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Confessions of a Convert – M’Blog Part 3 – Three go AvGeeky at Cosford

#twitterVforce Tour 2013 – RAF Museum Cosford

I have always been aware that there is a 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning, but I had tended to approach it from the other side and then go to bed to sleep all day.  So, as you can imagine, I started my day in a state of shock when I was woken at 7 o’clock one Saturday morning not too long ago and advised to get myself moving as we had an appointment to keep.

The unceremonious removal of the duvet from my sleeping self indicated to me that there would be no messing about tolerated on this most special of days.

Now, to give you a bit of background, on the previous weekend it had been my birthday.  And, each year, my lovely husband and I take a trip to the RAF Museum Cosford – my favourite aviation museum.  This year we decided to combine my birthday visit with a #twitterVforce road trip, hence the earliness of the hour as we had to go and pick up an iRod.

So, off I go to get ready while my husband goes through all the usual pre trip checks…

Chocolate…check

Cans of coke…check

Digital camera…check

Binoculars (although I’m not sure why)…check

Proper walking shoes to stop AvGeekette whinging about achey feet…check

Spare socks…see above…check

Flapjack…ah…um…no, forgot to make that…

Sat Nav…’No need!’ I shout…’We’ve been there so many times I know the way blindfold…’

Please note – I never drive blindfold…and neither should anyone other than a qualified stuntman on a proper stunt track…or something like.

Of course, while on our way to the train station I realise that I don’t have enough petrol to get us all the way to Cosford and back, so we have to stop – which resolves the flapjack issue, but regrettably makes us ten minutes late to meet Rod.

Ah yes…Rod.  Never a more smiley man was seen that our Rod when we got to the train station.  I somehow think that all his Christmases’, or at least 2013 Saturday treats, had come at once.

I shall spare you the details of the journey to Cosford, but needless to say, both Rod and my husband, when put in the same car, outgeeked an entire forum of aviation fanatics.  Complete with dodgy Brummie impressions by Rod…

‘Is this our junction?’ I ask…thinking perhaps I should have brought the SatNav.

My passengers merely point at the large RAF Museum sign at the side of the motorway and smile.

Having reached our destination – as the SatNav would have said, had I brought it – I gave my passengers a short, sharp lecture based on memories of what my parents would have said to me:

‘Now…behave yourselves, don’t touch anything, no running, no shouting and don’t give me a reason to make you go and sit in the car…’

Suitably chastened, the lads followed me to the reception area.  As RAF Museum Cosford is free entry (Yes, FREE!!) we wandered straight through the building to the first fantastic sight of the day.

The last time we had been to Cosford, Hawker Siddeley R. 1 Nimrod XV249 had been lying in pieces beyond the barrier between the First Flight Hangar and the Cold War Hangar.  This time…there she was in all her glory.  And I must say she looked wonderful.

But!  There was no time to stand and stare, to paraphrase Davies…there were other more pressing sights to see!

On entry into the First Flight hangar, a beeline was made to the left where a large white doodah stood.  Now, I must admit, I am no fan of the TSR-2…compared with other wonders of design, I often look at the TSR-2 and wonder who came up with the idea of sticking wings on a fridge.  But there is no accounting for taste and I have to mention it as Rod is a massive fan.  So massive a fan indeed that he spent nearly an hour stood next to it, under it and around it – having sweet talked a likewise besotted member of staff to allow him to cross the hallowed border of the trip hazard that passes for a barrier.  And there he stayed, alternating between it and the exhibit next to it…the Avro 707…a jet much more to my liking.

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The Avro 707 is a 1/3 scale precursor to the Avro Vulcan – the jet we all know and love so well.

Despite giving the impression that he was there to stay and about to set up camp, we eventually persuaded Rod to move to the next hangar.  It is here that I introduced Rod to my favourite exhibit – Avro Lincoln RF398.  The only complete Lincoln in the world and a beautiful sight to see.

It was while I was sharing some of my knowledge of the lovely Lincoln that Rod developed the strangest cough.  It started off as just an ordinary everyday cough, but then somehow metamorphosed into something that sounded much like the word ‘geek’.  Not an affliction I had ever heard of…but the cough got worse and worse as the day went on!

Having trundled round the First Flight hangar, I decided that that would be a good time to stop for lunch.

Have you ever witnessed grown men bouncing up and down in their seats?  If not, then take an avgeek to an aviation museum and make them stop for a break halfway through!  I know – I’m cruel….

Finally we approached the doors to the Cold War Hangar.  Having trundled round the #twitterVforce forums and Twitter, I now realise what a big deal this is.  Within a couple of seconds of walking through the door, I’d lost Rod…last seen gazing in wonder at the Valiant and saying…’She’s sooooo big!  I didn’t think she’d be THAT big…WOW!’ and taking many many many….many photos.

Not wishing to spoil it for anyone, I’ll keep it brief.  RAF Museum Cosford is the only museum in the world to have all three of our beloved V Force.  The Handley Page Victor K.2 XH672, the Avro Vulcan B2 XM598 and the Vickers Valiant B1 XD818.  All in the same place and, if viewed from a specific point, all can be seen at the same time albeit in a squashed kind of way.  It’s totally worth a visit just to view these three iconic bombers.

Considering this was the first aviation museum I ever went to, back in…ahem, least said…I realise what a lucky girl I am to have had the privilege to see these three fine jets all in one place as my first museum experience.

It certainly seemed to make an impression on the #twitterVforce team – never a happier, smilier bunch of people were seen regretfully leaving the museum that day.  We lingered in the car park swapping stories of our favourite exhibits until finally heading home.

But we’ll be back!

@avgeekette

 

 

Confessions of a Convert – M’Blog Part Two – Living with an AvGeek

Since the publication of my first blog entry, I’ve apparently become something of an internet sensation …well, my husband said it was all right and I bookmarked it. I have been inundated with an email asking me how I cope living with an avgeek. The answer is simple – be grateful it’s jets and not Star Trek. I’d rather have a living room covered with aviation memorabilia than dodgy plastic Spock pointy ears and Lieutenant Uhura costumes.

So now I would like to share my wisdom with all the avwidows who may chance upon this blog entry while innocently perusing their partners t’interweb history – not that you’re spying – I understand that. I hope you will see this as a beacon of light and hope in an otherwise geeky world.

It may seem that there will be no end to the times that you come home to another oddly shaped jiffy bag and a curiously excited other half…knowing that there will be yet another aviation relic proudly displayed on the coffee table. BUT!! This can be used to your advantage…smile and show an interest and before you know it, you’ll have a husband (in my case) who will amaze you with his depth of knowledge of the difference in the location of the pitot tube on the B2 Vulcan, to the B1 Vulcan (before anyone asks, the B1 has them on the wingtips, the B2 on the fuselage…). While this may not appeal to all, at least he’s talking to you rather than a lot of strangers on the web.

Showing an interest can also lead to you being whipped off to some extremely exotic locations. My first trip was to a rather windy airfield in Leicestershire. Portaloos, cagoules and flasks…what more could a girl want!

And I must admit, I was impressed by the number of long lens cameras and video cameras – if you half closed your eyes you could almost imagine you were at a film Premiere!

Ushered across to the runway, I discovered a number of people wearing very brightly coloured ear muffs and smiling a lot…once more I was flummoxed…personally, I was cold, slightly damp and needed another jumper and a hot water bottle quite badly – not necessarily my most smiley moment! The wind was blowing away the voice over the tannoy so I had no idea if he was announcing the opening of the tea tent or something more interesting…turned out to be something far far more interesting!

Turning to my right I spied something jet shaped and shiny…grass and trees waved wildly behind it for what seemed like an interminable amount of time…then…WHOOSH!!!! Well, I say whoosh, it was more of a screaming, heart stopping, oxygen stealing, after burning type of feeling. Catching my breath and wiping the grit from my face, I turned to my husband and said…

‘!!!’

This seemed to be becoming a habit of mine…

The crowd went wild, in a refined sort of way. No Justin Beiber type screaming here.

After that, the jets came thick and fast, Provosts, Lightnings, Buccaneers, a medley of big ones, small ones, silver ones, red ones, single ones and multiples and, at last, my favourite of the day, the Victor.

‘Teasin’ Tina’ slowly moved towards the top of the runway (or is it the bottom?). An immense, hulking, menacing, glorious presence. And she certainly did Tease us, spooling up, spooling down, spooling up again, only to spool down again…the trees behind her were almost horizontal. The engines got louder and louder…until I thought something was going to go pop in a spectacular way. She thundered down the runway and, as she raced past us, the air seemed to disappear leaving us all breathless and rosy cheeked. The jet wash was immense…for a moment it felt like we were in a dry dusty desert storm…then quiet. Although, to be fair, it was mainly quiet because Tina managed to render me deaf for a few moments!

My husband appeared to be in the same boat as he was only really able to turn to me and grin broadly…a shared moment of joy.

