On Sunday 19 March 2023, Avro Vulcan XH558 performed its very last engine runs at Doncaster Sheffield Airport.
The ex-Cold War bomber for the Royal Air Force, which has been in the hands of the Vulcan To The Sky Trust since 2005, has resided at Doncaster Sheffield Airport since 2015.
Doncaster Sheffield Airport
Since its relocation to Doncaster Sheffield, it has performed many high speed taxi runs along the runway and high power engine runs.
Finally, in March 2023 the aircraft was towed out for a special event at the engine run-up bay at the now closed Doncaster Sheffield Airport. The final engine run allowed visitors and the surrounding area to hear her iconic howl one last time.
This is also marks the last sound of an aircraft engine Doncaster will hear after the airport closed at the end of October 2022.
AviationSource writer and photographer, Lewis Chesworth was there to experience the event up close and from outside the airport.
Two separate events were run throughout the day, a morning and afternoon session, lasting about 3-4 hours long each.
Guests were taken from a pub just outside the airport to meet with the Vulcan on stand, where it was then pushed back and towed to the engine running bay, whilst the coach followed close behind.
Everyone attending then got about 2 hours to explore the aircraft both outside and inside the cockpit.
Once everyone had got the chance to step inside XH558 one last time, guests were moved to the rear of the aircraft to watch a flight control check.
Then we were moved to the right side of the aircraft to watch all 4 Rolls Royce Olympus turbojet engines fire into life, before heading to the front of the aircraft to watch the aircraft perform two high power engine runs close up.
Once the engines had shut down again, everyone got back on the coach where they headed back to the local pub to collect a certificate and souvenir bag.
After the afternoon session was complete, those guests got to watch from the side taxiway Alpha, XH558 taxi under its own power using the last of her fuel back to her resting place.
A brief history of Vulcan XH558
XH558 was built by Avro at Woodford Aerodrome and was the first Vulcan B2 variant for the RAF making its first flight from Woodford on the 25th May 1960.
The aircraft was first a part of the No. 230 Operational Conversion Unit, which trained pilots familar with other aircraft types to fly the Vulcan.
No. 230 OCU transferred to RAF Finningley in 1960 (DSA’s former RAF base name) along with XH558, before she went back to RAF Waddington to serve in 44, 50 and 101 Squadrons.
XH558 was converted into 2 sub-variants over its life time, the first one being in 1973 where it was converted into a SR2 Maritime Reconnaissance configuration for use by No. 27 squadron.
Sadly, in 1979 the Vulcan was deemed redundant as a bomber and the first aircraft was sent for scrap in 1980, with the last bomber squadron disbanded in 1982.
Luckily for 558, it saw further use past 1982 being converted into its second sub variant, a K2 tanker variant, to help with a tanker shortage within the RAF and the aircraft went back to 50 Squadron.
This life extension didn’t last long however, with 50 squadron disbanded in 1984 and XH558 finally ending operational service.
This wasn’t the end for XH558 however, as it managed to see further life flying for the RAF Vulcan Display Flight. As such the aircraft was returned to B2 configuration in 1985 and flew as a display jet at airshows for 7 years until 1992.
Vulcan XH558 post-operational history
Although it finally seemed like the end of the road for XH558, the Walton family took the jet into their hands with the intention of keeping her alive.
By this point the aircraft had been ferried from its retirement airport at Cranfield to Bruntingthorpe where it was restored to a taxiable state and it performed high power engine runs and high speed taxis at said airport.
In 1997 the possibility of returning 558 to flight was considered and the decision was made in 1998 and the Vulcan To The Sky Trust was formed.
The VTTS Trust raised the funds required to make XH558 flight worthy again and work began in 2005 as well as full ownership of jet handed over to the trust in 2005.
XH558 then returned to flying in 2007, conducting 3 test flights. Its first airshow was then at the Waddington Airshow in July 2008 and the aircraft continued to fly public displays across the country until 2015.