In November I attended the first night shoot with Vulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne airfield organised by Neil Cave’s team at Timeline Events. Avro Vulcan XM655 was third from last of the Vulcan bombers produced for the Royal Air Force, being delivered in late 1964, and was part of the UK’s nuclear deterrent force throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It is now owned by Wellesbourne Airfield and is looked after by 655 Maintenance and Preservation Society (655MaPS) which is a volunteer organisation of Vulcan enthusiasts.
The volunteers from 655MaPS had done a fantastic job preparing XM655, setting up tents and facilities for the evening. The Vulcan was positioned at the end of the airfield and re-enacters replayed the dark days of the cold war when these bombers stood on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA) armed with nuclear bombs.
The light was very flat with a grey sky throughout so the daytime images were very disappointing. It could have been worse as I’d travelled an hour and a half though fog luckily just cleared by the time I reached the Warwickshire airfield. As the sun went down and the lights turned on the aircraft really came to life. The cameo’s continued and the photographers had access to three aerial platforms, two lower ones to the left hand side of the aircraft and the largest directly in front of the aircraft giving a fantasic vista of the aircraft and surrounding country side. Well worth the rather scary 40ft climb and even worse decent up a vertical ladder in the dark carrying camera and tripod.
Hot food and drinks were on offer throughout the night from a very welcome catering tent as airman and ground crew in period outfits prepared and armed the Vulcan for her next ‘mission’. Once she was armed and crewed her Auxiliary Power Unit was fired up and her navigation, anti collision and landing lights switched on for a unique QRA, ready to roll shot.
XM655 is one of the few Vulcans remaining in ground running condition, the only one with the most powerful of the engine variants (Bristol Olympus 301s) and XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society‘s aim to keep it running for as long as possible. The aircraft systems are powered up and exercised regularly, engine ground runs are carried out several times every year, and a “Fast Taxi” event is carried out every summer to show off the aircraft and raise funds to support its preservation.