Beds, Herts & Bucks

Vulcan XH558 in final public display flight in Bedfordshire

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Media captionThe final public flight took place at Old Warden near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire

The UK's last flying Vulcan made its final confirmed public display flight on Sunday.

The XH558 bomber - which will now make two flypast tours over the UK on October 10-11 - appeared near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire

Dawn Sunrise, who lives near Bedford, said she grew up with the plane, which was piloted by her father for the RAF.

"I'll be saying goodbye to a childhood friend," she said ahead of the event. "It's going to be very emotional."

The plane saw action during the Falklands War but was withdrawn in 1984.

Following its flight over the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden Aerodrome, it will make two tours over the UK this weekend and a final flight later in the month before it is grounded and reserved for exhibitions.

Image copyright David Jones
Image caption The XH558 will make two more public flights after the weekend before it is grounded
Image caption Backers including Rolls-Royce and BAE Systems withdrew their engineering support for the plane
Image copyright Charles Toop
Image caption The XH558 has been based at South Yorkshire's Robin Hood Airport since March 2011

Ms Sunrise said she had a 50-year relationship with the plane due to her father, Sqn Ldr Peter Thomas.

"Dad was assigned 558 as his plane," said Ms Sunrise, who at the time was based at Finningley, South Yorkshire. "It wasn't uncommon to see two or three in the air.

"During class, if a Vulcan was flying over we used to have to put our pens down and fold our arms until it had gone - it was so loud, you couldn't continue with the class."

Mr Thomas, who is now 89, is unable to make the event but did watch the plane in flight recently in Coventry, alongside his daughter.

"When I saw her fly into the distance I had tears," Ms Sunrise said. "I was with dad, which was quite rare - I used to be on the ground watching him fly it, so to be standing next to him was quite a moment."

Richard Clarke, of the Leicestershire-based Vulcan to the Sky Trust, said a lot of people shared Ms Sunrise's affinity with the "iconic" plane.

"It's got a very, very strong emotional connection to the British public, which is manifested by the fact they turn out in their millions to see her," he said.

"It's the shape, the power, the grace, and also that it's a British built, British flown aircraft and there aren't many things around like that in this day in age."

Vulcan factfile

  • Took flight for the first time in 1952
  • Has a top speed of about 600mph (1,000km/h)
  • Costs £2.2m a year to keep the XH558 maintained, including insurance
  • Vulcans were based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire 1961-84
  • The Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which owns the plane, says its age and withdrawal of technical support makes its future unviable
  • It costs £19,000 an hour to fly
  • Its last combat mission was over the Falkland Islands

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