Vulcan Delivery Diary 03
Changed Views – January 1983
By Howard Heeley
Nearly forty years ago on 7 February 1983, Vulcan XM594 landed at Winthorpe Airfield in eastern Nottinghamshire. When it safely touched down it became the only Vulcan to be flown into a non-licensed airfield in the UK.
This is the second part of an abridged version of an article, which describes
the acquisition process, that was originally published in an edition of
Aviation News that year.
The New Year brought new hope when the first light was glimpsed at the end of what soon became a rapidly shortening tunnel. The national press were detailing impending deliveries of Vulcans to a number of other preservation groups when we received a telephone call setting a new train of events in motion.
The RAF crew responsible for delivering the eight Vulcans earmarked for preservation arranged to visit Winthorpe to make an inspection of the runway. They walked the runway to review the situation and this identified some minor problems:
- A few holes in the tarmac surface at the western threshold;
- A set of fence posts to be removed;
- Removal of the loose grit and stones that covered most of the runway surface;
- There was also the need for a 10 knot easterly headwind for the aircraft to land into, but if not a 10 - 15 knot north - easterly or even a south - easterly would do BUT under no circumstances would a westerly wind be acceptable;
- The problem of getting the aircraft across to its new home was also identified as a major problem, so much so the RAF even suggested delaying the delivery until the summer to wait for harder ground.
That having been said they indicated that they intended to inform the Mod that they were prepared to deliver a Vulcan to Winthorpe. From subsequent conversations with the aircrew one of the key reasons why the Museum should get a Vulcan was their wish that to keep a Vulcan in the local area for the public to have easy access to.
Even now we had not actually been offered a Vulcan, so everyone was still uncertain of the position and we only dared hope that an offer would be received. This came in a brief telephone call on Wednesday 12 January at about 5 pm, when the Mod indicated that it had changed its view and asked Stuart Stephenson if he was still interested in buying a Vulcan. He kindly agreed and the cheque was in the post the same evening.
"This is where the fun started!" The problems identified by the RAF were still there and a considerable amount of work had to be completed. However, there was a big unknown in the delivery date, which could have been any time and with minimal notice.
The only thing that seemed fairly certain was that it would be before the end of January. The RAF advised that once the conditions are right, delivery would whilst they hoped to give us at least a day's notice, this could diminish to a couple of hours if necessary. Everyone was kept on a relative state of alert but all that could be done on this aspect of the project was wait.
Footnote: Since the original article was written, we have now found out that Stuart Stephenson visited RAF Waddington accompanied by a film crew from Yorkshire Television as the RAF allowed him to select ‘his Vulcan’ – he chose XM594.