The story so far...

Avro Vulcan B Mk.2 XH558 began her life in 1960 at BAe's Woodford factory.Throughout the years when Vulcans flew in frontline service with their sister V-Bombers, the Handley Page Victor and the Vickers Valiant, XH558 was just one of many, and towards the end of her career in active service, she underwent tanker conversion. The Vulcan force, never used in anger throughout the Cold War years, was reprieved from its original retirement date by the outbreak of the Falklands conflict of the early 80s. During this campaign, several Vulcans undertook the longest bombing raids in history to disable Port Stanley airfield, remaining aloft for sixteen hours and taking on 50,000 gallons of fuel during each mission. The Vulcan force was eventually retired in 1984, but Vulcan XL426 was retained by the RAF for display purposes. In 1987, converted back to her original configuration, XH558, as the youngest Vulcan in terms of elapsed airframe hours, took over from XL426 as the RAF Vulcan Display Flight's air display showstopper, becoming the only remaining airworthy example of the Avro Vulcan anywhere in the world.

In that year, it was becoming very evident that the MoD would not maintain a Vulcan in airworthy condition indefinitely purely for air displays, so the Vulcan Association was set up by enthusiasts Peter and Maura Quicke. Their aim was to provide a publicity interface between the Air Force and the airshow-going public, with a view to persuading the MoD to retain XH558 for air display purposes for as long as possible.

The aircraft enjoyed immense popularity at the air shows, eventually becoming arguably the biggest attraction of all, with many people considering the Vulcan to be more of a must-see item than even the ever-spectacular Red Arrows or Concorde. XH558's amazing agility, steep climb and unique engine howl (caused by air resonating in the intakes at high throttle) were spellbinding and once experienced, never forgotten. Listen to Audio 1 and Audio 2.

In its first few years, the Vulcan Association itself was an outstanding success, growing to become the largest aircraft supporters' group in the world, with over 8,000 members across the globe, and later sprouting the Vulcan Association Council, a group of enthusiasts who joined up with the Quickes to assist in running the organisation. Ordinary members of the Vulcan Association were treated to VIP visits to RAF Waddington, near Lincoln, to view the aircraft "at home" and meet both the display aircrew and the ground crew.

It was a truly friendly, well-managed arrangement and such visits were almost always scheduled to coincide with the aircraft's ongoing monthly currency flights, so members of the Association had their own spectacular mini-airshows as well. But most significantly, the aircraft was retained in service for air displays until late in 1992, mainly due to the support of the Vulcan Association, which always received a "wing-waggle" salute from the aircraft as she climbed steeply away at the end of every public display.

In 1990, XH558's 30th anniversary was celebrated in style at the place of her construction, RAF Woodford, where she was most certainly the centre of attraction at the show. (See Video1, which shows her taking off at the start of her display, and Video2, which shows her displaying her enormous bomb bay). Around 1,700 Vulcan Association members were present, one having come all the way from Australia. XH558 was honoured with a huge birthday cake, and posed for photographs during the evening nose-to-nose with XM603, Woodford's own beautifully preserved white Vulcan.

The VA members were treated to an evening party and a commemorative event, led by Peter Quicke, where the VA's adopted theme, "Up where We Belong" (Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes) was played alongside Clannad's "Theme from Harry's Game", and a member's poem was read. A two-minute silence was also observed in honour of all aircrews lost in combat and air accidents. The event was thoroughly emotive, foreshadowing what was to transpire on 23rd March 1993.