Page last updated at 08:43 GMT, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Vulcan 'could be lost from skies'


The Vulcan was a part of the Sunderland International Airshow last year

By Michael Stoddard
BBC News

The owners of the last airworthy Vulcan Cold War bomber say a financial crisis could see the plane and "a part of British history" lost from the skies forever.

The XH558's distinctive look and "howl" on take-off have drawn crowds of thousands at air shows since a £7m restoration project returned it to the air in 2007.

But the Leicestershire-based Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which owns and operates the plane from RAF Lyneham in Wiltshire, has put its staff on a month's notice amid fears it could go into administration within weeks.

The charity needs to raise £300,000 by the end of the month and a further £350,000 by the end of March.

The howl of the engines on take-off, the roar and how it glides majestically in the skies is unbelievable
Graeme Miller, enthusiast

Much of the cash goes towards vital maintenance so the plane continues to pass safety tests.

One campaigner, Graeme Miller, from Thatcham in Berkshire, has helped raise hundreds of thousands pounds for the cause in the past.

"The most important reason this plane must be kept flying is the heritage and history behind it," he said.

"If you ask spectators at an air show 'What are you here to see today?'

"I can guarantee you there is only one answer, 'the Vulcan'.

"The crowds have increased since it's taken back to the skies, it's what known as the 'The Vulcan Factor'.

Mr Miller said it would be "scandalous" if the XH558 Vulcan did not fly again

"The howl of the engines on take-off, the roar and how it glides majestically in the skies is unbelievable.

"We need to get new blood interested in the industry, kids seeing this plane fly gets them involved in engineering without them even realising.

"To see something like that go forever would be scandalous.

"It will be a bit of British history that goes with her."

Mr Miller believes the recession has dented donations in recent months.

Nuclear deterrent

"I know money is tight but any donation, no matter how small, will help," he said.

"The trouble is without regular donations month in month out, we get to this point where we need £650,000 in one lump.

"We would love to have sponsors, or an investor - getting someone like Sir Richard Branson on board would be ideal."

The bomber was introduced as part of the RAF's nuclear deterrent against the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Vulcan bomber
The Vulcan only saw combat in the Falklands in 1982

But Vulcans only flew combat missions in 1982, during the Falklands War.

More than 20 bombs were dropped on Port Stanley's runway in 1982, preventing its use by Argentine jets.

Toni Hunter, from Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said: "Our current financial crisis is at such a serious level that all the staff have been placed on notice.

"We, as a charity, are suffering the effects of the economic downturn and the money is fast running out.

"If the trust were to go into administration then no-one knows what will become of this historic aircraft - I doubt she would fly again."

The Vulcan was withdrawn from service in 1984. It was restored at Bruntingthorpe aerodrome in Leicestershire and flew there in 2007.

Many Vulcans remain in museums across the UK but the XH558 is currently the only one which is airworthy.

It is hoped the plane will perform a fly-past at the opening of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

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