The Last of the Vulcans Retires After 55 Years of Service

Illustration for article titled The Last of the Vulcans Retires After 55 Years of Service

On the 1st of July, 1960 Avro pilot Tony Blackman climbed into the cockpit of a Hawker Siddeley Vulcan delta wing strategic bomber in order to deliver her from the aircraft manufacturer (A.V. Roe and Company, Avro) for Royal Air Force service. The British four-jet aircraft dressed in antiflash white–military serial XH558–was the 59th of the 136 Avro Vulcan medium range heavy bombers ever built. And this summer XH558, The Spirit of Great Britain, the last of her type is going to bid farewell to the skies.

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The Vulcans’ sophisticated silhouette was so remarkable among the Cold War-era bombers, that one could easily forget that they carried the United Kingdom’s first nuclear weapon, the Blue Danube atomic bomb. Thankfully, those weapons of mass destruction were never dropped, and the Vulcans went into real action only once, when they dropped conventional bombs to the runway at Port Stanley in the Falklands War in 1982, setting the record of the world’s longest distance bombing raids at that time.

Owned and operated by the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, the XH558 has been the only flying example of the Vulcans since 2007, when she was restored to flying condition following a public fundraising campaign that helped raise more than £7 million. Sadly, VTTS has announced that the lack of further technical support is going to bring an inevitable end to this story. Now, as one of the most iconic example of British aerospace engineering, XH558 is on her last–Farewell to Flight 2015–tour. She will star at several air shows, including the world’s largest military air show, the Royal International Air Tattoo–before grounded forever in September.

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The following set of images is a humble tribute to this legendary aircraft.

VX770, an Avro Vulcan prototype, on the 16th September, 1952

Illustration for article titled The Last of the Vulcans Retires After 55 Years of Service

Photo: Topical Press Agency/Hulton Archive/Getty Images


Avro Vulcan B.1, the initial production aircraft, with straight leading edge

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Photo: RAF/Crown Copyright


Three Avro Vulcan bomber planes of the British Royal Air Force fly over Waddington, England, Sept. 18, 1957.

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Photo: AP


XA903, delivered in 1957, in the air at the Farnborough Air Show, carrying one of Britain’s guided bombs, known as a ‘stand-off bomb’

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Photo: George Hales/Getty Images


XH501 of the 617 Squadron taking off from the airfield in London, England. Circa 1958.

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Photo: Central Press/Archive Photos/Getty Images


Vulcan XH558 on a test flight in 1960, painted in antiflash white that was designed to help protect the crew from the thermal radiation emitted by a nuclear explosion beneath

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Photo: Rolls-Royce


Royal Air Force excercise over Kenya, 1960

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Scanned from: Repülés, 1960/11


Mid-air refueling from a Valiant bomber, 1961

Illustration for article titled The Last of the Vulcans Retires After 55 Years of Service
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Scanned from: Repülés, 1961/2


XA903 on the cover of a Hungarian weekly scientific magazine, called Delta, 1967

Illustration for article titled The Last of the Vulcans Retires After 55 Years of Service
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Scanned from: Delta, 1967/1.


XH558 flying over during a flight display at the Farnborough aerospace show, in Farnborough, England, Wednesday July 16, 2008

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Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/AP


XH588 undergoes its final compass swing test at RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on May 7, 2008, Boston, England

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Photo: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images


Pilot Ian Young, stands beside the XH558 at Bruntingthorpe airfield May 9, 2008 in England

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Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images


Crowds gather around the restored Vulcan bomber at the annual RNAS Yeovilton Air Day on July 9, 2011 in Yeovil, England

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Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images


The last Avro Vulcan putting on an air display during the Goodwood Festival of Speed at Goodwood House on June 28, 2014 in Chichester, England

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Photo: Chris Bird/Getty Images


The restored XH558 takes to the skies at the annual RNAS Yeovilton Air Day on July 9, 2011 in Yeovil, England

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Photo: Matt Cardy/Getty Images


Top shot: Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

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DISCUSSION

Is this plane being retired due to wear on the air frame or purely because of a lack of technical support, If it’s technical support what kind and can anything be done about it?

I wonder if there are other air frames out there that are salvageable or is there such a lack of replacement parts that it would never be possible to get another example airworthy?

I love these planes and it seems so much of the amazing technology from the 60’s is now being finally retired. It feels like the human race is taking a step backwards at times, gone are the Vulcans, Concorde, the Space Shuttle. Sad times.