I was still cold, slightly damp, with fingers and ears of ice…but it has to be said, I can’t wait to go back to the next one!

@AvGeekette

 

Our tribute to the ‘Dam Busters’ – 70 Years

DamBusters70sm

 

ENGLISH ELECTRIC LIGHTNING T.5 XS420 – V Force Fighter Support

 Welcome to the latest photo blog from the team here at #twitterVforce

People that know me and my values understand that I am a V Bomber man through and through……………though just sometimes…………

I have recently paid a few visits to the FAST Museum (@FASTMuseum) at Farnborough, checking out the 3 Vulcan Ejection Seat Test Dummies (Christened Vincent, Virgil & Vernon) and the remaining airframe of Avro Type 707A VX784 and have always been taken aback by their gate guardian English Electric Lightning T.5 XS420.

She’s silver and gleaming.

Once again through twitter I contacted one of her co owners – Rich Hall (@hydealfred) and he invited me back to FAST to get ‘up close and personal’ with his machine, an invite that I just could not refuse.

The date arrived, I arrived, Rich arrived and the resulting pictures are my memories from that day (as well learning heaps from  Rich & his vast plethora of knowledge).

Links to the XS420 and FAST Museum websites can both be found on our Events/Links page and if you are ever at FAST and see a man tinkering with the Lightning, say hello – it will be Rich and no doubt you will receive the same warmth of hospitality that I did.

Oh and tell him #twitterVforce sent ya!

Rod

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tVfAll images Copyright #twitterVforce

 

BLACK BUCK 1 – A #twitterVforce special

Welcome all to the latest blog here at www.twittervforce.com

Right then, this blog is really ‘hot off the press’ as the last tweet in this series was only posted 30 minutes ago. For those that follow Andy on twitter (@Avrovulcan617) you will be aware that he has been tweeting an ‘as it happened’ extravaganza on the daring Black Buck Raids during the Falklands Conflict in 1982. For those that did, I know that they have kept you all on the edges of your seat.

Below, with kind permission from Andy, we have reproduced his timeline of tweets and pictures for you all to enjoy again and again. As a note, the first date on all entries show the date on which the tweet was published and all of the original tweets included our hash tag #twitterVforce

For those yet to see…………………………….STANDBY

Big thanks to Andy

Rod

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27/04/2013 This afternoon 31 years ago (27/04/82) at Waddington 3 Vulcans B2’s were fully fuelled & prepped for their nine hour flight to Ascension Islands, the 3 crews had also been issued with 9mm Brownings

 

 

27/04/13 The three Vulcans departing Waddington for Ascension that afternoon in 82 were XM597 XM598 & XM607

27/04/13 The three Vulcans departing Waddington for Ascension that afternoon in 82 were XM597 XM598 & XM607

 

 

27/04/2013 Tonight 31 years ago three Vulcans XM597 XM598 & XM607 were inbound for Ascension Island

27/04/2013 Tonight 31 years ago three Vulcans XM597 XM598 & XM607 were inbound for Ascension Island

 

28/04/2013 31 years ago today Vulcans XM597 XM598 & XM607 arrived at Ascension Island

28/04/2013 31 years ago today Vulcans XM597 XM598 & XM607 arrived at Ascension Island

 

28/04/2013 Theatre of operations and the distances involved I keeping the air bridge & logistics going in '82

28/04/2013 Theatre of operations and the distances involved in keeping the air bridge & logistics going in ’82

 

28/04/2013 Very soon the Avro Vulcan crews would experience combat for the first time

28/04/2013 Very soon the Avro Vulcan crews would experience combat for the first time

 

28/04/2013 - 29/04/1982 Vulcans XM598 and XM607 were ready, as were John reeves & Martin Withers crews

28/04/2013 – 29/04/1982 Vulcans XM598 and XM607 were ready, as were John reeves & Martin Withers crews

 

 

28/04/2013 It was also going to be a big test on the Victor K2 crews also, the mission depended on them

28/04/2013 It was also going to be a big test on the Victor K2 crews also, the mission depended on them

 

 

29/04/2013 - 29/04/1982 the Victors and crews of 55 & 57 Sqns were ready

29/04/2013 – 29/04/1982 the Victors and crews of 55 & 57 Sqns were ready

 

29/04/2013 - 29/04/1982 The 42 1,000 pounders, 21 on each Vulcan were ready

29/04/2013 – 29/04/1982 The 42 1,000 pounders, 21 on each Vulcan were ready

 

30/04/2013 – 30/04/1982 “URGENT FLASH MESSAGE”

30/04/2013 At 15:12 on the 30/04/1982 the Ops team at Wideawake received a Flash message from Northwood, the message read….

30/04/2013 From Air Commander………………………..Operation BLACK BUCK execute op BLACK BUCK 1 AWHQ….

30/04/2013 …18Gp AAAA/19F/KAA 300853Z APR82 Time on target 010700Z May repeat 010700Z May….

30/04/2013 …delays in mission are acceptable providing that TOT is not later than 010900Z May 1982

30/04/2013 THE MISSION WAS ON

30/04/2013 A great little video reflecting on what happened 31 years ago tonight https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpRtEABdxNc

OPERATION BLACK BUCK............................T - MINUS 2 HRS TO LAUNCH.........

30/04/2013 OPERATION BLACK BUCK…….T – MINUS 2 HRS TO LAUNCH………

 

The Primary......Vulcan XM598.....Blue Two and John Reeves crew

30/04/2013 The Primary……Vulcan XM598…..Blue Two and John Reeves crew

 

The Reserve.....Vulcan XM607.....Blur Four and Martin Withers crew

30/04/2013 The Reserve…..Vulcan XM607…..Blue Four and Martin Withers crew

 

30/04/2013 Here is the refuelling plan to get one Vulcan on target and to get back

30/04/2013 Here is the refuelling plan to get one Vulcan on target and to get back

 

30/04/2013 At 22:30hrs the Victors started their Conways

30/04/2013 At 22:30hrs the Victors started their Conways

 

30/04/2013 At 22:50 the first Victor was on its way

30/04/2013 At 22:50 the first Victor was on its way

 

30/04/2013 After the tenth Victor climbed off the tarmac it was XM598's turn......Blue Two was on its way

30/04/2013 After the tenth Victor climbed off the tarmac it was XM598’s turn……Blue Two was on its way

 

30/04/2013 60 seconds later the last Victor followed 598, the last to go was Blue Four XM607

30/04/2013 60 seconds later the last Victor followed 598, the last to go was Blue Four XM607

 

30/04/2013 Four minutes into the flight XM598 (Blue Two - the Primary) had to abort the mission

30/04/2013 Four minutes into the flight XM598 (Blue Two – the Primary) had to abort the mission

 

30/04/2013 XM607 (Blue Four - the Reserve) now became the primary, history was about to be made

30/04/2013 XM607 (Blue Four – the Reserve) now became the primary, history was about to be made

 

01/05/2013 - Saturday 01/05/1982 XM607 at roughly 04:43 local time dropped its load of 21 1,000lb bombs

01/05/2013 – Saturday 01/05/1982 XM607 at roughly 04:43 local time dropped its load of 21 1,000lb bombs

 

01/05/2013 the bombs hit the runway across a 30 degree angle to give a reasonable chance of a hit

01/05/2013 the bombs hit the runway across a 30 degree angle to give a reasonable chance of a hit

 

01/05/2013 As XM607 turned north the codeword was sent......this is One Quebec Delta........SUPERFUSE"

01/05/2013 As XM607 turned north the codeword was sent……”this is One Quebec Delta……..SUPERFUSE”

 

01/05/2013 Now it was time to go home, there were more problems on the run home

01/05/2013 Now it was time to go home, there were more problems on the run home

 

01/05/2013 XM607 and the Withers crew recovered safely to Ascension 15 hours & 45 mins after take off

01/05/2013 XM607 and the Withers crew recovered safely to Ascension 15 hours & 45 mins after take off

 

01/05/2013 Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers having just got out of XM607, he & his crew had been there 16 hours

01/05/2013 Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers having just got out of XM607, he & his crew had been there 16 hours

 

01/05/2013 After the attack Flt Lt Withers said 'we had just started a shooting war'

01/05/2013 After the attack Flt Lt Withers said ‘we had just started a shooting war’

 

01/05/2013 ......but we all had a job to do and we thought that job was worth doing

01/05/2013 ……but we all had a job to do and we thought that job was worth doing

 

01/05/2013 Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC, today Martin is still involved with the Vulcan

01/05/2013 Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC, today Martin is still involved with the Vulcan

 

01/05/2013....31 years later, he is chief pilot and Operations Manager for the last flying Vulcan XH558

01/05/2013….31 years later, he is chief pilot and Operations Manager for the last flying Vulcan XH558

 

01/05/2013 Operation black Buck was a fitting end to the Vulcan, as the Vulcan Sqns disbanded in '82

01/05/2013 Operation Black Buck was a fitting end to the Vulcan, as the Vulcan Sqns disbanded in ’82

 

01/05/2013 she went into combat with her fellow V Force sister, the Victor. The crews and aircraft did Britain proud

01/05/2013 she went into combat with her fellow V Force sister, the Victor. The crews and aircraft did Britain proud

 

tVf

 

 

Confessions of a Convert – M’Blog Part One

I won’t tell you how many blameless years I spent on this planet (a lady never reveals her age…ahem) without having more than a passing interest in aviation history, but let me assure you, it was quite a few.  My husband has, for some years now, spread the Vulcan love around Twitter, the t’interweb and our living room, the hallway, the bedside tables…and yet, I had not felt the urge to get caught up in the hype.

