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Skies clear for final Vulcan flight over Yorkshire

Published 28/10/2015

The Vulcan XH558, a restored nuclear bomber, has flown its last ever flight
The Vulcan XH558, a restored nuclear bomber, has flown its last ever flight
Martin Withers will be in the cockpit for the final flight

The only remaining flying Vulcan bomber has flown for the last time.

The huge Cold War aircraft - which once carried Britain's nuclear deterrent - took off from Doncaster Robin Hood Airport for a short final trip after the gloomy South Yorkshire skies cleared.

The pilot at the controls of XH558, Martin Withers, led the first of the now legendary raids on the Falklands by the Vulcans in 1982 - the only time the aircraft ever dropped bombs in anger in its long RAF service.

As he prepared for the flight, Mr Withers said: "Everyone asks me what is so special about this aircraft and why people love it. Really the people who fly it are the wrong people to ask. It's such a combination of grace and beauty of just seeing this thing fly.

"Just to see it fly along, it's so graceful. And then that combines with the sense of power and manoeuvrability you've got with this aircraft and the vibrations it makes. It just seems to turn people on emotionally, they really love it."

Former pilot Angus Laird said: "I think it's very, very sad but we all come to a time when we stop flying. She's an old lady now and she's stopped at the height of her popularity, which I think is brilliant."

The XH558, which first came into RAF service in 1960, has been kept in the air by a volunteer trust since 2007.

This summer, millions of people have watched it as it has made a farewell tour of the UK before its permit-to-fly expires at the end of October.

The Vulcan To The Sky Trust, which brought the 55-year-old aircraft back to flight eight years ago, has accepted advice from supporting companies that they no longer have the expertise to keep it airworthy as engineers retire from the industry.

XH558 will stay in its Cold War hanger at Robin Hood Airport - once RAF Finningley - where the trust is planning a visitor centre and also to continue "fast taxiing" the massive bomber around the runways.

The trust had to keep details of Wednesday's final flight under wraps until the last minute as the aircraft has become such a popular attraction.

Airport officials feared news of the event could attract thousands of spectators, endangering its normal operations.

John Sharman, chairman of the trust, said: "It's a sad day but its also a day of optimism in many ways.

"Today marks the end of the beginning of this life of Vulcans because we have huge plans for the future.

"We will preserve this aeroplane for the nation in working order, if not in flying order, for the future as the centrepiece of a heritage centre."

Mr Sharman said: "She is very beautiful, she is very powerful, she is is totally unique, totally distinct. And that delta shape seems to inspire both young and old."

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