After World War II, Great Britain developed a trio of jet bombers called the V-bombers. The Vickers Valiant, the Handley Page Victor, and the Avro Vulcan. First flights for these planes were in 1951 and 1952, and in 1964 the Royal Air Force fielded nearly 160 modern jet bombers. The Valiant served from 1955 until 1964, when the last of the 107 hulls built type was retired to Cosford, where it resides today. The Victor entered service in 1958 until 1993, and the last of the 86 Victors, configured as a bomber and not as a tanker, can be found in Duxford.
The idea of Britain producing three such similar aircraft, and of Britain possessing three separate design houses to do this work, is a reminder of how much the world has changed in the last sixty years. (Vickers was one of four firms whose 1960 merger formed the British Aircraft Corporation, which is the genesis of the modern BAE Systems, while Handley Page closed its doors in 1970.)
The third V-bomber is the Avro Vulcan. Design for the Vulcan began in 1947 when the firm was still known as A. V. Roe, and their entrant in the V-bomber competition took wing in 1952. An extremely modern design for its day, it featured an enormous delta-wing with four Bristol Olympus engines buried within the wing roots. Entering service in 1956, the Avro manufactured a total of 136 Vulcans, which served in various capacities until 1986, notably conducting extremely long-range missions as part of the Falklands War. Quite a few Vulcans can be seen, including at Cosford and Duxford with their V-bomber sisters.
Why then am I delivering this musty history lesson about a plane whose career ended twenty-two years ago? The twelfth Vulcan built, which rolled off the line in 1960 and was the last of its type in service, flew to Bruntingthorpe in 1993, where its owners have long hoped to restore it to regular flight. With dedication and substantial funding from many enthusiasts, they did so last October, and now that the summer airshow season is underway, XH558, as she is known, has begun making quite a splash on the English airshow circuit. Its a tremendous credit to Britain and those involved that this piece of their Cold War heritage, representing a different country, a different time, and ultimately a different world, is once again back in the sky where she belongs to remind the people of today of what has come before them. All who see Vulcans in person report it to be an unforgettable sight, and I cannot express how much I wish to see her fly. Someday.
My thanks to a bevy of talented Flickr photographers, who provide the wonderful pictures which follow:
If you like this, I encourage you to check out this summary of all of the aviation photography I have featured here.