I’ve always had a massive interest in anything historic – museums are among some of my favourite places, as are historical properties, country parks and anywhere I can buy books!  I must admit, though, that my interest in aviation had been limited to an occasional visit to RAF Cosford.

Until…

Imagine the scene…here am I, an innocent among avgeeks…wondering what the deal was all about.  Myself and my lovely husband had just been for a visit to Charlecote Park, Warwickshire and were about to get in the car to wend our weary way home when a cry was heard…

Get out of the car!  Quick!  Get out of the car!’

OMG – as the youf says – what’s all the fuss about?  Has a large hornet flown in through the open car window?  Are the National Trust running round the car park giving away free samples of organic honey?  Has there been a new book written on the impact of the Great War on the Country House?  But no.  I fell out of the car, just in time to see one of the most amazing sights it has ever been my privilege to witness.

Vulcan XH558 – coming up over the horizon in all her glory.  The sun glinted off her wings, catching the light in that special way that only a Vulcan can.  Engines roaring, people pointing and children wetting themselves in fear and excitement.

Awe-inspiring?  Yes.  Awesome?  Definitely.  Amazing?  Absolutely.  I can quite confidently claim to have been completely gobsmacked.  But, never one to be rendered speechless in any situation, my tongue expressed the thoughts my reeling mind could not sufficiently frame…

‘!!!’

Not necessarily the best language in a National Trust car park, but these were mitigating circumstances.

Since that day I’ve been hooked, almost literally in the case of climbing out of the co-pilots seat in XM655…really should not have worn trousers with lots of pockets…but that’s a story for another day…

My quest to get close to Vulcans, Victors and the last Valiant have taken me all over the…well, I’d like to say world, to be fair it’s more like up and down the M1…but still…I’ve been to places I wouldn’t have ordinarily been and seen sights I wouldn’t have ordinarily seen.  I’ve met some fantastic people, heard some amazing stories and drunk a lot of tea.

So, my friends – and I hope I can call you all friends after spraffing at you for the last ten minutes – in conclusion, you’re never too old to fall out of a car at the sight of engineering glory, it’s never too late to get involved in a project, and, in the case of my husband and his lovely friends – if you can’t beat them – join them!

@AvGeekette

 

When #twitterVforce met XH558 – Your Questions Answered – The Interview Series No1

Just a few words of thanks to start our latest blog. Myself and Dave T would like to thank Taff and Toni for taking the time to answer all of your questions that you submitted via www.twittervforce.com and a very big special thank you to our own reporter Amy Parkin

Rod

Hello everyone!

Here it is, what you have been waiting for… My interview with Taff Stone and Toni Hunter! Now, this interview is incredibly long, and there’s is a lot of reading to do, but Taff and Toni answered all the questions thoroughly and explained everything exceedingly well. I would also like to say it was a genuine honour and pleasure to interview them both, and finally meet Taff! They’re both very sincere and kind. Before you start reading the interview, I would like to thank everybody for the support with these interviews and thank you for sending in your wonderful questions, I hope that they have been answered well enough for you and enjoy reading this interview!

One more thing –

***URGENT JAFFA CAKE APPEAL!!!!***

Jaffa Cake stocks are running INCREDIBLY low at Hangar 3 at the minute, so if you could spare a few £££’s for a box of Jaffa Cakes for XH558’s lovely engineers, I know that it will be greatly appreciated! Thank you!

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VTTST Chief engineer ‘Taff’ Stone & twitterVforce reporter Amy Parkin

 VTTST Liaison Toni Hunter & twitterVforce reporter Amy Parkin

VTTST Liaison Toni Hunter & twitterVforce reporter Amy Parkin

TVF: Hi Taff and Toni! First of all, thank you for sparing me the time to interview you!

Both: “No problem!”

TVF: Okay, we have been sent questions from our twitterVforce audience and they want to know what you have to say…

This question was sent to us by Robert Hall and he wants to know – To what extent do you know if XH558 will be able to fly beyond 2013,and what would be required to enable her to do so?

Taff: “We’re aiming to get the aircraft flying for as long as safely possible, we have issues with the fatigue life of the aircraft and the engines and we’re currently in the process of trying to extend these for as long as possible.”

TVF: Is that what’s being going on with the x-rays and such?

Taff: “Yes, the x-rays are part of the normal checks, but we had Cranfield Aerospace come in, doing the scanning of the leading edge wing where the modification will need doing, so we’ve been doing the preliminary checks on that and also, we’re looking into the engine life again.”

TVF: These questions were sent to us by Andrew Clayton and he would like to know – What colour scheme is your favourite for the Vulcan, the current one or anti-flash white?

Taff: “I’ve always known the aircraft in the camouflage role. I’m not young enough to remember the anti-flash white! But I do like the camouflage, especially with the high gloss finish that ‘558 has as appose to the old matte version that used be on the normal aircraft.”

Toni: “I would love to see the Vulcan fly in white! I can always remember there were conversations about a certain type of paint which was soluble by, not water of course, but with some other form and I did always think to myself now that would be quite good! Of course when we were talking about sponsors, I did wonder what an Utterly Butter Vulcan would look like!”

TVF: What has been the best/worst bit about your time with the Vulcan?

Taff: “I suppose the best bit working with the Vulcan is actually being one of the few engineers actually been able to have flown in the aircraft. I should think that’s the best. Supposedly the worst; When I delivered her to Bruntingthorpe in 1993. I didn’t expect to see her flying again.”

Toni: “I think the best bit I can remember, we was at RAF Leuchars, and we had been invited by the Polish team to have a look at their MiG 29, now being a bit of an air show geek, that was a really wonderful opportunity and after we’d had a look around, they came to see us with the Vulcan and they were really quite excited and they were going around having their photograph taking with the Polish flag and at one point I was chatting to their chief and he said to me ‘you know if this had all gone wrong, the Vulcan would have bombed my home.’ and I said to him, ‘but isn’t it lovely… That the world has changed in such a way, that you and I can stand here as friends and share a drink, and chat.’ And I would say that, that was one of the most poignant experiences, had it been a cinematic thing; the sun was setting, it was a beautifully warm day and it really was quite the most perfect setting! I would say the worst was probably last year when we lost two engines. I’m not one who is prone to becoming emotional about (if you like) inanimate objects, I don’t name my cars or get particularly affectionate about them, I think I have shed more tears over this aircraft than anything else I can think of.”

TVF: We (me and a lot of other fans…) were stood at the end of the runway when that happened and I’ve never seen so many people in a row cry all at once!

Would you ever work on getting another aircraft flying again, such as the Lightning or Harrier?

Taff: “Yes I would.”

TVF: Which aircraft would you do it all over again with?

Taff: “Erm, I don’t know really! I think we did try to get a harrier before they sent them all the way back over to America but any other aircraft that would be wanted to bring back to flight, I would be more than happy to help go and get my two pence worth!”

TVF: Would do try and get another Vulcan flying? If it was possible?

Taff: “If it was possible, yes! I would because I actually know that aircraft a bit more than some other aircraft.”

Toni: “As far as the Vulcan is concerned, I wouldn’t change a single thing about my own personal involvement throughout the years, when this project comes to an end… Well, actually… I don’t think we’ll ever allow ‘558 to die! Even after the flying life has finished, we still want to have a future for XH558 as the centre piece for education and engineering. I won’t call it a museum because that is not what we want it to be, but it be an almost living environment, think The Eden Project and you’ve got a good idea then. So I think, no I wouldn’t change a single thing, maybe the incident at the beginning of last year, I would change that if I could, but you know in terms of my own involvement, I have thoroughly enjoyed it and it’s been wonderful.”

TVF: Would you work on a different aircraft as well?

Toni: “Yes! I am a true aircraft geek, to be honest with you!”

TVF: An avgeek?

Toni: “Absolutely! And yes, I mean there are other aircraft that I particularly love, you mentioned the Lightning and they are for me, when I was a child going to air shows the Lightning and the Vulcan were always the ones that used to fly and they were always my favourites! So, I suppose the answer to that is, yes. I definitely would.”

