In this post I introduce you to the Vulcan 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
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.
Vulcan XM655 RAF Service
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.
Visiting Vulcan XM655
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.
Operation Black Buck
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 post with those you think might also be interested in seeing this aircraft.