How They Work
Protect & Survive
Below are a few stories which I have collected from various
ex-Vulcan crew. Each one is genuine, and shows
us that even highly trained RAF personnel can have the occasional problem too :)
It was on
an evening shift at Scampton, on 35 Squadron in August,
1979 I think. I had just come in from fixing a radio
compass problem and the chief asked me to take our
latest young LAC (Leading Aircraftman) to be posted onto
the Squadron out for his first go at marshalling at
night time. Marshalling a Vulcan can be a very
frightening task until you get used to it, and for a
young raw recruit straight from training it was
terrifying, especially at night.
I took him
out on to the perimeter track as our incoming Vulcan
landed and waited for it to taxi round. I reassured the
young lad that all would be well and I would be stood
behind him all the time. All he had to do was marshal
the Vulcan towards us and then turn the Vulcan from the
peri track onto the pan when I tapped him on the
shoulder, whereupon a more experienced liney (liney =
ground crew chappie, so called because we mostly work on
a 'line' of aircraft, known as 'the line' !!) would take
over and marshall the aircraft into position. Easy.
turned off the runway and as it came towards us I got
the lad to start waving his wands in the recognised
motion to bring the beast straight on towards us, no
problem. As the bright lights and the thunderous noise
got ever closer I eventually tapped the, by now,
terrified young lad's shoulder to start bringing our
Vulcan round. This it started to do and I could see the
lads demeanour look far more relaxed as he realised that
this monster was actually doing what he was telling it.
for long. No sooner had the huge machine started to turn
than it changed its mind and started coming straight for
us again. He stiffened as I furiously tapped his
shoulder. But he was doing nothing wrong, his signals
were correct, if a little faster than
normal.....understandably. But the Vulcan should have
been turning. It wasn't and worse, it wasn't stopping
either. As I began to realise what was happening I went
to shout to our young hero to leg it, but I was too
late. The marshalling wands had gone up in the air and
he had taken off. I saw him disappearing down the peri
track as I effected my own escape from the path of this
disobedient aircraft. I stood at the side of the peri
track helpless and watched as it taxied off the edge of
the peri track onto the grass and towards the airfield
perimeter fence. I started to run towards it, heavens
knows why, I heard the engines shut down but still it
moved across the grass and eventually ran out of energy
and came to a halt just short of one of those mini water
reservoirs that you find dotted around some airfields.
long before everybody and his dog appeared to gawp at
this errant Vulcan and to try to establish what had
happened. It had apparently suffered some catastrophic
steering failure and had virtually no brake pressure
either. It had started to steer round the corner and
then the fault happened, by the time the pilot realised
there was a real problem he was on the grass and his
brakes, already low on pressure were not much use either
in the wet conditions, so he shut the engines down and
hoped for the best. We managed to get it off the grass
and back on to the squadron apron reasonably quickly and
were just getting ready to go to supper when we realised
our young new chap was not around! Oh dear, big search
nowhere in the squadron buildings or the apron area. So
everybody grabbed every available vehicle and started
looking. He was eventually found crouched in a corner
down by the ops building half a mile away, trembling and
mumbling to himself, totally convinced that he had
somehow boobooed big time and would spend the rest of
his life paying for a new aeroplane !!. Our flight
sergeant decided he should be taken to the bowling alley
bar and 'loosened up', no shortage of volunteers there.
eventually got over it and realised it was not his fault
and carried on to have a normal career as far as I know,
but what a thing to happen on your first go at night
marshalling one of our esteemed Queens of the Sky !!
It was our
rather embarrassed squadron commander (Name censored for
obvious reasons!) landing back at Scampton one evening
in 1980 and nobody could find his brake parachute after
he taxied in.
parachute panel was open, so it had been used, but it
was not on the runway where it would normally have been
jettisoned soon after landing. At the debriefing the
true story came out.
intrepid wing co had somehow operated the wrong switch
at about 30 odd thousand feet over Devon and the Vulcan
tried to come to a complete stop in the sky.