TVF: You were saying as well, you don’t particularly want everything here that has happened with 558 to end, so in the future would it all go on to possibly education, with the Ve3 and things like that?

Toni: “Yes, that’s the plan! It would seem to us a to be a real travesty if all the money that people have put into this project come the end of it, she just ends up in another museum, we have 14 examples at present of aircraft that are in museums or static display and there are two examples of fast taxy running of that aircraft. Well, one and a half! The one at Southend (XL426) they’re still trying get back to fast taxy condition. So, I think there would be an intent to keep ‘558 still doing fast taxy runs, but the most important thing would be to continue the work we’re doing at the moment, which is the education.”

TVF: Like you say with the fast taxy runs, would that take place here (RHADS)?

Toni: “Hopefully, yes! We see a future for the Vulcan here at Doncaster, because at the end of the day Finningley, really we have to remember that this was RAF Finningley and this is almost the spiritual home of XH558, she spent 8 years here between 1961 and 1969, at times in this very hangar! The aim would then be to try and build a purpose built environment but that would be living where it would be excellence in engineering and excellence in science, so not just in aviation. Potentially, you would have the Vulcan there, we would also have bloodhound, for example… So, that’s the plan. Education – Let’s give more to the next generation.”

TVF: That’s a good thing because with me being young and working in aviation, it’s nice to try and get more younger people involved, because it’s seems really difficult at the minute doesn’t it?

Toni: “It’s very difficult! There isn’t the enthusiasm to study science and engineering. When I was young, if I wanted a go kart, which I did… Because I was a bit of a tomboy to be honest, I had to build it myself! I won’t tell stories of nicking my nieces wheels off her pram… But the thing I do remember is; I would be going down a hill and I’d be half way down when I’d suddenly think to myself that breaks would be an excellent idea! So, the Mk II had a lovely set of breaks! But if you think about it… That was the start of engineering, nowadays we have a very quick and easy society, in terms of; if you want something… You buy it, it’s already done for you, you don’t have to build it, you don’t have to find ways to make it and sometimes I think that this younger generation have lost out as a result of that. The toys that I can remember are things like Lego, you built your own stuff, but you didn’t have the sets, you just had blocks and bricks and you had to use your imagination to build something with it! That inspired me to want to go into engineering and that’s very much why I’m here today.”

TVF: When I was at school, I was never offered engineering, I wasn’t even offered mechanics, and I really want to be an engineer but because I’d never experienced those classes at school, I can’t go straight into engineering now, because I don’t have that experience for it. Would there be engineering classes based around the Vulcan and other stuff?

Toni: “Absolutely! In fact, we have developed a workshop at Aeroventure, which is a lovely aviation museum not far from here. The workshop is aimed towards young people especially that want to get that feel for engineering, for example; they’ll learn what different tools are, like screwdrivers, files and other tools do. It’s very much what we call ‘manual hand skills’ because obviously that is what the Vulcan is all about, it’s very much manual, mechanical engineering. However, understanding how those tools work even though we live now in a cad cam environment even knowing how to use a screwdriver or a saw, things like that would become useful and that is a new area for us. But you talk about being a girl in engineering nowadays, you should have tried it when I was young!”

TVF: It is difficult now, so I can’t imagine what it would have been like back then because I get people come up to me nowadays and they say ‘oh it’s so weird that you want to be an engineer’ or ‘it’s so weird that you work in aviation’ and I’m like ‘Why? It’s 2013… Have an open mind!’

Toni: “I was offered eventually an apprenticeship. I had to accept the fact that physically I may not be strong as some of the males that were on the course, however, my manual dexterity was perhaps better than quite a lot of the boys because sometimes have quite small, slim hands is really useful for those little inconvenient holes you to get into just to get to bits! But it was a lot harder for me as very few people took girls seriously in engineering in those days.”

TVF: These questions were sent to us by my friend, Matthew Smith. He has a few engineering questions for Taff and he would like to know – Being a Cold War era aircraft, how temperamental are the electronic systems on the aircraft?

Taff: “Being an old aircraft, it is old electrics so it is susceptible to the weather, so it doesn’t particularly like cold wet days, a bit like ourselves! But the more you use the aeroplane, the more it flies, the better and more reliable it does become

TVF: The working conditions for the flight crew on the Vulcan are renowned for being very cramped, is this also the case when working on the systems of the aircraft, or is it manufactured in such a way as to make an engineers’ life ‘easy’?

Taff: “No, it’s not. What they do is, they have the component then they build the aircraft around the component, so once it’s in there, you can’t get at it! Some parts are fairly easy to access but there are some that are not.”

TVF: How much does the engineering work carried out on the Vulcan differ from standard civil aircraft, in terms of legislation as well as the engineering operations themselves?

Taff: “It doesn’t differ that much. We do have to cover the same type of things, we do the pre-flight inspections, we do the routine maintenance in the civilian words we have the A checks, B check, C checks which is all laid down maintenance and we still have the check which were used within the Royal Air Force, so the procedures are similar but there are additional things that we have to work to on our permit to fly on a complex aircraft, things that other permit holders don’t have to do. Our critical to flight components have to be overhauled by the original manufacturers, to the original specs, which is a bit more than some of the other permit to fly aircraft.”

TVF: Of all the jobs on the aircraft, which do you look forward to with the biggest sense of dread when it is called up to be carried out

Taff: “I don’t think there is anything really that I look forward to with dread, there are certain parts of the servicing that I enjoy more, which is the ground running, to be able to sit there running the engines and when you take it up to full power, you know I can hear and feel the howl! That’s the good bits about it! There’s nothing I don’t think I actually dread.”

TVF: Does anything annoy you when you doing the servicing?

Taff: “Not really, probably the only thing you could say would be the NDT because unfortunately you can only do the x-rays in the evening, the jobs itself is not a problem, it’s just the time of day

TVF: My friend, Regan Johnston would like to know – How much does it cost to fill XH558, fuel wise?

 Taff: “Fuel wise? It depends what the price is at the pump! ‘558 holds 74,000lbs (which is around 40,000 litres) when full, and it depends on how much it is per litre, but when we did the hours ground run the other day, we’d used up around £5,000 worth of fuel for one hours running.”

TVF: More expensive than filling up your car, then?

Taff: “It is, yes.”

TVF: Now these are a few of my own questions, I’d just like to know – What advice would you give to youngsters who want to get involved with engineering?

Taff: “Go for it! I get a lot of job satisfaction in the jobs that I actually do, when you’re in engineering you can physically see what you’ve done and what you can do about it, and it’s such a good feeling of well being when you’ve done something where you can see the fruits of your labour. To me it’s well worth it.”

TVF: Does it feel like you’ve accomplished something?

Taff: “It certainly does.”

TVF: What’s your favourite memory of working with XH558?

Taff: “I suppose my most memorable one would be the first flight, when I saw her take off again for the first time.”

TVF: That’s quite a good one, I remember the first time I saw her fly, I was in awe!

Taff: “I think the first time I actually saw a Vulcan fly, I was about 15 and I was cycling over the black mountains in the Brecon Beacons and I just came to the brow of the hill, after cycling all the way up, I was rather fatigued, and this Vulcan came up from the other side of the hill, and it came up a couple of hundred feet over the top and I didn’t have a clue what it was!” 

Toni: “Errm, well obviously we’ve got the Leuchars event and I’ve been very fortunate to have spent an awful lot of time working around ‘558, I suspect to some extent it has been building this visitor attraction and becoming fairly successful to be honest with you and that to me has been very powerful for me in terms of experience, building it from stratch.”

TVF: I was talking to Taff earlier and he said the same that it’s nice to be able to see what has been produced of it all. Another thing, you say she has become this attraction to tourists, do you think that she attracts more and more every year?

Toni: “Definitely!”

TVF: I was here in November and there was a man who had come all the way from Australia just to see her!

Toni: “Oh yes! We had a group that came over from a Spanish flying club, and they flew over just to see her at the Duxford air show and at the same time they had put in their plans to come and see the Vulcan in the hangar. We also have a Facebook page, and anyone wanting to find our Facebook page will find it by just searching for ‘XH558’ and you can’t miss it because it has got over 28,000 likes which is not bad going, when you think that everybody considers ‘oh aeroplane fanatics are all anoraks… Hmmm, nope not at all!”

TVF: Not always! So every year, do you notice more foreign visitors?

Toni: “I’ve probably seen more people from further afield, we do have visitors from Canada, we’ve had them from Australia and America and that’s been fairly consistent since we opened this as an attraction. Inevitably, we now have visitors that say ‘oh my family, or my relatives are coming over in the summer… Can we bring them on a tour?’ So, I’m noticing more and more of that. We’ve had, I would say, just under 2,000 visitor from October to the end of December and I’ve probably seen another thousand since the beginning on January! Most of our tours are sold out.”

TVF: I’ve noticed that when I’m here volunteering, it does get pretty packed sometimes.

