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Avro vulcan xh558

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Avro Vulcan XH558 (military serial XH558, civil aircraft registration G-VLCN) The Spirit Of Great Britain was the last remaining airworthy example of the 134 Avro Vulcan jet powered delta winged strategic nuclear bomber aircraft operated by the Royal Air Force during the Cold War. It was the last Vulcan in military service, and the last to fly at all after 1986. It last flew on 28 October 2015.[1]

Vulcan XH558 first flew in 1960, and was one of the few examples converted for a maritime reconnaissance role in 1973, and then again as an air-to-air refuelling tanker in 1982. After withdrawal in 1984 it continued with the RAF's Vulcan Display Flight, performing until 1992.[2] In 1993 it was sold to C Walton Ltd who used it for ground-based displays at their Bruntingthorpe Aerodrome in Leicestershire, until 1999. Through a combination of public donations and lottery funding, it was restored to airworthy condition by the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, who returned it to flight on 18 October 2007. The donations required to reach that point totalled £6.5m.

It recommenced its display career in 2008, funded by continuing donations to assist the £2m a year running costs. In the summers from 2008 to 2010 it was based at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, moving its winter base to RAF Lyneham, Wiltshire at the end of 2009. From 2011 it moved to a new year-round base at the commercial Doncaster Sheffield Airport. The prospect of grounding and sale due to lack of funds was regularly averted, and XH558 flew long enough for fundamental engineering life-expectancy issues to become the main threat to continued operation. After being overcome once to gain an extra two years flight, on 15 May 2015 it was confirmed that 2015 would be XH558's last flying season, due to the third party companies responsible for maintaining it withdrawing their support.[3] Since its last flight, XH558 is now kept in taxiable condition, in common with two of the other surviving Vulcans, XL426 and XM655.

A total of 136 Vulcans were produced at Woodford Aerodrome between 1956 and 1965, with the first entering operational service on 20 May 1957.[4][5] XH558 was the first of the upgraded B2 version to enter service with the RAF, making its maiden flight from Woodford on 25 May 1960, and being delivered to No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire, on 1 July 1960. The OCU was the unit which prepared pilots familiar with other aircraft to fly the Vulcan.[6] Almost immediately 230 OCU transferred to RAF Finningley, South Yorkshire. In 1968, XH558 transferred back to Waddington, where it saw operational service with units of the Waddington Wing (44, 50 and 101 Squadrons).[6]

In August 1973, XH558 was one of nine Vulcans converted to a SR2 Maritime Radar Reconnaissance configuration, for use by No. 27 Squadron.[6] By 1979 it had been decided the Vulcan was redundant, with the first being sent for scrap in December 1980.[7] The last operational bomber squadron disbanded on 27 December 1982.[7] In 1982 XH558 was one of the six Vulcans converted to the K2 tanker variant, a stop gap measure to mitigate temporary shortages in the RAF tanker fleet due to some being life-expired in the Falklands War operations, and newer replacement types not yet being ready.[7] Sent to Woodford for conversion at the end of June, it passed back into service with 50 Squadron at Waddington on 12 October.[6] The last Vulcans in service were the 6 tankers and a few other standard aircraft as trainers, all with 50 Squadron, which disbanded on 31 March 1984.[7] XH558 was finally withdrawn from service on 17 September 1984.[6]

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