And now for something completely different. Saturday was the first day in a weekend of free air displays over Swansea Bay and for the first time since its inaugural year I actually found myself able to attend. In truth though nothing could have kept me away for the star attraction amongst the attending aircraft was Vulcan XH558. If you’re not familiar with this plane then I recommend heading here for a bit of background reading but nothing you find there will explain the special place that the Vulcan holds in my heart. I first came across XH558 at displays as a child where that incredible delta wing stood out like nothing I’d ever seen before. Like many aircraft of this generation it seemed to possess a personality all of its own and I was genuinely saddened to see it fly during 1993 which at the time was believed to be her final flying season. However, an audacious plan and seven million pounds of restoration work saw her return to the skies in 2007 and since then she’s been wowing audiences from around the world. 2015 though sees her return once more to the ground after another final flying season, and this time there will be no reprieve. She is already well beyond her anticipated flying hours and with the specialist skills needed to maintain her increasingly hard to come by, there really is no alternative. For me this is immeasurably sad as to lose such an iconic aircraft from flying duties will forever diminish the living history of this country. To see her one last time therefore was an absolute must and wow did she deliver.
Our first sight of Vulcan XH558 came as she crossed Swansea Bay in the distance, the fumes from her four Rolls Royce engines clearly distinguishing her from any modern design. Swinging in across Mumbles she then did a slow pass in front of the gathered thousands, an awe inspiring sight that simply took ones breath away. Each successive pass only seemed to cement further her character within my mind and by the time she left I was still yearning for much, much more.
My one conciliation is that she is also scheduled to attend the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford allowing me one last opportunity to say my goodbyes. She will of course be taking up residence in a new purpose built museum after this year but personally I’d like to remember her like this, flying free.