Not a good idea.
realised they had erroneously deployed the brake
parachute and jettisoned it quickly. It was found by a
farmer in his yard the next day and was returned.
took some stick for a long time over that
I can tell you !!
Below is a story which describes the last moments of Vulcan
Final Flight of XM645
provides a brief description about the final flight of
XM645 (number IX Squadron, based at Waddington). On the
14th day of October 1975 at about 13:10 local time
(12:10 GMT) this aircraft was approaching to land at RAF
Luqa MALTA, and somehow at touchdown one of its
undercarriages collapsed, and it overshot to do another
circuit for an emergency landing on foamed runway, but
over Poala village, I saw two parachutes, and a few
seconds later the XM645 turned into a fireball.
the main part of the fuselage and wing fell in a field,
a wing aileron fell on the roof of Zabbar Primary
School, and another part in the main street of Zabbar
village. The windows, doors and parked cars in the main
street all were burnt by the aircraft's fuel.
the pilot and co-pilot ejected the other crew members
sadly lost their lives. On the ground one civilian woman
of the XM645 which survived; are the undercarriage which
was left on the runway and the cockpit canopy, a part of
the wreckage of the fin (tail), the original badges of
Lincoln (White with the red Cross) and the Green Bat of
the IX Squadron. A deformed undercarriage door (the one
which is fixed to the undercarriage hydraulic stem), and
a few other pieces of instrumentation which are all now
preserved at Zabbar Parish Church Museum.
donated by Albert Sacco,
edited by G. Bartlett.
Vertical Take Off Vulcan!
As an RAF
policeman at Waddington back in the early sixties my
memories of the big white beasts were not always
pleasant. I spent what seemed the coldest winter of my
life, especially on the night shifts, babysitting
sometimes four at a time. We used to count the rivets
under the wings just to get rid of a few minutes to get
nearer to that magic moment when the shift change Land
Rover appeared through the fog. One never to be forgotten moment occurred one Sunday afternoon as
I stood on a dispersal at the end of the runway a
solitary Vulcan taxied to the far end of the runway and
then began its take off. When it reached the end of the
runway, and me, it somehow changed an inclined take off
into an almost vertical one and I had the full benefit
of the four Avro engines bearing down on me for what
seemed forever. What wags those aircrew could be
donated by M Lester.
joined 230 OCU at RAF Scampton in 1970 my first task was
to be trained to see off and see in the aircraft. The
see off is accompanied by learning how to operate the
palouste which is basically a small jet engine that
provides air to start the aircraft engines. As was usual
for a new boy the combustion chamber had been primed
with fuel by dry cranking the palouste just before I was
due to use it. At this point it might be worth adding
that the old sweats that had set me up had not been too
careful when parking the palouste. So there I was next
to the mighty Vulcan about to do my first start and see
off, the crew chief signalled me to start the palouste
which I duly did, at this point the pre-primed fuel in
the combustion chamber ignited and as the exhaust is
directed upward about 6 feet of flame shot out of the
exhaust. I immediately hit the emergency stop button and
before the turbine had stopped had ran as fast as I
could back to the line hut. When they found me and told
me that it was ok that I had not done anything wrong or
set the aircraft on fire, I was persuaded to go back out
and start again, it was at this point that a rather
disgruntled crew chief pointed out the wing leading edge
paint had turned a light brown colour where it had been
singed a bit. Still other than making sure the palouste
was parked properly, the priming of the combustion
chamber continued as an initiation rite for new
donated by Mick Haines
Turned Out The Lights?