Toni: “It does indeed!”

TVF: Would you do it all over again (restoration) if you were given the chance?

Taff: “Yes, I would! I think my manager would say that they’ll never do a restoration again, we’ll maintain and operate but never another restoration! But it was enjoyable work. It was, again, seeing the fruits of our labour and to actually bring something up that people never believed would happen and to actually achieve that, the satisfaction was phenomenal!”

Toni: “Absolutely! In my mind, this has also developed me as a person, and there have been some absolute highs, I can’t really tell you sometimes that feeling of euphoria! But there have been some very, very dramatic lows, but you learn how to perceiver through those and I think that’s a very valuable aspect when you look at normal day to day life. This project epitomizes something, that nothing is impossible if you really put your mind to it.”

TVF: What made you want to become involved with engineering, joining the RAF… So on?

Taff: “I always wanted to join the forces, to get away. One of my friends, who was a year or two older than me, he joined the navy which is what I was originally hoping to do, go and see the world, as they do… But they were messed about, should I say, it what trades they wanted to do and how they were going about, so I decided then that the army wasn’t for me, so it was the air force because I did want to be in engineering of some sort.”

TVF: What made you want to get involved with this particular aircraft?

Toni: “I have been around Vulcans from quite a young age, my father was in the RAF, I can still remember XH558 when she was on the cusp of being sold and helping to raise some of the 100,000 names on the petition, I’ve even just recently come across video footage of sitting with my two children on Southend beach watching ‘558 come across the water and some incredible low level! Which they seemed to be allowed to do when she was in the RAF! Then flying out of shot. So I probably have got memories going back over 25 years of this aircraft and it has a certain something… If I could bottle it. I would be a very rich woman.”
What’s your most significant aviation memory?

Taff: “Oh! Errr, another highlight in my career was when I was on the Red Arrows! I actually managed to be flown back seat as one of the engineers for the Red Arrows, so I’ve done that as well, I have been quite lucky!”

TVF: Wow! I didn’t realise you were on the Red Arrows team!

Toni: “I mean, obviously I’ve done so much with Vulcan which is always going to be prominent. But I think probably, 3 years ago, or just over 3 years ago now, I travelled to South Africa because I had a passion to want to see a Lightning fly again and I knew that the Lightnings flew out in South Africa.”

TVF: Thunder City?

Toni: “Thunder City, indeed! I decided to go out there to try to visit Thunder City and then to go an air show where the Lightnings would be flying. I travelled out there, really unknowingly, having never travelled to South Africa before in my life and I had a fantastic time! Beautiful place to visit, and I did go to the air show, now the air show itself should have been one of my best memories because I was being hosted at the time by a film maker and his main thing was nature films but he had a hobby of filming aviation, so he was well known and he sat me down telling me ‘oh by the way, this is your seat here.’ and he was very strict about it and I looked to the right and I could see a man sat at a table, and it turned out that was the commentary position and as I was sat there, the commentator stood up and said ‘Oh well, ladies and gentleman, it’s lovely to see everybody here! We have about 80,000 people today, and we do have one very special visitor, it’s a lady that’s come all the way from the UK to come and see our Lightnings! … Toni! Tell me, have you got a connection with a certain aircraft?!’ Well, I stood there looking like a goldfish with my mouth flapping and not quite knowing what to say and to this day I cannot remember what I did say! Unfortunately, later in the day… The Lightning crashed.”

TVF: Oh my gosh, I imagine that would have been quite bad?

Toni: “Well it crashed and killed the pilot unfortunately. And it was absolutely horrific and I’d never experienced a crash at an air show before, I mean I’ve been to air shows and there have been incidents but not the day I was there. The Lightning crashed and I have to say that I have never ever forgotten it! They decided to continue with the air show, the pilots felt that is was a recognition of Dave Stock who was the pilot of that Lightning to continue to fly and at the end of the show, they have the equivalent on the Red Arrows, and the throughout the show, the commentator had kept coming over to say hello and asking what did I think of the show and I was numb from what had happened and as the equivalent of the Red Arrows, the Silver Falcons came in, he said ‘oh they’re now going to perform a special manoeuvre for Toni…’ and they did the ‘heart’ manoeuvre! Now I’m thinking that I should be sitting here thinking ‘oh wow this is wonderful!’ and I can’t because of what had happened earlier on in the day! So that’s probably one of my more significant memories in aviation!”

TVF: It must be strange to see a crash, I’ve never seen personally, but I know in the olden days, like at Farnborough they used to just carry on didn’t they? I imagine that nowadays they would just call the rest of the show off?

Toni: “Oh yeah! I think because these days it has changed quite considerably! I mean, 1952 was the first air show that the Vulcan flew into at Farnborough, but that was also the show that the De Havilland 110 crashed, killing John Derry, the test pilot at the time, but when it disintegrated in the air, one of the engines landed in the ground…”

TVF: Is that the plane that went up and split into two?

Toni: “It did! It literally just disintegrated and one of the engines fell into the crowd and killed 29 people. I’ve actually spoken to a number of people that have been on tours here, that were at that show and can remember it happening. It was almost a case that they just cleared up the carnage and carried on with the show! It’s amazing and like you say, it would be unlikely to happen now!”

 TVF: Now, I wasn’t sure if you’d be able to answer this one but you said that you’d flown in the aircraft, so you might be able to answer this one.  Jo wants to know – My burning question is, I like many of other 558 fans do will sometimes wait in a field or whatever along her flight route to and from a display to catch a glimpse of her. I’ve always wondered if the crew can see us as they go over?    

TVF: I don’t think they would be able to but I’m not sure!

Taff: “Yes you can see the crowd, whether you can actually make a certain person out… I doubt very much!”

TVF: So you can see the crowd, but not clear enough?

Taff: “Yes.”

TVF: These next few questions were actually sent in by my mum, Jo Parkin and she would like to know

How many Jaffa Cakes do you go through in a year?

Taff: “A lot! We had 100 boxes delivered, which lasted about 3 months.”

TVF: It seems that you quite like Jaffa Cakes around here?

Taff: “We all do!”

TVF: She would also like to know – When you’re repainting XH558, does it feel like you’re painting a giant Airfix kit?

Taff: “It is like that! It is a large bit, we do have a painter that comes in and does the majority of the painting but that year when we’d done the top of the wings, then they were rollered with several people up there with their rollers, rollering the aircraft!”

TVF: I have seen quite a few pictures of that! I think Siobhan (VTTST Official Photographer) was up there rolling around as well?

Taff: “Yep!”

TVF: Do you still get the rush of excitement as ‘558 howls or takes off?

Taff: “It’s the howl! When I hear that howl, I just get a big grin because I know she’s just about to take off, so for me it’s the initial howl at the start.”

TVF: These questions were sent to you by Rod Holmes, the founder of twitterVforce! Rod would like to know –

Since the project was started have there ever been discussions to revert 558 back to her original Anti Flash white paint scheme?

Taff: “No, not that I know of. I think because of our permit, we’re to keep her in her original colours (camouflage)  from her service because we have an exemption from the MoD to be able to fly in those colours, so we would have to re-apply to change bits and pieces and whilst we’ve got it, we’d like to keep it!”

TVF: With the spares recovery programme, were parts from XM607 removed for use and if so, do we have parts of Black Buck 1 still flying in the skies (apart from Martin Withers)?

Taff: “Yes, I do believe we have had spares from ‘607 now whether they’re on the aircraft nor or in our stores, I can’t say for definite, but I do know that over the years, spares have been removed from ‘607.”

TVF: When 558 finally retires from our skies, will she have all of her original inside systems  replaced?

Taff: “What we’ll hopefully be doing, will be actually putting the cockpit back to its original views. Obviously, a lot of the systems will not be working because they were completely removed, however the aesthetics of the aircraft will look the same and we will re-introduce the instrument panels and what have you, with the components but they won’t be completely working.”

TVF: These questions were sent you to by Dave Taylor who actually supports the XM655 team by helping voluntarily and he helps to raise awareness for XM655. He is also a team member and the technical guru for twitterVforce.com! Dave would like to know – What is the fiddliest maintenance job on XH558, and what is the task that the groundcrew least look forward to performing?

Taff: “The field system can be quite temperamental, cause it is again, an old system. But no, as I said, I don’t there’s any systems I dread having to do. I know that a lot of the systems used to cause a lot of problems in the olden days was the military flight systems and that. But all that has been removed now for modern avionics so the systems we used to have a lot of trouble with are no longer fitted and functional with the aircraft.”

TVF: When you watch XH558 leap into the air on takeoff, what is going through your mind?

Taff: ‘Oh good, I can go and sit down and have a cuppa coffee now cause everyone’s watching the aeroplane’.

TVF: Does it make you happy to see everyone else happy when watching the Vulcan?

Taff: “Oh it does, yeah! I’m happy when she takes off because I know then that there is a lot of happy people around but it does give me a chance just to sit down and have 5 minutes.”

