Mazda Mark 14 Spitfire. I never thought I would be able to see one in flight. After the Spitfire came a high pitched whistle, coming from a de Havilland VAMPIRE, the second jet fighter in the RAF that just missed service in WW-II, flying low over the crowd. I also never expected to ever see one of those either.

Scubafreak, I have a picture of me, sitting in the left hand seat of FIFI, getting a cockpit briefing from the CAF COL who had flown her in to Pueblo. Bribery [a contribution to her maintenance fund] was involved.

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 17, 2013, 11:58 pm

Subotai Bahadur – I an deeply, deeply envious!

Comment from Skandia Recluse
Time: June 18, 2013, 1:12 am

I love the old war birds. Have a P51 addon for MS Flight Simulator.

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 18, 2013, 1:15 am

Their wing design is very interesting, compared to the first delta prototypes …

And the last time the UK built a bomber was ….

Comment from Mike James
Time: June 18, 2013, 2:05 am

Badass, and no higher than 200 ft. AGL. Lord, please let this beautiful darling help the British remember what they were, and could be again.

“That this aircraft, designed and built to do bad things, … “

There, there, Uncle Al, calm down, it’ll be okay. Think of it as having been designed and built to do bad things to bad people. And deterrence was a good thing.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: June 18, 2013, 2:16 am

The Brits do actually make pretty good planes, like the Harrier. No match for the US top stuff, but it costs a fraction as much, too.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: June 18, 2013, 2:17 am

Yeah, pretty sure that was used in Thunderball.

Comment from Formerly known as Skeptic
Time: June 18, 2013, 3:23 am

If I am not mistaken, after years standing ready for the nuclear war that never came the only combat action the Vulcan ever saw was in the Falklands campaign to crater the runway at Port Stanley and to strike some radar installations. A grand total of 5 combat sorties. At the time they were the longest combat sorties ever flown.

A good looking aircraft none the less.

Comment from Oldcat
Time: June 18, 2013, 3:42 am

There was a show about the Vulcan on history channel…said the plane was unique in that there was no way for anyone but the pilot and copilot to get out if something went wrong.

Comment from EZnSF
Time: June 18, 2013, 4:16 am

Chickens or Vulcans..
It’s a tossup as far as I’m concerned.

No Blue Angels for us this year.
Sequester and all that made-up shit. Spit.

Comment from Deborah
Time: June 18, 2013, 4:16 am

Wonderful photos! Stoaty and Uncle B. I’ll just bet the roar sounded like the last judgement. The Vulcan design was nothing short of revolutionary.

I lived in a little cottage on Galveston Bay, and one day while I was standing in the yard, a black and green blur screamed over my head that left me stammering. I had no idea what it was, but about a year later I was at Ellington Field to see the B-25 Tondelayo, and in the hangar next door was a Phantom F-4—my mystery airplane. I’d never seen one from the underside! (or that close—it was flying at minimums).

If I were rich, I’d blow all my money on warbirds. I’d buy a B-25, and a Hawker Hurricane, for openers. I got to fly in a B-25 once (“The General”— Hap Arnold’s service plane). Because I was a newspaper photographer, they let me fly in the glassed-in nose. When it was time to get out, I wanted to say “Make me,” because you have to drag yourself with your forearms and push with your thighs to get through the little boxy tunnel that runs underneath the cockpit. You can’t crawl on your hands and knees. It was !!!#$%&*!!! exhilarating watching the runway come up in my face at 100 mph.

P.S. I’d also buy a C-47 Skytrain (DC-3) 🙂

Comment from SCOTTtheBADGER
Time: June 18, 2013, 5:07 am

Wonderful photo, Cousin Badger! Iparticularly like the two red lights on the underside, I wonder what they are for? Taking the photo of the Vulcan when you had the chance was the logical thing to do! I used to live in Jueau County, WI, where we had th Hardwood Live Air Ordnance Range. F-15s an F-16s would make the house shake as they would fly over at 500 ft. I bet the Vulcan DID make the sheep vibrate.

My house in Mauston was on the approach/departure for Volk Field, the Air National Guard Base in Juneau County. A C-130 taking off under full power would also make the house shake. I can’t imagine what living in Kent in 1944 must have been like, when the 8th would be forming up for a 1000 plane strike.

Comment from Gromulin
Time: June 18, 2013, 6:08 am

Nice camera work Uncle B!

I caught a glimpse of the last shuttle ferry, on the 747, right over my head. Our office is near an retired airbase, and I think they took the long way to Moffett. I was happened to walk outside just as it went over. It was a last flyby over CA before they put the old girl out to pasture. I fumbled with my new phone and managed to get a lame pic or two, but will always remember that day.

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 18, 2013, 7:16 am

Nipples: The Brits do actually make pretty good planes, like the Harrier. No match for the US top stuff, but it costs a fraction as much, too.

No match for US stuff? Sniggers …
When I was a fly on the wall in Canberra, and the results came back from a certain Hawaiian test which the Australians were watching to decide to buy F22/F35 I almost WET MYSELF!

Here go some of them here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27qdB1D0s9M

Russian aircraft? Do not engage! Daaaaaaaa!

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 18, 2013, 7:17 am


It was like Clubbing Baby Seals!


Comment from Mike C.
Time: June 18, 2013, 9:29 am

We took shelter from a bit of hail under the wing of one of those at the Dulles air show back in 65. Surprised (sort of) to hear they’re all gone.

