That a bomber which first entered service in the late 1950s should still excite attention whenever it appears in the skies is obvious to those fortunate enough to see it, and those attending the Farnborough airshow on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday this week could share their experience.
The retirement of the Avro Vulcan from RAF service in 1984 and last flight in 1993 could have marked the end of an era but for the dedication and enthusiasm of generous sponsors and the 23,000 members of the “Vulcan to the Sky” club and the trust formed to manage the program.
Around £7 million ($13.8 million) was spent restoring the world’s only remaining Vulcan to full serviceability over a period of 15 years, including £2.7 million ($5.1 million) from the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a matter of record that an American company, in the words of Dr. Robert Pleming, chief executive of the trust, “made a brilliant contribution to the restoration of the aircraft” by replacing several major systems without charge. Moreover, without the practical support of companies such as Marshall Aerospace, which has contributed huge technical and financial support, the Vulcan would not have received its permit to fly and display authorization from the CAA. Despite her splendid return to flight last year and successful completion of all test flights required by the UK CAA, the major sponsorship required to secure the Vulcan’s long-term future has not materialized. It seemed that all that effort had been in vain, as at a time of near stagnation in the nation’s economy, just enough money has come in to keep the team carrying on.
But, crucially, Aerobytes came to the rescue when it became clear that not enough funds would be available to pay for participation in air shows. Aerobytes is a supplier of flight safety and fuel saving software to the aviation industry, including nearly 100 airlines worldwide, but although its managing director Eddie Forrester has been a long-term sponsor of the Vulcan, his company alone cannot save the aircraft. So the search for a major sponsor continues with the stark fact that failure could ground the Vulcan forever.