TVF: How does working on the only flying Vulcan in the world make you feel?

Taff: “Happy to come to work in the mornings.”

TVF: Do you enjoy your job?

Taff: “I do, yes.”

TVF: Does it make you feel proud?

Taff: “Yes, it does. It builds so much happiness and pleasure to so many people, it’s a hobby that you can work at.”

TVF: Dave also says “558 is sponsored by some of the big names in aviation and engineering, but surely McVities, purveyors of the finest Jaffa Cakes ought to be on the sponsors list also? Since their contribution to keeping her crew happy!”

Taff: “If they would like to donate the said items, then I believe they would be put onto the website (sponsors list)!”

TVF: Toni, Dave would also like to know – How does your role fit in with VTTS and what are the challenges you often face?

Toni: “Well my role nowadays as access manager is to set up and maintain visitor access to the Vulcan and it is challenging because we’re operating in a live airside environment and fortunately the airport (RHADS) has helped up to bring our visitors on site. We’re also constantly challenged with maybe not always being able to provide enough tours for people to come along or enough places, and we have a lot of limitations, so it’s balancing that and it’s also the fact that it’s providing, or is trying to provide and income. We’re doing this one a zero budget, that’s my biggest challenge, I have no budget to go out and buy display cases or anything because every penny has to go back into keeping the aircraft going and that is only right, I cannot argue that point but it is therefore challenging because you want to make this look professional and smart and look like a real visitor attraction but that can be difficult when there is no budget to do it!”

TVF: This question was sent to us by Steve Bateman and he would like to know – Has 558 got leading edge heating on her wings and if so what system is it?

Taff: “Hot air and de-icing, ducted off the engines and just fed down the leading edge of the wings.”

TVF: Liz Doak would like to know – In an ideal world what would the long term funding of 558 entail, sponsorship ? corporate? public?

Toni: “Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had one of these people that is a multi-billionaire, where for them £2 million would be nothing, our biggest challenge is that we’re always on the back foot. We can’t do an awful lot of planning ahead because we haven’t got the money. For example; there are jobs that could be done but we can’t do them, we have to divert them because we haven’t got the money to do them straight away, we have to plan what are the things we desperately need to do, so we would have to put these things off until we have got the money to do them. Whereas, if we had the money, we could probably do it more efficiently and maybe even cheaper by being able to have that money up front to do it… If we had £2 million handed to us now, apart from the fact that we’d probably have to pick ourselves up off of the floor, but if we did, suddenly everything would take on a new aspect. There would be shows that we could do, for example, that we can’t do now because we can’t afford to do those shows and they can’t afford to pay us what it would cost. I only see sponsorship or donation to be the ideal way forward. However, it does give a little ownership to the aircraft that we have got so many loyal followers that continue every year to exceed our expectations and bring in the money to keep the Vulcan flying.”

TVF: Like on Twitter, when the news broke about this possibly being the last season… I have never seen any news break out onto Twitter so quickly! Everyone was like ‘We have got to start fundraisers and do everything we can!’

Toni: “They (the fans) have proven that throughout this project that when you face adversity, we always seem to overcome it. I vaguely remember Robert Pleming turning around and saying that he thought that we perhaps had a guardian angel that steps in every time is really looks bleak. I, myself have manned telephones at 12 o’clock at night, where if we hadn’t have achieved a certain figure, we knew that the project would come to an end, and at that point, it was coming up to midnight and we didn’t know if we were going to achieve the figure that we needed.”

TVF: It’s quite good though that people don’t seem to want to stop giving. It seems that on both Facebook and Twitter people constantly want to help. Which is part of the driving force keeping ‘558 in the sky.

Toni: “Absolutely!”

TVF: That’s it for the questions from our audience. Are there any final words you’d like to say?

Toni: “It is actually a BIG thank you to everybody that supports us, whether that person is; Well yourself who has come along and volunteered your time to help us here in the hangar… Whether it be time or money it’s all been valuable to us because without that we wouldn’t be here now. There’s only 17 full time employees with the Vulcan to the Sky Trust and there is only so much that we can do, without the volunteers, without the people who donate, the people that will go and rattle buckets for us along the flight line, when ‘558 is flying, the people from Yorkshire Post who put a full page advert in the paper free of charge for us, all of that… I’d just like to be able to say thank you to everybody that continues to support ‘558.”

TVF: Taff, any final words?

Taff: “Thank you for the all the continued support!”

TVF: I would just like to say thank you on behalf of twitterVforce.com for everything that you, Taff and all the rest of the team have been doing as well!

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Avro Vulcan B Mk2 XH558

All images are Copyright © twitterVforce.com

 

Vickers Valiant – Has she been forgotten?

Welcome once again to the #twitterVforce website and the blog area of the site. This latest blog is solely dedicated to the Vickers Type 660 – better known as the Valiant.

Thanks go out to Amy for her research and to Andy Crowcroft for the images of the sole remaining complete Valiant at RAF Museum, Cosford –  XD818.

If you like what you read, why not have a look and sign up to our forum, which is the only one dedicated to the V Force.

Rod

The Forgotten V Bomber?

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 The Vickers Valiant was the first British bomber to have dropped a nuclear bomb, and that itself is a huge chunk of history, so has the Valiant become forgotten?

 

I, myself, know absolutely nothing about the Valiant, which is absolutely terrible considering I am a huge V Force fan. I had been told to do my homework, and research about the Valiant. That’s why I’m writing this, I’ve done my homework and I’m here to talk about what I’ve learnt.

Vickers Valiant XD818 is the only fully intact Valiant left in the world; she is also the very Valiant that dropped the UK’s first nuclear bomb. She was first flown on 4th September 1956, and she was delivered to 49 squadron at RAF Wittering on 14th November 1956. She was one of 8 Valiants to have been modified by Vickers for Operation Grapple – The testing of the nuclear bomb drop. Modifications include, anti-flash curtains inside the cockpit and cameras mounted upon her bomb bay to record the drop. She was flown out to Christmas Island in March 1957 and dropped the bomb on 15th May 1957. The drop had been codenamed ‘Short Granite’. She was later flown back home to Britain in 1958 where she resumed to normal duties and was stripped of her ‘Operation Grapple’ modifications in November 1959. She was later converted into a BK.1 Tanker and repainted to a green and grey camouflage scheme in 1961. She was sadly grounded in December 1964, alongside every other Valiant in service due to spar fatigue issues that had been discovered, XD818 was the last of the Valiants used in a refuelling sortie, she had refuelled English Electric Lightnings over the North Sea.. Repairs on Valiants had been deemed uneconomical and by January 1965 XD818 had been withdrawn from use and was heading for the scrap heap. However, she escaped scrapping after being spotted by a lover of history, and she was placed on exhibition at RAF Marham in May 1965. Later on in 1973 her Avon engines were removed and sold on to be used in Hunters. XD818 was transported to Hendon and shortly after her arrival she was repainted to her original anti-flash white roots. She took her final trip to RAF Cosford (RAF Museum) in late 2005, she was dismantled for the move to Cosford and spent several weeks awaiting re-assembly. She was finally re-assembled in early 2006 and now lives comfortably in the Cold War Exhibition Hangar at RAF Cosford.

Vickers Valiant XD818 at RAF Marham in 1970

Vickers Valiant XD818 at RAF Marham in 1970

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Valiants during conflict – The Suez Crisis –

 

During the late months of 1956, conflict had erupted over the Suez Canal (Gaza Strip and Egypt). Egypt had announced its intentions to nationalise the Suez Canal. The Egyptians had taken control of the Suez Canal, causing conflict between itself (Egypt), Israel, France and the United Kingdom, this conflict meant that the Vickers Valiant became the first of the V Bombers to have seen combat, there were 7 primary targets, all being Egyptian airfields. Only 3 of the 7 were seriously damaged, with the Valiants having dropped a total of 856 Tonnes in bombs. This was the last time a V Bomber flew a war mission until a certain Mr. Withers bombed Port Stanley airfield in ‘607.

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On January 24th, my good friend, co-worker, and fellow #twitterVforce guest blogger, Andy Crowcroft took a trip to RAF Cosford, where he visited XD818. He’s the only person that I personally know to have seen her in the flesh, so decided I would ask him some questions about his visit and his other thoughts on the Valiant!

 

Q. Hello, Andy! You’re the only person I know who has come face to face with XD818. First of all I’d like to ask, how did it feel seeing the only fully intact Valiant (in the world!) in the flesh?

 

A. Hi Amy, to be honest it seemed a bit surreal, she was the main reason for my visit to Cosford and not what I expected, she looked different to how I imagined and sat next to the Vulcan and Victor she did not disappoint!

 

Q. Awesome! Is she bigger than you imagined? I always imagined Valiants to be quite small but after seeing your pictures, she looks like a big bird!

