User Input

User Input: Passing Into History

Avro Vulcan

The charity trust that has successfully restored the last remaining Avro Vulcan has announced that 2013 will be the final year to see their craft fly. Despite investing millions of dollars into keeping the plane certified as airworthy, the costs just continue to climb too rapidly to keep up. As parts and equipment are no longer being produced, their stock of spare parts are quickly drying up. There have been several solutions presented, one of which involves a major retro-fit of the “shoulders” at the base of the wings to accommodate more modern engines, enabling new hydraulics, more capabilities, and lower maintenance costs.

This creates a whole new issue, however. One of the most distinctive features of the Vulcan was the trademark “Vulcan Howl”. One of the first questions that was asked, when this proposal was revealed to the public, was whether that particular upgrade would eliminate the howl. The engineers who were discussing the idea were honest: “We don’t know. Probably not, but maybe.” At that point, if the Howl was gone, would the essence of the Vulcan still be presence? Would it even still be a Vulcan? And is that a worthwhile sacrifice to make to keep the Vulcan flying? Or is it too great a sacrifice?


Given the opportunity to visit any airbase from the birth of the airplane, what aircraft would you most like to see in flight?

  • jalopjackie

    I would love to see the Vulcan's sister craft fly again.

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    Always loved the graceful look of the Victors.

  • Renchick

    "If you can fly a Sopwith Camel, you can fly anything." -Biggles

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    • Dean Bigglesworth

      Right you are.

  • Pull it out of the rafters at the Smithsonian and take it to Edwards Air Force Base.

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  • That howl is something else. I was once in the Goodwood car park when XH558 did a low pass and bank-around; every car alarm in the car park went off and the noise just lingered for what seemed like minutes.

    Every time I see her (and I'm fortunate enough to have seen her a few times), I think to myself: what must those young Argentinians at Port Stanley have felt, thinking they were safe, when out of nowhere, completely unexpected, this giant bat-winged beast screamed out of the sky with that monstrous noise, leaving chaos and destruction in its path?

    Wonderful machine.

  • jeepjeff

    I'm going to stretch the constraints on the answer a little bit:
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    They flew at high speed and high altitude, so I bet they wouldn't have been much more than a dot from the ground. They also didn't take off from an airstrip. Rather, they were launched from a B-52 dubbed the Balls 8. So, rather than any specific airstrip, if I could have ridden along in the Balls 8 and watched out the window as one of those lit up and dropped off the wing? Yeah. That's the top of my list.

  • Will Campbell

    I have been lucky enough to see a Vulcan fly here in North America back in the early '80s. I was small, but I still remember it pretty vividly. I thought it was the coolest thing ever. They have done some pretty extensive testing on the airframe and wings. I think it would be worth their while to do the engine swaps and mods. I don't think they'd be that noticeable. Check out for more info on the bird.

    I'd love to see a similar project like this here in the US with one of the remaining intact Sr-71s. The knowledge of how to work on them is still there, enough former pilots are still out there to teach new ones, and the flight sim is still in working order, updated to 1999 (the last time an SR-71 flew). My first choice of airframes would be 980 at Dryden, since it was the last to fly, however its been sitting outside in the Mojave desert sun for the past 14 years. (Actually closer to 11 years since they kept in in flyable storage for several years after its last flight.) Museums around the country picked up many of the parts in '07 when the AF scrapped all the spares (there were 2 warehouses full of parts that were shredded, burned, or simply discarded.) Yes, it would take a HUGE amount of $$$ to make it happen, but there really isn't anything like seeing an SR-71 in flight.

  • Number_Six
    • vroomsocko

      Came to post this, please to have beaten to it. The remaining example is at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. Hearing that sucker take off must have been awesome. You know it's bad ass when they name the cafe after it.

  • CopterBob

    Messerschmitt ME-163 Komet. Watching it streaking across an airfield, emitting an ear-splitting roar, pulling straight up and punching through the clouds was utterly unbelievable to contemporary pilots of the day. (At least according to the Komet pilot bios I've read.) And all while spewing a dense trail of violet-black smoke out the exhaust.

    I think it would be just as impressive today. Just don't make me stand too close to the landing site, or the T-stoff and C-stoff trailers.

  • Will Campbell

    It would be cool to see AV1 aka "Cecil the Seasick Sea Serpent" aka the XB-70 fly again, however despite being in a museum since the '70s, the skin, made of stainless steel honeycomb is delaminating all over the place. Considering AV1 had serious issues the one and only time it went Mach 3, (the incident led to a quote along the lines of "Oh yeah, we lost pieces of our plane bigger than yours" in a conversation between one of the AV1 pilots and an SR-71 pilot in a bar.) Most of the issues that were found with AV1 were fixed for AV2, the one that crashed due to a NASA F104 piloted by one of the other XB70 pilots colliding with the right wing of AV2, flipping up and over the top taking out both rudders/vertical stabilizers. The F104 burst into flames and AV2 proceeded to roll on its back then into a flat spin. Only one pilot got out.

    AV1 also had a major part of the front landing gear fail while it was being moved around at some point. The landing gear didn't collapse, but a new part needed to be made so it wouldn't. The XB70 really was an incredible aircraft, and had it not been doomed from day one, it could have been a game changer, but MacNamara had "Cecil's" head on the chopping block long before it took to the air. Incedently, it was MacNamara who ordered Lockheed to destroy all the tooling for the SR-71 following the completion of #980. That guy may have destroyed more chances to advance aviation to truly lofty elevations than any other person all in the name of penny pinching.

  • Jeb Hoge

    B-36, baby. Biggest bomber ever. I've seen a B-29, and it was damn near magical.

    • Vairship

      Plus propellers AND jets is always the right answer.

  • vroomsocko
  • Will Campbell

    It would be cool to see a B36 fly. I think Pima Air museum might have the closest one to flyable condition. I don't think any of them are anywhere close to flyable however. The Pima one might be the most complete.

    I think the biggest hurdle to getting an SR-71, B36 or any other former USAF aircraft, is getting the USAF museum to release the thing. Without the release there is no flying whatever it might be. This is also the reason most of the SR-71s got their wings clipped so they never could fly again. The ones that flew to their current locations being the exceptions. 980, 955 (both of which can be found at Edwards) 973 at Palmdale, 975 at March Field, 960 at Castle air Museum, 976 at Wright Patterson, 972 at the Smithsonian, and 971 found at Evergreen (taken apart and trucked there, but from what I can tell, the wing spar was left intact.) were all flown to their current locations and should still be flyable. There might be a couple others such as 959 the long tail SR-71 might also have intact wing-spars as well. Corrosion might however be an issue with those that have been sitting outside. Still, the air in the Mojave desert is pretty dry and usually pretty clear. I think we need to start a campaign, "980 to the Sky"! It is the most up to date, and the most recently flown one.