XM655

XM655 Vulcan Bomber at Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield

Hello, my name is Ben Lovegrove and in this video I’m going to introduce you to the XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society based at Wellesbourne Mountford Airfield, near Coventry, Warwickshire, in England.

Like so many other people I was captivated by the sight and sound of a Vulcan at air shows during the past three decades.

Seeing a Vulcan fly and hearing that distinctive howl leaves an impression that cannot be forgotten.

Avro Vulcan XM655 was third from last of the Vulcan bombers produced for the Royal Air Force, being delivered in late 1964, and was part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent force throughout the 1960s and 1970s.

It is now owned by Wellesbourne Airfield and is looked after by the XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society, a volunteer organisation of Vulcan enthusiasts.

XM655 is one of the few Vulcans remaining in ground running condition, the only one with the most powerful of the engine variants (Bristol Olympus 301s) and the society aims to keep her running for as long as possible.

The aircraft systems, which are powered up and exercised regularly, are available for demonstration to booked parties of visitors.

Engine ground runs are carried out several times every year, and a ‘Fast Taxi’ event is carried out most summers to show off the aircraft and raise funds to support its preservation.

XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society is a small team of skilled and dedicated volunteers, many of whom are ex-RAF, (some even ex-V-Force personnel and one of whom actually worked on XM655 in service), who give up their Saturdays to preserving XM655.

XM655 is an Avro Vulcan B Mk2, and the youngest Vulcan in existence.

Delivered to 9 squadron at RAF Cottesmore in November 1964, she transferred to the Waddington Wing in January 1968.

She then served with 101 and 44 squadrons, and was with 50 squadron when she was put up for disposal in late 1983.

She was the first Vulcan to be ‘civilianised’ and was flown in to Wellesbourne Mountford about a week after a Cat 3 Check, on the 11th of February 1984.

She had flown only 5,744 hours, making her a very viable proposition for taking to the air once more.

XM655 is available for visits both by individuals and by larger organised parties.

Individual and family visitors are most welcome to come and look around the aircraft, take photographs and have a chat with the volunteers on any Saturday between 10.00am and 4.00pm.

However, please check the the website or Facebook page for any temporary restrictions for visitors.

Organised visits can be arranged for parties of up to 24 participants, who will be able to see the aircraft with ground power on, and see the air-brakes, exterior lighting, bomb doors, and powered flying controls in operation in addition to cockpit visits.

Having recently been on one of these tours myself I can say that without a doubt it’s well worth arranging a visit of your own.

Seeing the lights, moving surfaces, deployment of air-brakes, and watching the bomb bay doors open really brings the aircraft to life.

The cockpit tour was particulary interesting as in includes many details about the aircraft’s mission, flight operations, and crew duties.

See if you can spot the soup cans which take 45 minutes to warm up a can of Heinz tomato soup!

We listened as Wing Commander Mike Pollitt (one of only 6 pilots still qualified to fly the Vulcan) described the technical and operational details of the aircraft.

The electronics of the cockpit and crew area are of course of 1960s vintage, hence the need for a crew of five to monitor all the instruments.

Mike described the aircraft’s inception and her role during the Cold War as part of Britain’s bomber force.

We also learned about the type of bombs that used to be carried, from Britain’s Blue Danube nuclear deterrent to the conventional bombs dropped on Port Stanley airport’s runway during the Falklands War.

Speaking of which, another volunteer described the Operation Black Buck missions in more detail, in particular the complicated air-to-air refuelling that was crucial for the mission’s success.

Since the Vulcans were designed for medium-range missions in Europe during the Cold War they lacked the operational range necessary to reach the Falkland Islands from Ascension Island where the operations were staged.

Consequently, they needed to be refuelled en route by Handley Page Victor bombers converted into tankers.

But such were the distances involved that some of the tankers themselves needed to be refuelled before they could rendezvous with the Vulcans for their refuelling.

To the rear of the aircraft we were able to mount a platform which gave us a spectacular view over the starboard wing.

To see it from this angle and in the spring sunshine was a real treat.

After our tour of the aircraft we were shown to the group’s shop were refreshments were served and we browsed through the books and souvenirs on display.

I couldn’t resist a copy of Vulcan Boys by Tony Blackman, particulary as it was signed by several personnel!