 

A. She was a lot bigger than I thought, quite long if I’m honest, more like a charter plane we have today, with quite a rounded shape at the front.

 

Q. How did it feel to have finally seen a Valiant in front of you?

 

A. Amazing, I think the biggest thing was realising that she is the last fully intact Valiant on the face of the planet, it (the visit) had also completed my mission of seeing all 3 V Force bombers, not to mention XD818 is the only V Bomber to drop nuclear bomb and I was stood next to her.

 

Q. Nice! Moving away from Cosford now, what is your personal view on the Valiant itself?

 

A. Strangely I don’t know as much as I’d like to know about them, but from research I find it a shame that these planes are pretty much forgotten to people, I think the fact they were pulled out if service so early makes them a distant memory, personally I love them, they were built to guard us during the Cold War and that’s what they did.

 

Q. Do you think that there is a lack of information when it comes to the Valiant that’s leading them to be known as the ‘Forgotten V Bomber’?

 

A. Yes, I think the main problem was the fact that as tactics changed and the RAF decided to fly them at low levels, the Valiant couldn’t cope and the wings would crack, so as a result they were pulled from service too early, I kind of guess this has a big part to play, and the fact there is only one left fully built kind of leaves people unaware.

 

Q. Exactly, they were pulled due to their spar fatigue. What’s your opinion on all Valiants being led to the scrapping fleet?

 

A. It’s sad, I hate hearing about the scrapping of any plane, but for me the Cold War jets are the best of British engineering, what people need to understand is that these planes were made in the late 40’s which makes only a few years (11 years max.) from the design of the Lancaster Bomber, on that I think there should be more Valiants around the world.

 

 

Q. Do you think scrapping could have been avoided?

 

A. Yes, to a certain extent, the only downside was time, there wasn’t the money or interest to keep the Valiants, so I guess the government looked and thought of money, then decided to scrap them as they were no longer required.

 

Q. I completely agree. Do you think that Vulcans, such examples like XH558, have taken away the limelight from Valiants?

 

A. I think the difference between the two are the designs, what people always talk about with the Vulcan is the shape and wing span, which I do agree with, as this was a new way of technology and manoeuvrability, so yes more people are familiar with The Delta lady.

 

 

Q. I agree, as she’s a bit more modern than the Valiant, people do tend to become more smitten towards XH558, as well as the fact that she’s the only flying Vulcan. What do you think would be the best approach to promote Valiants?

 

A. That’s the big thing, we have no flying examples, and things may well have been different then. With regards to promoting Valiants, I think the best way would have to be through Cosford, I always add into my tours that she is the last complete Valiant and is worth the trip to see. Also through using the #twitterVforce forum to spread the word.

 

Q. Excellent! Exactly, that’s what #twitterVforce is for! It’s great that you add her into your tour talks for XH558 too! How did you become interested in aviation, more specifically, V Bombers?

 

A. It’s a strange one, I used to live close to RAF Finningley as a child, and I remember playing football with my mate (aged 10) so, 23 years ago and a Vulcan flew over, I remember the noise and this big shadow. Then last year my friend told me about Waddington Air Show and I saw XH558 was flying so we went, but she didn’t fly. I then found out she was at based at RHADS, so I went see her fly from there, from then onwards I’ve been totally hooked, and now really enjoy doing tours for XH558 and talking about the V Force.

 

Q. It’s the worst when you go to a show to watch her fly and she doesn’t, happened 3 times to me! How did it make you feel when she flew overhead (when you were younger)?

 

A. She scared the life out of me, the size and roar of those engines, I mean I’ve seen planes before, my first memory being an A10 tank buster on Flamborough Head but the Vulcan has always been in the back of my mind from that experience.

 

Q. She scared me too, the first time I saw her! She sure does know how to make an impression! Okay, finally back to the Valiant. Are there any final words you’d like to say about the Valiant?

 

A. Hand on heart, if you have the chance to get to Cosford please go and check out XD818, you’ll be surprised, after all the Valiant was part of a team that watched over us during the Cold War and kept us safe.

 

Final words: Fabulous. Thank you for your time and answering all my questions!

 

I would personally like to thank Andy Crowcroft for sparing an hour of his time to answer my questions. Don’t forget if you’re visiting the hangar, say hello to Andy, you might even get to hear one of his fabulous tour talks! I would also like to thank him for the use of his photos.

 

Back to XD818, I find it really sad that she is the only fully intact example of a Valiant left in the world, she’s beautiful and breathtaking, and it’s nice to have such a rare form of beauty but there’s still a part of me that wishes we had more of them, so that we can enjoy more of them, and so that we could treasure them.

 

Yes, we have surviving nose and cockpit sections but that’s not the same for me, unfortunately. I understand that Valiants were taken out of service very, very early; however, I still don’t understand how more of them weren’t saved.

 

Why weren’t they found as interesting as the Vulcan or Victor? They dropped the bomb, they’re very unique and interesting to look at, and they seemingly also make an impression. So what is so unappealing to the public and aviation enthusiasts?

 

I wish that there were more people around like Andy Crowcroft, myself and other members of the #twitterVforce team, people who are passionate about aviation, more specifically V Bombers and even more specifically, Valiants.

 

Before writing this I was prepared to say that Valiants were completely forgotten, but after talking to Rod and interviewing Andy, I realised that they are very much treasured and loved, even if it is only by a few people. They are slowly being forgotten but with the help of #twitterVforce I feel that the Valiants are very much being kept alive.

9

 

Personally, I love the Valiant. Even though I have only just learnt about them, it was very silly have to have waited so long to read about them and research their history. I missed out on something great.

 

Amy.

tVf

 

#twitterVforce – The Interview Series No 1 – XH558

****** QUESTION SUBMISSION HAS NOW CLOSED******

Welcome to the official #twitterVforce website. If you have visited us before, you will be well aware of our aims and goals. If this is your first visit please take time to have a look around, read about the concept and maybe view our blogs. You can also follow us on twitter @VForceHQ @ROD558 @XM655 and if you like what you see, why not contribute by submitting a blog of your own.

Right then, why all the hype I hear you ask? Simple really, #twitterVforce has been granted an EXCLUSIVE opportunity to interview two members of the Vulcan To The Sky Trust (VTTST) who as you know are the custodians of the worlds only airworthy Avro Vulcan B.Mk2 XH558.

What we would like to do, as a big thank you for all your support is to ask our devoted followers to submit questions that we then can put to the team members who are generously giving us their valuable time.

You can find details on how you can do this further along in this blog.

One of our most prolific bloggers for the site Amy Parkin (@_AmyParkin) will be conducting the interviews so I will pass over to her for a few words in her own unique style…………..

 Hi V Force Fans! 

Your Roving Reporter, Amy Parkin here! I just wanted to let you all know that on behalf of #twitterVforce I will be interviewing Avro Vulcan B. Mk2 XH558 Chief Engineer KEVIN ‘TAFF’ STONE and Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s Team Liaison, TONI HUNTER   How exciting?!? 

VTTS-Taff-Toni

Vulcan XH558 Crew Chief – Kevin ‘Taff’ Stone & VTTST Team Liaison – Toni Hunter

For those who don’t know me that well yet – Hello! I’m Amy, I’m 18 years old, and I’m the ‘Roving Reporter’ for the twitterVforce team! I’m a voluntary worker for XH558 and I regularly blog about my experiences with the Tin Triangle and now… I’m interviewing some of her crew!

 Taff and Toni both play vital roles in keeping XH558 alive and gracefully taking to our skies. So what I want to know is; if you could ask either Taff or Toni just one question… What would it be?!

Thank you for your constant support and encouragement…

 Amy.

So there you go, I pass the ball over to you all to get submitting those questions in for Taff and Toni. This is a UNIQUE opportunity that you cannot afford to miss and once we have collated the questions, conducted the interviews we will once again post as blogs at www.twitterVforce.com

To submit your questions, please click on the form directly below to take you to our submissions page.

XH558 Interview Form

Thanks to you all and remember…………

Keep Calm & Support

#twitterVforce

Rod

*Images kindly reproduced here with permission from VTTST

 

AVRO VULCAN XM594 – A Vulcan at Newark Air Museum

Well, what a fascinating few months it has been for us here at #VForceHQ. 1st the blog site, followed by this website and the creation of our dedicated VForce HQ twitter feed.

So to finish off 2012 with a bang, we publish another Guest Blog by a regular contributor & VTTST Volunteer at RHAD (RAF Finningley) Amy Parkin (@_AmyParkin). In her latest blog she takes us through her visit to Avro Vulcan XM594 at Newark Air Museum and is unique as it contains ‘interview’ sections as well as the usual fantastic pictures.

