Sheffield & South Yorkshire

Last Vulcan bomber final flight over Doncaster airport

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Media captionThe Vulcan took off from Robin Hood Airport for its final flypast before being retired

The UK's last flying airworthy Vulcan bomber has taken to the skies for a final flypast before retirement.

The XH558 bomber's flight over its base at Doncaster Robin Hood Airport lasted about 20 minutes.

The aircraft will be grounded this week after engineering backers, including Rolls Royce, withdrew support.

Details of the flypast were kept secret to avoid the potential for thousands of spectators turning up at the South Yorkshire airport.

The plane's pilot on its curtain call was Martin Withers.

He led a raid on Argentine positions on the Falklands by Vulcan aircraft in the 1982 war, the only time the aircraft ever dropped bombs in anger in its long RAF service.

After the final flypast, Mr Withers said: "I really enjoyed the flight. It's so sad it has to finish now. It's like a funeral."

Image copyright Charles Toop
Image caption The XH558 has been based at Doncaster Robin Hood Airport since March 2011

Sean Maffett, from the Leicestershire-based charity Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which helps maintain and operate the aircraft, said the famous Cold War nuclear warplane was "a victim of her own success".

"We're having to go to extraordinary lengths, including the live-streaming, to prevent crowds of people coming to see the flight."

Earlier this month, South Yorkshire Police had urged fans to avoid watching it at the airport to prevent huge crowds overwhelming flight operations.

Image copyright Cpl Steve Buckley (RAF)
Image caption The Vulcan flew with the Red Arrows at the Southport Air Show as part of its farewell flypast tour

Richard Clarke, from the trust, said: "It's got a very, very strong emotional connection to the British public, which is manifested by the fact they turn out in their millions to see her."

Vulcans, which once operated from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire, saw action during the 1982 Falklands War.

The trust said the last remaining model left service in 1993.

Earlier this month, the XH55 bomber was seen flying across England in a series of flypasts as part of its farewell tour.

Vulcan fact file

  • Took flight for the first time in 1952
  • It was in service from 1960-1993
  • Has a top speed of about 600mph (1,000km/h)
  • Costs £2.2m a year to keep the XH558 maintained, including insurance
  • The Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which owns the plane, said its age and withdrawal of technical support makes its future unviable
  • It costs £19,000 an hour to fly
  • Its last combat mission was over the Falkland Islands

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