To find out more about her, when to visit, fast taxi events, and more visit XM655.com.

Be sure to visit soon and show your support for this important part of Britain’s aviation heritage.

Once you’ve visited (or if you’ve already done so) post a comment below this video describing your reactions.

And please share this video with those you think might also be interested in seeing this aircraft.

Goodwood Revival 2018 – No Air Displays

Goodwood Revival 2018 – No Air Displays

After 19 years of thrilling the crowds with spectacular air displays it seems the Goodwood Revival 2018’s aviation activities will be confined to the static displays and pre booked pleasure flights.

The days of a Goodwood Revival air show are over, for this year at least.

The 2018 Revival’s timetable contains no mention of any of the types of air displays we’ve seen in previous years, apart from short fly pasts by a solitary fighter in the early morning.

Note:  there’s a post written after the Revival here.

No Air Displays?

Goodwood Revival 2018 - No Air Displays

I sought clarification from the Revival team and was eventually informed (via Twitter) that the flying activity will be a Spitfire on the Sunday morning, a Mustang on the Friday and Saturday morning, and a Spitfire & Mustang air display on the Saturday at 19:05hrs.

Someone also called me back from Customer Services to relay the message that the flying was minimal due to safety concerns but he was unable to provide any other details.  He suggested I emailed and await a reply after the Revival.  I have done so and will update this post if I hear any more.

So, a Dawn Patrol each day and one evening slot by a pair of warbirds. Both time windows are outside of what you might call the core business hours of the event, and that may be significant from a red tape point of view.

The Dawn Patrol used to be an aperitif, a mere foretaste of the several displays that we could look forward to throughout the day.

Unless I’ve missed it there’s been no announcement about the cancellation of the air displays. Given how far in advance these types of events are planned and arranged one could imagine that the decision was taken months ago.

No Announcement?

Hurricane So why was there no announcement for loyal Revival fans?  The air displays have always been such a popular part of the Revival. I don’t know how popular and I would guess that the Revival team’s customer surveys would reveal more on that score.

Taking into account that tickets go on sale ten months before the event it’s possible that many who bought their tickets will be as disappointed as I am that the Revival has become an almost exclusively a motor racing event.

Of course, it’s always been mainly a motor racing event featuring races on four wheels and two, but the air displays have been an integral part of every Revival since 1998 when Ray Hanna flew a Spitfire along the start line straight.

SpitfireThat type of flying has long gone everywhere. In these safety conscious days you won’t see any Spitfires flying so close to crowds that you can feel the breeze and smell the exhaust but in the past 19 years at the Revival we’ve been thrilled and inspired by the flying skills of a generation of expert display pilots.

Over the last two decades the Revival air displays have included formation aerobatics by Spitfires, Hurricanes, Mustangs, Warhawks, a Blenheim, and in 2010 a Bearcat.  Last year we watched a Corsair and a P-38 Lightning among others, delighting the crowds.

There have also been fly pasts by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and displays by jets such as Hunters, a Canberra, and the now retired Vulcan bomber.

The Shoreham Tragedy

It’s no secret that the rules and regulations for air shows were tightened up after the Shoreham tragedy of 2015. That was an awful sight and I’m not complacent about safety.

What made it such a tragedy was that those who were killed or injured were not spectators of the air show itself.  They were people passing by the airfield on the main road to the north.

A thorough investigation by the CAA has resulted in changes to the regulations and that is only right and proper.

Risk Averse Air Shows

Static aircraft displays
Static displays = safe

Spectators who attend both air shows and motor racing events are used to seeing warning signs about the risks but they attend anyway.

They trust that those risks have been mitigated as much as humanly possible by the event organisers.  Risks are minimised but not removed altogether. The safest road racing is none at all, where cars remain parked in their paddocks.

The safest air displays are none at all, where aircraft remain hangared and wheeled out for risk-free static displays.

Are these the kind of events we want to see in the future?

Let’s hope I’m proved wrong and that the Goodwood Revival 2019 will see a resumption of air displays, if for no other reason than to pay homage to the men who served at the airfield when it was RAF Westhampnett.

It was their sacrifice that bought us the freedoms we enjoy today, whether sitting safely at home or watching motor racing and air shows.

What’s your opinion? Add a comment below and air your views.