THE VULCAN bomber restored at Bruntingthorpe will fly for the final time next year, the Trust behind the project has announced.
The Vulcan to the Sky Trust, the charity which operates Vulcan XH558 - the last flying example of the Cold War bomber - has told its supporters it is planning for 2013 to be the much-loved aircraft’s final flying season.
The jet was granted a technically-determined number of flying hours following its painstaking £7m restoration at Bruntingthorpe Airfield.
At the end of next year’s display season - six years after its return-to-flight - XH558’s current cleared flying life will have been almost completely consumed.
Since the restoration in 2007, Vulcan XH558 has been seen by more than ten million people at over 60 locations, with a remarkable three million turning out to see her during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee season.
The Mail’s video of the bomber’s return to flight in 2007 is available to view in the player above.
Trust chief executive Dr Robert Pleming said: “We are sure you are aware that all Vulcans have a finite safe flying life and that XH558 is already well beyond the hours flown by any other aircraft of her type.
“At the end of next year, she will need a £200,000 modification to her wings to increase her flying life. We know that you would do your upmost to fund this work, but for a number of reasons we have decided not to ask you to take this risk.”
Engineering director Andrew Edmondson said one of the reasons was the technical challenge of making the wing modification.
“It is a demanding procedure that can no longer call upon the original manufacturing jigs and there is no possibility of rectification if an error is made,” he said.
“We are not saying we cannot do it, just that it is risky so other factors must be taken into account.”
XH558’s engines also have a limited life, he said.
“From the start of the 2014 season, it is unlikely that we could accommodate any engine failures and that even without any technical problems, soon our set of engines would be out of life.
“There are no more airworthy engines available, and refurbishment would be so difficult and costly that there is no possibility that it will happen.”
There are also challenges with other areas of the aircraft as every component, however small, was designed and manufactured to agreed specifications by approved suppliers.
“When those suppliers close or lose the ability to remanufacture or refurbish those components, it can be prohibitively expensive to re-source them,” said Mr Edmondson.
“We know, for example, that the set-up costs to remanufacture a main wheel are more than £70,000. If the approved engineering drawings are no longer available, it can be practically impossible given any amount of money.”
Dr Pleming added: “It is therefore with great sadness that we have told XH558’s supporters that we are planning for next year to be the last opportunity anyone will have, anywhere in the world, to see a Vulcan in the air.
I’d like to thank everyone who by the end of 2013 will have contributed to achieving six fantastic years of Vulcan displays since the restoration - it’s a remarkable achievement that many people said would be impossible.
“With the passionate and generous support of the British people, we returned an all-British icon to the sky and brought the excitement of engineering and aviation to new generations.”
The Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s aspiration is that when XH558’s flying life is over, she will become the centrepiece of a new project that will inspire and train young people, helping to solve the UK’s significant shortfall in the number of talented new candidates entering technical careers.
Trust director Michael Trotter said: “XH558 will be maintained in excellent running order and will continue to delight her supporters with fast taxi runs while developing further her role in education as the centrepiece of an exciting new type of inspirational engineering education centre,”