THE last iconic Vulcan bomber has returned to Doncaster - and talks are under way to make Finningley its permanent home.
The aircraft XH558 touched down at Robin Hood Airport yesterday afternoon, and the former Cold War bomber will be based there for the next six months while it performs at air shows around the UK.
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But the charity which runs the aircraft, Vulcan to the Sky Trust, is in negotiations with Robin Hood Airport and Doncaster Council’s investment arm Invest in Doncaster, about the possibility of developing a permanent visitor centre. An announcement on a longer term arrangement is expected to be made in the next month.
The aircraft flew in from RAF Lyneham, which had been its previous base, and circled around the airport once before touching down on the runway for the first time since the last RAF Finningley air show in 1992.
The aircraft was previously based at Finningley when the site was a nuclear bomber base in the 1960s.
Pilot Martin Withers said he thought Doncaster would be a perfect long-term home for the aircraft.
“Touching down at Finningley was one of the most emotional experiences of my life,” he said.
Vulcan to the Sky Trust chief executive Dr Robert Pleming said the move to Doncaster would mean more public access to the aircraft, which could potentially help the charity raise the £2 million a year it needs to keep the plane in the sky: “We’ve been working with Robin Hood Airport for two years to get it here.
“Ourselves, the airport and Doncaster Council are all working towards this being something we can arrange for the long term.”
The council is putting no money into the project.
The aircraft is expected to be flying until 2013 or 2014. Work may be carried out to extend its flying life beyond that. Meanwhile, the Vulcan is expected to attend 30 air shows this year.
The director of Robin Hood Airport, Mike Morton said the Vulcan’s presence at the airport would be a major boost: “It’s a great advert for the airport and the Sheffield City Region as a whole. It has not been finalised what will happen in the long term, but we are its base for the summer months and are looking to it being here over the winter.
“It will be outside for a couple of weeks until a hangar can be sorted out.
“There’s a viewing area in the terminal where people can get a bite to eat and see a Vulcan bomber.”
Chris Dungworth, of Invest in Doncaster, said he hoped the Vulcan would bring visitors from all over the country and that it would encourage children to learn about science and engineering.