SR-71/ Avro Vulcan

On 1 September 1974 The Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird set (and holds) the record for flying from New York to London in the time of 1 hour, 54 minutes and 56.4 seconds at a speed of 1,435.587 miles per hour (2,310.353 km) the Lockheed SR-71 “Blackbird” was an advanced, long-range, Mach 3+ strategic reconnaissance aircraft. It was developed as a black project from the Lockheed A-12 reconnaissance aircraft in the 1960s by Lockheed and itsSkunk Works division. Clarence “Kelly” Johnson was responsible for many of the design’s innovative concepts. During reconnaissance missions, the SR-71 operated at high speeds and altitudes to allow it to outrace threats. If asurface-to-air missile launch was detected, the standard evasive action was simply to accelerate and outfly the missile.The SR-71 served with the U.S. Air Force from 1964 to 1998. A total of 32 aircraft were built; 12 were lost in accidents, but none lost to enemy action. The SR-71 has been given several nicknames, including Blackbird and Habu. Since 1976, it has held the world record for the fastest air-breathing manned aircraft, a record previously held by the YF-12.

601px-XH558_PlanformThe Prototype Avro Vulcan No.698 first flew on August 30 1952, . Now a famous example of British engineering heritage, the Vulcan was designed to carry Britain’s new nuclear deterrent, codenamed “Blue Danube”. Its vast size and large delta wing ensure it is perfectly distinctive today, let alone in 1952, when some thought they’d seen an alien spaceship. It was, indeed, the first large delta wing aircraft (leading directly to Concorde), and featured innovations such as electrically-operated flying controls and an early version of ABS braking. Compared with its Avro Lancaster predecessor, which had first flown just 11 years before the Vulcan prototype climbed into the sky, its speed and agility were astonishing.The plane only entered combat once, and not in its nuclear capacity, when it flew 8,000 miles to Port Stanley Airport on the Falkland Islands in 1982, dropping bombs that prevented Argentina operating its own Mirage III fighters.

Two years later the Vulcans were withdrawn from service and today only one, XH558, still flies. This is owned by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which returned XH558 to the air in 2007. Since then the charity has managed to display the Vulcan at numerous airshows, which attract up to seven million people (including me) annually. Now Airshow organisers talk about ‘the Vulcan Effect’ and have also described the aircraft as a national treasure.” AVro Vulcan XH558 (civil aircraft registration G-VLCN) The Spirit Of Great Britain is the only airworthy example of the 134 Avro Vulcan V bombers that were operated by the Royal Air Force from 1953 until 1984. Vulcan XH558 served with the RAF between 1960 and 1985 in the bomber, maritimereconnaissance and air-to-air refuelling roles.

XH558, was the twelfth Vulcan B2 built,it first flew in 1960 and was delivered to No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit RAF at RAF Waddington on 1 July 1960. Almost immediately the aircraft moved with 230 OCU to RAF Finningley where the aircraft spent some eight years before returning to Lincolnshire in 1968. Most of its operational service was with the units of the Waddington Wing including No. 50 Squadron RAF. The aircraft was converted to a SR2 Maritime Radar Reconnaissance in 1973 and flew with 27 Sqn, subsequently to the air-to-air refuelling variant K2 in 1982. It was returned to standard B2 configuration in 1985 and was the last Vulcan in service. From 1986 to 1992, it was the RAF’s display aircraft.After service with the Royal Air Force, the aircraft was sold to C.Walton Limited and delivered by air to Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome on 23 March 1993. The aircraft was kept in a serviceable condition and would undertake fast taxi runs along Bruntingthorpe’s main runway. The RAF operated XH558 as a display aircraft from 1986 until 1992, when budget cuts forced its retirement.It is presently operated by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust as a display aircraft, funded entirely by charitable donations and the UK Lottery’s Heritage Fund.It is registered with the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority as G-VLCN but has an exemption to fly in Royal Air Force markings as XH558 and has been flying regularly at various air shows like Duxford, Waddington, Fairford and Cosford.

The Avro Vulcan is an iconic example of British aerospace trchnology at it’s best it is an iconic example of of intense post-war innovation during a period of intense global tension, that made British aviation technology the envy of the world And was the first successful large delta wing aircraft, leading directly to Concorde and the Space Shuttle, and delivering performance and agility so close to a jet fighter’s that it was given a fighter-style control column in place of the traditional bomber pilot’s yoke. Today that agility allows XH558 to deliver amazing air displays, from accelerating dramatically along the runway, to it’s stunning performance. Vulcan XH558 flies thanks to the generosity of her supporters who give their time and money to supplement the Trust’s commercial income. She would not fly without them.

Sadly At the end of the 2015 flying season, Vulcan XH558 will land for the last time. By then, she will have far exceeded the 250 flying hours promised before her restoration and will have completed significantly more flying hours than any other aircraft of her type.The Vulcan to the Sky trust have done everything possible to see whether another year might be possible. a detailed evaluation of the factors that affect her continued flying life has been conducted, most critically, the way she is flown has been modified in order to extend engine life and minimise fatigue.

The feasibility of XH558’s continued airworthiness has been evaluated by three expert companies – BAE Systems, Marshall Aerospace and Defence Group and Rolls-Royce, together known as the ‘technical authorities’ – who have collectively decided to cease their support at the end of this flying season. Without that support, under Civil Aviation Authority regulations, XH558 is prohibited from flying. Although XH558 is believed to be as safe as any aircraft flying today, her structure and systems are already more than ten percent beyond the flying hours of any other Vulcan, and maintaining her superb safety record requires expertise that is increasingly difficult to find. specialists have been brought out of retirement specifically to work on XH558; a solution that is increasingly impractical as the necessary skills and knowledge become distant in their collective memories. It is true that seeing and hearing XH558 overhead is a thrilling experience, but even on the ground, XH558 is fascinating and exciting and will hopefully inspire and educate a new generations of young people, to learn the engineering and technical skills which built XH558.

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