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.

Ten Apps For Pilots For General Aviation

Ten Apps For Pilots For General Aviation

In this post I’m going to list ten apps for pilots. I say list rather than review since I have not downloaded these and tried each one.

The best and obvious way to determine if an app suits your need is to download the free trial and see for yourself.

You’ll find links to iTunes downloads (for iPad) for each of these apps in the description area below this video.

If there’s particular app that’s not on this list but which you think most pilots should know about, please post a comment about it.

So chocks away then.

Developer’s description: “RunwayHD is the one-stop aviation app available on iOS and Android devices created to give aviators everything they need for safe and fun flying.

Designed for VFR flying, RunwayHD is the complete planning, navigation and awareness app for novice and professional pilots alike flying anything from microlight flexwings to gliders and rotary aircraft.”

RunwayHD is free with in-app purchases. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.7 out of 168 ratings.

Developer’s description: “LogTen Pro is the leading international pilot logbook platform for all your Apple devices. It is the tool of choice for pilots in nearly 200 countries, and every major airline. From glider pilots to Gulfstream pilots, and from Apache pilots to airline pilots, whether you’ve got 10 hours or 10,000, LogTen Pro is designed to be completely customizable for your type of flying, country, region, or company so you can track exactly what you need.”

LogTen Pro is free with in-app purchases. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.5 out of 3,600 ratings.

Developer’s description: “Powerful, simple and fast flight plan filing for those who live on the go.

Manage flight plans from anywhere, with any device. Operate 24 hours a day, flying anywhere in the world – simply File & Go.

RocketRoute has built its reputation in Flight Plan Filing and Management.

Our service puts the pilot and dispatcher in complete control of their flight.

RocketRoute is ahead of the rest for simplicity, completeness of features and operational experience over the past 7 years.”

FlightPlan is free with in-app purchases. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 5 out of 5 ratings.

Developer’s description: “The flight planning features in SkyDemon are all designed to make planning a flight less tedious and more interesting, by bringing the very best aeronautical briefing information directly to your fingertips in real time as you explore our charts and experiment with potential journeys.

SkyDemon will help give you the confidence to fly further and to more interesting places. Plan a journey, brief yourself on potential hazards, prepare for flight and analyse your track logs. Live briefing data includes NOTAM, airfield documents and maps, TAF, METAR and wind forecasts at altitude.”

SkyDemon is free with in-app purchases. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.9 out of 3,700 ratings.

Developer’s description: “PocketFMS developed EasyVFR basic UK edition specifically to help pilots flying in the UK to avoid unintended entry into airspace or NOTAMed airspace. EasyVFR basic UK edition is free to download and use. Airspace is updated every 28 days and these updates are also totally free. NOTAMs are provided by a live link to EuroControl, ensuring that you have the latest NOTAMs to hand. All NOTAM updates are of course also free.

EasyVFR basic UK edition will show your position on the moving map so that you can see your position relative the airspace around you. You will get a warning as you approach an airspace which highlights the airspace boundary that you are approaching and provides you the appropriate call sign and frequency to contact in order to get a clearance to enter.

A position tab will give you your current position in a format that makes reporting your position to ATC easy, as well as giving you the frequency and call sign for the most relevant air traffic unit in your area, including a LARS if one is available.”

EasyVFR basic UK edition is free. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.8 out of 268 ratings.

  1. EasyVFR by PocketFMS Foundation.

Developer’s description: “EasyVFR is an aviation Moving Map which can be used for flight planning, GPS navigation and post-flight analysis on iOS devices (minimum iPhone 6 and/or iPad Air). With EasyVFR you can take your iPhone and iPad with you in the cockpit, plan your flight, and follow your route on a moving map, always confident of your position and the airspace and airports around you.

EasyVFR is NOT free. It requires an in-app subscription to function. The subscription provides updated AeroData for Europe, USA, Canada & Australia / New Zealand, published in line with the 28 day AIRAC cycle. It includes a continuous feed of EuroControl NOTAMs, and weather data from official sources in the supported regions and from our contracted professionals.”

When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.7 out of 21 ratings.

Developer’s description: “AeroWeather Lite provides quick and intuitive access to METAR and TAF for airports worldwide.

Data can be shown in its original (raw) format or as fully decoded and easy understandable texts.

AeroWeather Lite is helpful for weather preflight-briefings, but also to just get very precise weather. All weather data is cached for offline access.

There are many settings for units and format of METAR/TAF available.

The app features a built-in airport database, which includes basic airport data like sunrise/sunset, twilight times, timezones etc”

AeroWeather Lite is free with in-app purchases. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 2.7 out of 41 ratings.

Developer’s description: “The ultimate weather app for pilots, by pilots. This visually stunning and feature rich application provides you with all the weather information you will need when you prepare for your next flight.

METARs and TAFs with a twist. Sure you can get TAFs and METARs everywhere, but you’d be hard pressed to find a map based overview that provides you instant insight in how the weather will develop over time, just by moving a slider. In addition to raw text, Sky MET provides you with:

  • TAF and METAR decoding.
  • Crosswind component calculation.
  • Weather radar for each station.
  • Station NOTAMS.
  • And web cam images, allowing for sneek peek at the station sky”.

Sky MET (free) has an optional upgrade to Pro. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.1 out of 17 ratings.

Developer’s description: “With more than 75 aviation calculations, unit conversions and aviation weather reports, we are sure you will find myE6B beneficial in helping to solve the planning and navigating problems associated with flying.

In addition to a comprehensive set of flight planning calculations, myE6B includes convenient access to global METAR, TAF, AIR/SIGMET and PIREP reports, and a handy search utility for finding unknown ICAO weather station codes.”

E6B Aviation Calculator costs £8.99. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 4.9 out of 8 ratings.

Developer’s description: “Aircraft Checklists from Qref® for iPhone and iPad are expertly designed and written procedures specifically for your aircraft.

The same award-winning content found in our printed checklists can now be found in a customizable, easy-access app.

Every detail has been meticulously designed to make the checklist quick, easy-to-use and accurate.

Choose your aircraft from a growing library of 50+ comprehensive models.

Customize any item you need, directly on your iPhone or iPad, right where you use a checklist, without having to go to a website and upload.”

Qref Aircraft Checklists is free with in-app purchases. When checked on iTunes it had an average rating of 3.4 out of 5 ratings.

That concludes this list of apps for pilots. Have you used any of these? What do you think of them?

Let me know by posting a comment below.

If you know of any apps that do a better job of the tasks described above then let me know.

Remember that apps are there to help and they can be an excellent source of information for flight planning and navigation but when flying your eyes and attention should be outside the cockpit not fixed on a screen.

Happy Landings!