The owners of the very last airworthy Vulcan bomber have promised that we haven’t see the last of the much-loved Cold War relic.
The 57-year-old nuclear bomber – XH558 – flew for the last time in October 2015 after a summer delighting millions of people at air shows and fly-pasts around the UK.
Since then, 1,000 people a month have visited the Vulcan at its hangar at Doncaster Sheffield airport, in South Yorkshire and on Wednesday, XH558 was towed out of its home for the last time and out of public view as it was placed in storage at another hangar.
XH558 was built in 1960 and entered service with the RAF in the role of carrying Britain’s nuclear deterrent to the heart of the Soviet Union.
The aircraft lost its permit to fly 18 months ago but The Vulcan To The Sky Trust, which restored the aircraft to flight a decade ago, has been developing a plan for a visitor attraction around the Vulcan, including periodically opening up its powerful engines on fast taxi runs around the airport.
But an increase in cargo traffic at the airport has meant XH558’s hangar is needed for other uses.
Trust chief executive Robert Pleming said the plane is “hibernating” as a funding appeal is launched to build a new home and visitor centre at the former RAF base for the plane.
Dr Pleming said: ”It’s sad leaving here. It’s sad that we’ve had to let quite a number of our team go. It’s sad for the volunteers who’ve provided such amazing support for the tours.
“But we’re very hopeful of a bright future ahead of us.”
He added: “I’m really confident that in about a year’s time we’ll be able to move into that new facility.
“In effect, the aircraft is hibernating for the time being.”
Dr Pleming said that maintaining the aircraft, along with the trust’s Canberra WK163, in the new storage location is expected to cost around £200,000.
The trust said half has been match-funded by a group of philanthropists but an appeal has been launched for the rest.
The airport is providing the storage facility free until the end of April.
Steve Gill, chief executive at the airport, said: “Having the Vulcan based here is a big part of our history and we want to see it remain here long into the future.
“We continue to work closely with the trust on plans for a new hangar to hold the aircraft for which a possible site has been identified.”
Despite being built as nuclear bombers, the Vulcans’ most famous mission was in 1982 when they bombed the runway at Port Stanley during the Falklands War – a raid which has gone down in military history due to the complex multiple refuelling operation needed over such huge distances.
Top pic: PA