Vulcan bomber team hit £200,000 maintenance target

The Vulcan bomberThe Vulcan bomber
The Vulcan bomber
The owners of the last airworthy Vulcan bomber have hit a £200,000 target which means they can maintain the Cold War relic after they were forced to put it into 'hibernation'.

The 57-year-old nuclear bomber - XH558 - flew for the last time in 2015.

After it was grounded, 1,000 people a month visited the Vulcan at its hangar at Doncaster Sheffield airport until last month, when XH558 was placed in storage.

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The Vulcan To The Sky Trust said it was being provided with the storage for free until the end of April but needed to raise £200,000 to keep it maintained for the rest of 2017.

Now the trust says more than 2,500 supporters have donated cash to raise £100,000 before the deadline of March 31. It says its £200,000 target has been hit due to promises of match-funding from philanthropists.

Trust chief executive Robert Pleming said he hopes his team can now concentrate on plans to build a new home for XH558 so the public can see it again.

Dr Pleming said: "Everyone donating to this campaign can be proud that they are helping not only protect a unique and important part of the UK's rich aviation heritage, but also the breathing space needed to give Vulcan XH558 a secure home as the centrepiece of a new visitor centre to help inspire our future engineers."

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He added: "We commenced what we are calling our 'hibernation period' in February, allowing us to regroup and move forward in a sustainable manner after major restructuring.

"This could even see us put XH558 through her annual service, returning her to ground running condition this summer. We hope it will give us the options to possibly bring XH558 back to life earlier than we had hoped which, in itself, will help with future fundraising.

"Our determination to succeed against what sometimes appear to be insurmountable odds will never wane and it will be great to see those who share this vision throughout our travels in 2017."

XH558 lost its permit to fly at the end of October 2015 as the engineering firms who helped keep it in the air accepted they no longer have the 1950s skills available to ensure safety.

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The trust, which restored the aircraft to flight a decade ago, has been developing a plan for a visitor attraction around the Vulcan, including periodically opening up its powerful engines on fast taxi runs around the airport.

But it was forced into storage when an increase in cargo traffic at the airport meant XH558's hangar was needed for other uses.

XH558 was built in 1960 and entered service with the RAF in the role of carrying Britain's nuclear deterrent to the heart of the Soviet Union.

It was the last Vulcan to fly as an RAF aircraft in 1992 and was brought back into service in 2008.

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Despite being built as nuclear bombers, the Vulcans' most famous mission was in 1982 when they bombed the runway at Port Stanley during the Falklands War - a raid which has gone down in military history due to the complex multiple refuelling operation needed over such huge distances.