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: June 18, 2013, 10:04 am

The thing is, Skeptic the fact that it was never used in full anger proves it did the job. That job being to threaten to drop buckets of sunshine on the Sovs, not to actually have to do it.

Though that was always the option.

What amazes me is that work began on the design in 1947, which means the senior pipe smoking, trilby wearing chaps who designed this astonishingly futuristic aeroplane had been born in the 19th century.

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 18, 2013, 12:50 pm

Meanwhile aeronautical design excellence has moved to Russia:


Comment from mojo
Time: June 18, 2013, 1:55 pm

Used to see those at Loring AFB in Maine, doing turn-around for their trans-atlantic runs. Very noisy, as I recall.

Not as noisy as a fully-loaded B-52 going for take-off, though.

Comment from Gibby Haynes
Time: June 18, 2013, 1:56 pm

I live a couple of miles away from this sucker’s chief pilot.

He’s a family friend. Good man. Great aeroplane.

That photo of a steeple with a nuclear bomber behind it sends a shiver down my spine.

Comment from scottthebadger
Time: June 18, 2013, 2:22 pm

Vulcans looked very sharp in their all white anti flash paint jobs.

Comment from David Gillies
Time: June 18, 2013, 10:59 pm

I went to school near RAF Dunsfold in Surrey. BAe had one of their Hawk and Harrier construction facilities there. We were always getting things like this trundling around. It had a big runway, too, so it could take Concorde. If it had all kicked off, the Soviets would have dumped so much stuff on southern England that the 10 PSI contours would have overlapped. I, and pretty much everybody I knew, would have been charred to a husk or eviscerated by blast or dosed with fallout. It’s weird in retrospect how matter-of-fact we were about the idea. This is why Islamofascists with nukes is so terrifying – we don’t want to go back to a world with a reasonable prospect of nuclear war.

Comment from Formerly known as Skeptic
Time: June 19, 2013, 2:55 am

“The thing is, Skeptic the fact that it was never used in full anger proves it did the job.”

Never meant to suggest otherwise. Deterrence through Mutually Assured Destruction may seem to those who didn’t live through it to be insanity, but it beat the h3ll out of the alternative!

Comment from Oceania
Time: June 19, 2013, 5:10 am

David, you’re right.
It was multi megatonnes everywhere … mostly ground bursts on key sites, and hundreds more elsewhere.
10 psi? More like Crater central …

Comment from Doubting Rich
Time: June 19, 2013, 12:04 pm

My dad was a Vulcan pilot back in the late ’60s.

I have actually flown the original RAF simulator, sat in the aircraft and had a flypast of my own (well, for my family) when we visited the last squadron as the man who taught my father to fly them happened to be in the circuit. All happened while I was young. Brilliant aircraft.

Comment from drew458
Time: June 19, 2013, 5:09 pm

I never even knew such an airplane existed. Love Uncle B’s picture; the plane looks like a toy in a “Thunderbirds are go” way.

Wish you had more pics.

Comment from Subotai Bahadur
Time: June 19, 2013, 8:32 pm

David Gillies

This is why Islamofascists with nukes is so terrifying – we don’t want to go back to a world with a reasonable prospect of nuclear war.

Islamofascists cannot be deterred. They have no central command that can prevent a first use by their own people, and their theology encourages suicidal attack. The communists had both the C3I structure, and a desire to see that at least the Nomenklatura survived to personally rule over what was left.

I commend to the attention of all Richard Fernandez’ [Wretchard of BELMONT CLUB] classic 2003 piece “The Three Conjectures”.


Conjecture Three, about the Golden Hour. The time is up, facilitated by the current regime.

Subotai Bahadur

Comment from Dry end of the Titanic
Time: June 20, 2013, 12:29 am

I had the great pleasure of hearing this (or it could have been one of her still flying sisters) take off twenty mumble mumble years ago at an airshow.

Dear God in heaven, noise does’nt come close to describing it. It was like the crack of doom. Your ears give up the ghost under the assault and your auditory system goes into overload. Your whole body reverberates under the attack. I can distinctly remember my entire chest cavity shaking. As it turns vertical at the end of it’s take off run and disappears into the clouds, your entire body is left in a kind of shock. The funniest thing was looking around the crowd watching after it had disappeared. I have never seen so many people grinning like imbiciles after having being left tempoararily deaf.

The whining in my ears subsided at about the same rate as my manic grin. It was the following day before I was back on an even keel.

Comment from FGW
Time: June 22, 2013, 3:40 am

When I was a youngster in the 70’s, the Vulcan was always a feature of the annual Abbotsford Airshow, in Canada. It was always a treat. An amazing and awe inspiring airplane. A true delight to see it flying (earplugs were a good idea).

‘… Sceptic’ noted the only real comabt mission of a Vulcan was during the Falklands War in 1982. There is a good documentary of that mission on the youtubes:

Comment from Larry
Time: June 22, 2013, 4:55 am

I saw one at McChord AFB, Tacoma, Washington in May, 1982 (of all places). I was at the MAC (Military Airlift Command) terminal at one end of the runway when I hear this god-awful moaning roar (don’t know how else to describe it) and I looked up in time to see it bank pull up steeply, roll almost 90 degrees and pulled right. I’d never thought to ever see one. I was amazed at how it moved. There was also a pair of transport planes that looked like Hercules that dropped sticks of paratroopers well down the runway. There was some sort of airshow going on, but I missed all of it except for that. Oh yeah, the Vulcan eventually taxied up and parked outside the MAC terminal. That was a great day for a plane buff. It’s truly a pity I’ll never see an English Electric Lightning in flight.

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