see off initiation rite was for the benefit of the
trainee aircrew. When external power was applied to the
aircraft and the new aircrew had got most of the
equipment turned on and running but just prior to the
engine start, the crew chief would give a hand signal
for the man stood next to the external power lead where
it attaches to the aircraft who would just pull the plug
out. The effect sometimes was quite amusing, this
included the evacuation of the aircrew from the aircraft
who then proceeded to run in all directions, to a head
popping out of the entrance door with comments similar
to "very funny, now plug it back in and let's try again
donated by Mick Haines
incident was during the Cold War in the 1960's when the
'Nuclear Clock' reached five minutes to midnight. Vulcan
and Handley Page Victor nuclear bombers were disbursed
around the country and one of the locations was just
outside of our office at Filton, Bristol, where I worked
for Bristol Siddeley Engines. During the lunch break my
buddies and I would walk out to the perimeter track and
watch. Two Vulcans, fully fuelled and fully armed sat on
the edge of the runway, crew on board and the ground APU
running. This was 'four minute standby.' The aircraft
had four minutes to leap into the air once an incoming
missile had been detected. When we watched the bombers
roll down the runway and roar off into the sky we did
not know where they were going.
Back to base - or a one way ride to Moscow?
Four minutes - not enough time to boil a kettle for
Siddeley (later to become Rolls Royce), made the Olympus
593, the engines for Concorde. During the development
phase Bristol's acquired an old Vulcan to act as a
flying test bed. The 593 was fitted into the copious
bomb bay with the fairing around it giving minimal
ground clearance. I was a test observer and did many of
the development tests on RR's experimental engines. One
day we had a Viper on test that was not behaving itself
and I suspected that it may be something to do with the
HS 125, the aircraft that used the Viper in those days.
RR had a 125 as a run around aircraft (a flying taxi
service), and I knew that the 125 was in the flight
shed. I wandered over and there and, in the middle of
the shed, was - a Vulcan. I stood underneath of this
thing and it loomed above me on its jacks. What a
'plane! As I said, Bristol Siddeley used the Vulcan for
flight test of the Olympus 593 for Concorde and I was
standing in the bomb bay, in the way of the fitters! I
was not popular at that moment.
aircraft mentioned above was the second Vulcan, the
first came to a pyrotechnic end. On that day, the
aircraft was parked at the end of the runway (this
runway at the time was one of the longest in the UK
having been specifically laid down to accommodate the
massive Bristol Brabazon), fuelled up and just doing the
final engine tests that precede any testing. It seemed
that one of the 593's turbine wheels got tired of being
hot and bothered and decided to leave. It shot out
through the containment shield - a big no-no, hit the
runway spinning like a circular saw, bounced upwards
through the Vulcans fuel tanks and shot off to land
about a half a mile away. The fuel in the tanks,
witnessing this sudden change to the usual placid state
also became agitated and burst into flame, deluging out
of the hole in the tank. By now the crew were tumbling
out of the aircraft and running hell for leather in all
directions. The burning fuel ran across the concrete and
greeted the fire engine standing by with great
enthusiasm, persuading it to join in the conflagration.
Result? One Vulcan - lost, one 593 - lost, one fire
engine - lost and lots of embarrassment all round.
donated by Pete Noyle.
in an RAF Vulcan for three or four hours on a
day/night in the summer of, I think, 1975. The crew
were as follows: S/Ldr John Prideaux (Captain) F/O
Ewan Alexander (co-pilot), S/Ldr Dave Beeden (AEO),
F/Lts Stan Lambert and Tony Pullman (Navs).
We did a high-level transit up to the north of
Scotland and returned at low-level (250 feet)
the NATO low-flying area just west of RAF Leuchars
fife, Scotland. I remember clearly watching as John
coaxed Ewan through an asymmetric approach to
an RAF airfield on the way south.
We did at least one "touch-and-go".
It was a clear night, and I particularly remember
from high altitude we could see both coasts of the
and all the lights of various cities over which we
They were a terrific crew, although I only spent
one trip with them, followed by a lengthy session of
beers at Waddington officer's mess shortly
I was very saddened when their aircraft crashed a
months later in Malta, killing all on board except
the pilots, who ejected as the Vulcan climbed away
full power after having made a heavy landing at Luqa.
I just wanted people to know that
Stan, Tony and Dave are not forgotten.
Received from Ian Black.
If you were fortunate enough to
work along side the Vulcan, and have any memories which you'd
like to share on this page,
please e-mail me.
All published articles will receive relevant credit.