AVRO 698 - THE BIG DELTA
Today, right now in fact, the Royal Air Force has fighter jets fully armed, with their avionics powered up and their engines ready to be ignited. Their pilots are sitting in rooms beside the aircraft hangers fully suited up and ready to be strapped into their aircraft. It is called Quick Reaction Alert and they are there to defend United Kingdom airspace. There was a time in the 1950s and 1960s when our bomber force also stood ready to take off at a moment's notice carrying nuclear bombs in the Cold War standoff known as Mutually Assured Destruction.
Today those bomber aircraft, the Vickers Valiant, the Handley Page Victor and the Avro Vulcan, and their weapons, including the Blue Steel stand-off bomb and the WE177 free-fall nuclear bomb, have been consigned to history.
They did their job by simply being there, the alternative was too horrendous to contemplate, until the day came when they were no longer needed, finally replaced by more modern technology and the eventual end of the Cold War. Today a few of these enormous aircraft remain in the trust of aviation museums. The lucky ones are inside in the dry while the less fortunate remain outside, loved but slowly beginning to rust away in the rain, never to feel air under their wheels again.
Except for one, a Vulcan. Her military registration number is XH558 and she is being brought back to life. She was the last ever Vulcan to fly as part of the Vulcan Display Flight and at her last public display at Cranfield on 20 September 1992 she had “Farewell” taped to the inside of her bomb bay doors. On 23 Mar 1993, almost 9 years to the day when the RAF Vulcan fleet had been retired, she was flown to Bruntingthorpe and she is still there - but hopefully not for much longer. This V-bomber will fly again.