Yorkshire Post

Bat­tle to save grounded Vul­can

Sale fears for bomber if char­ity fails to raise £400,000

- Mark Brana­gan Coventry · Wiltshire · Stanley · United Kingdom · Elizabeth II · Russia · Russian Empire · United States of America · Battle · M61 Vulcan · Falkland Islands · Avro · Royal Air Force · Lyneham · Martin · Easingwold · Vulcan, MO

IT was an icon of Bri­tish avi­a­tion his­tory which helped to keep the peace when the world teetered on the brink of nu­clear catas­tro­phe – and later helped our forces to vic­tory in the Falk­lands War.

But last night the sole sur­viv­ing work­ing Avro Vul­can was grounded, pos­si­bly for good – a ca­su­alty not of en­emy gun­fire but the re­ces­sion and bad weather hit­ting air shows.

The air­craft, the last air­wor­thy Vul­can, has not flown pub­licly since Septem­ber 26 in Coven­try. Yes­ter­day’s flight was a pri­vate one for two suc­cess­ful bid­ders in Chil­dren in Need’s “Money Can’t Buy” auc­tion and raised £25,000 for the char­ity.

Each win­ner, who asked to re­main anony­mous, was flown along­side the Vul­can in a com­mer­cially-li­censed aer­o­bat­ics plane.

When the Vul­can got home last night to RAF Lyne­ham in Wilt­shire, it was placed in­side a hanger – while bosses wait to see if the trust which re­stored it will go out of busi­ness on Novem­ber 1.

Due to a sub­stan­tial drop in do­na­tions dur­ing the re­ces­sion and poor weather that stopped her fly­ing at sev­eral profitable events this year, the trust must raise £400,000 by the end of Oc­to­ber.

Fears are grow­ing that if the trust folds the air­craft could be sold off to a pri­vate col­lec­tor – iron­i­cally pos­si­bly one from be­hind the for­mer Iron Cur­tain.

At the con­trols yes­ter­day was York­shire Falk­lands hero Squadron Leader Martin Withers DFC, 64, from Eas­ing­wold, near York, who pi­lots the Vul­can reg­u­larly.

A cap­tain of one of the Vul­cans that at­tacked the airfield at Port Stan­ley in 1982 fol­low­ing a 4,000 mile marathon flight, he was the only one to drop bombs on the run­way.

Yes­ter­day, he made a per­sonal plea to save the Vul­can as a na­tional trea­sure. If it is sold on it will never fly pub­licly in the UK again and peo­ple will only be able to see it on loan to a mu­seum, it is feared.

He said: “This is one of the most iconic pieces of aero­space technology ever, and it is thor­oughly Bri­tish.

“The Vul­can fires young peo­ple with a pas­sion to de­velop and build world-beat­ing tech­nolo­gies.

“And we can help give them those skills through train­ing mod­ules that call upon the ex­tra­or­di­nary knowl­edge, rigour and pre­ci­sion needed to re­store and main­tain the UK’s only fly­ing ‘com­plex’ her­itage air­craft.

“If I had been or­dered to press the but­ton that re­leased the nu­clear pay­load, there would al­most cer­tainly have been no Bri­tain left to fly home to.

“The Vul­can is the most pow­er­ful sym­bol of a re­mark­able pe­riod in Bri­tish his­tory that we must never for­get.”

In 2010, over a mil­lion peo­ple watched the Vul­can fly but char­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Robert Plem­ing said the trust was on a shoe­string com­pared to sim­i­lar keep­ers of pieces of his­tory and re­ceives no govern­ment sup­port.

The trust has de­vel­oped a busi­ness plan that will pro­vide sub­stan­tially greater com­mer­cial rev­enues from 2011 from sources such as cor­po­rate hos­pi­tal­ity and mer­chan­dis­ing.

The hope is to fly the air­craft for at least two more dis­play sea­sons, in­clud­ing the year of the Queen’s Di­a­mond Ju­bilee in 2012, which is also the 60th an­niver­sary of the first flight of the Vul­can and the 30th an­niver­sary of the Falk­lands con­flict.

“But if we don’t make it through Oc­to­ber, the tremen­dous op­por­tu­ni­ties of­fered by this mag­nif­i­cent air­craft will be lost for­ever,” warned Dr Plem­ing.

If the trust does go into ad­min­is­tra­tion the most likely out­come is that the air­craft will be sold to a pri­vate col­lec­tor, pos­si­bly in Rus­sia or the US, and will never fly in the UK again, he added.

Help to keep her fly­ing at: http://www.vul­can­tothesky.org/do­nate.html

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 ??  ?? NA­TIONAL TREA­SURE: Top, the Avro Vul­can in flight. Above left, Falk­lands hero Martin Withers who cap­tained one of the Vul­cans that at­tacked the airfield at Port Stan­ley in 1982 fol­low­ing a 4,000-mile marathon flight and who now reg­u­larly pi­lots the...
NA­TIONAL TREA­SURE: Top, the Avro Vul­can in flight. Above left, Falk­lands hero Martin Withers who cap­tained one of the Vul­cans that at­tacked the airfield at Port Stan­ley in 1982 fol­low­ing a 4,000-mile marathon flight and who now reg­u­larly pi­lots the...
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