This blog came to frutition as Amy wished to write another blog for our site but needed a little ‘inspiration’ as to a subject. At the time she was running a competition on her blog page entitled ‘Guess the Vulcan’ in which she had an image of one of our favorite aircraft with her serial number removed for all to investigate and then to ‘Name the Vulcan’. Some fantastic prizes were on offer and I am glad to say that  she has allowed me to reproduce one of those prizes on this blog (and what a cracker it is, you’ll find it at the bottom of the blog). “That’s the subject of your next blog Amy” I said, and here it is.

We are always pleased to receive any contributions either in the form of blogs, pictures or anything V Force related. You can contact us by email info@twittervforce.com or via our twitter feed @VForceHQ

Thanks for your support once again and return often as exciting news will very soon be announced for a very ‘special’ event in 2013!

Rod

 

XM594 – A Vulcan at Newark Air Museum

 

4th August 2012 – A warm summers day, one of those types days where you remember everything precisely. My sister, Bryony, friend, Regan and I decided we’d take a day trip out to Newark Air Museum, we were all free, my sister and I had managed to get the day off work and Regan wasn’t at college as it was the summer holidays. We set off so early in the morning, it was about 0830 when we set off, and that is pretty early for me! It was quite miserable in the morning, but that all changed when we arrived in Newark – The skies suddenly turned blue, the sun was blazing, and the atmosphere was so cheery. The very first thing you see when you get to the museum is XM594, looking gorgeous, glinting in the sunlight. She’s beautiful.

Your 1st view

Your 1st view

 

You drive through the gates and there she is – The star of the show, stealing the limelight from all the other aircraft that are on display on those former airfields. She catches the attention of every visitor.

 

I remember walking through the car park, alongside other visitors, making their way down to the reception, there were families, with young children, and most significantly I remember a little boy shouting “Daddy! Look, daddy! There’s a Vulcan! Can you see her?” The little boy had the biggest smile on his face. It was wonderful to witness, this little lad was soon scooped up in his father’s arms, being told of the history and stories about the V Force – It was definitely the cutest of sights!

 

You have to go through the shop reception to get through to aircraft on display… I don’t think I could have got through reception any quicker… I was really excited! XM594 isn’t too far away from the reception area so I ran out to her, like a little kid. You know how some things just make you smile uncontrollably, well, she did just that. I was smiling so much, my cheeks were hurting.

The War Bird

The War Bird

 

My friend, Regan, had recently followed in my footsteps and he was becoming avidly interested in aviation and he really wanted to see fully intact Vulcan, so when we took him to Newark I think he was pretty impressed by XM594. I interviewed him about our visit and here’s what he had to say –

 

Q. What was your first impression of seeing XM594 at Newark Air Museum?

 

Regan: “The sheer size was remarkable and it was even better to see a Vulcan up close, brilliant experience I have to say.”

 

Q. And did she make a lasting impression?

 

Regan: “Well I am a large Vulcan fan now, so seeing the XM594 will be something to remember for years to come.”

 

Q. Now, just to break off from XM594 for a brief moment – You finally got to see XH558 fly for the first time later on in August, after our visit to Newark. It was only brief (literally 49 seconds); how was that for you?

Regan: “That was a brilliant experience too, seeing XM594 was spectacular but then seeing the XH558 for a few brief seconds, it was heart pounding, the sound of the engines really has an impact on the way you see this aircraft.”

 

Q. Lovely! What was your favourite part about seeing XM594 at Newark, were you just happy you’d finally got to see a Vulcan up close? How did it make you feel?

 

Regan: “My favourite part was looking at her head on and realising how large the Vulcan really is, you don’t quite understand until you have seen one up close. Honestly? It made me feel small but really happy that I finally saw a Vulcan for the first time.”

 

Q. Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say about the Vulcans/V Force?

 

Regan: “I’d like to say I don’t think I’ve seen or heard such a magnificent plane and I’ll always remember my first time seeing her. I was into aviation before but never really paid much attention… until you took me to the air museums and to see XH558 and XM594”

 

I enjoyed passing on my experiences with XH558, my interest in the V Force and aviation also, with Regan.

 

I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone; but most of us volunteers in the hangar (with ‘558) have a little ‘ritual’ – Some pat her wheels, some pat her bomb bay doors. It’s the bomb bay doors for me, entrance door if it’s open. I wanted to pat XM594 so badly before I left the air museum, the bomb bay doors were closed, as was the entrance door… The wheels were an option, an easy option. I’m 5ft 2”… I have no idea how I managed it but I decided I would pat engine 4… I did it! It made me feel happy that I’d done it. In some ways my visit there was complete because of that pat.

Nosewheel Bay Serial Number Markings

Nosewheel Bay Serial Number Markings

 

I spent the majority of my time there just staring at ‘594. We even went back to her twice before we left. It’s really strange how something so deadly can be so beautiful.

 

Before touching down at Newark Air Museum, XM594 was the second to last Vulcan to be built as a B.2 Blue Steel, she was delivered to the RAF in 1963 and assigned to No 27 Sqn, RAF Scampton, she later on joined No 617 Sqn, also based at Scampton, and later on, her final service came with No 44 Sqn based at Waddington. XM594 stayed at home whilst five other Vulcans were deployed to RAF Ascension Island.

44 Rhodesia Squadron

44 Rhodesia Squadron

 

On February 7th 1983, Avro Vulcan B.2 XM594 arrived at Newark Air Museum; she landed on a former bomber airfield used during World War II, which back in 1983 was being used for gliding! She arrived during a snow flurry; the heavyweight bomber landed safely on the gliders airfield and has been based at Newark Air Museum since 1983.

 

I remember visiting Newark Air Museum in 2005 with my parents. They powered her up (electrically). I was 11 and for some reason the memory of her being powered up is really vague, but I can’t forget it.

My dad went inside XM594’s cockpit in 2005, so I interviewed him to ask about his experiences with Vulcans and the V Force.

 

Q.  Dad, in 2005, you went into the cockpit of XM594. What was that like?

 

Dad: “My first impression was just how little space there was for the five crew members and even though I had the opportunity to sit in the pilot seats, I chose not too simply because of the lack of space.”

 

Q. What was it like for you walking up those yellow ladders?

 

Dad: “It was exciting because it was something I have always wanted to do, I’ve always wanted to go inside a Vulcan, but I was really nervous, it was a big thing for me.”

 

Q. What’s your most significant memory from it?

 

Dad: “Again, the lack of space and how primitive the technology used was.”

 

Q. Would you do it again?

 

Dad: “I would love to… But in ‘558 simply because she’s the last one flying!”

 

Q. How did you become interested in the V Force?

 

Dad: “When I was a young lad, I remember seeing a Victor on the front of a comic and it terrified me! It just looked evil, and it scared me. Victors are very skeletal looking! Then one day, I was out playing and I was only about 6 or 7, and a Vulcan flew overhead, and even though it probably wasn’t going to take the chimney pots off, it definitely looked like it was going to, it felt like it was only 30ft above me! After witnessing this, Vulcans became of interest to me and these interests continued into later life.”

 

Q. Why did we go to Newark in 2005?

 

Dad: “We went for XM594 specifically, I wanted to get up, close and personal with a Vulcan and to be able to go inside the cockpit was an added bonus!”

 

Q. What was it like to hear her electrically powered up?

 

Dad: “The best word for it is whiny!”

 

Q. Is there anything else you want to say about the Vulcans/V Force?

Dad: “It’s a real shame that there are no more airworthy examples other than XH558, and I really hope her flying life can be extended, and I would really love to see a Victor fly too.”

 

I enjoyed talking to my dad about his experiences with aviation and the V Force, he’s the reason I’m so interested in aviation and I love sharing the passion for it with my dad!

 

Back to my visit to Newark –

 

The Blue Steel Missile; I had always wanted to see a Blue Steel missile; I couldn’t remember it from my first visit, but the second time around… I remember screaming at it! Not in an angry way, but I was pretty happy about seeing the missile. I learned most of what I know about the Blue Steel missile from working in the hangar and it was nice to finally see one. It’s really hard to imagine how big the missile actually is until you see one! They’re pretty big; they have a wingspan of 4m, they weigh around 17,000lbs and fly at a speed of Mach 2.3 They were manufactured by Avro, after they were selected (to do so) by the Ministry Of Supply. The Blue Steel was officially retired on December 31st 1970.

XM594 with Blue Steel & 1000lb'er under her fuselage

XM594 with Blue Steel & 1000lb’er under her fuselage

 

I didn’t really want to leave the museum, I felt happy there and I was content. The journey home seemed to take forever.

 

I really enjoy visiting air museums and Newark is one of my favourites. I love be able to visit Vulcans, and I love being able to write about my trips like this.

 

I just want to thank Regan and my dad for allowing me to interview them and include them in this article. I really appreciate it.

 

I’d also like to thank Rod for allowing me, once again, to write a guest blog.

The beautiful girl

The beautiful girl

 

Now keep calm and support the #twitterVforce

reds

An amazing prize. The Reds – signed by The Reds

 

Amy.