When Sam Scrimshaw visited Waddington Airshow in 2013 little did he know that one of the aircraft on display would catch his attention in a way that meant that he’d dedicate so much of his free time to supporting it. Here he shares his XH558 story.
We went to Waddington Airshow as a family trip and that is where I first saw the Avro Vulcan XH558 up close. She was on the ground and the team were giving tours underneath her.
Talking to the team who showed us around really piqued my interest and one of them, a lady called Elaine, said that if I was interested in the aircraft, they would really love to have some young volunteers.
I was 15 at the time and had wanted to be a pilot for a long time, that hasn’t happened yet, but never say never!
We knew she was at Doncaster and as we lived locally, we had been to see her take off a few times.
In August 2013 I was proud to go to the hangar and help out. I did everything from making cups of tea to helping in the hangar and eventually I started doing some of the tours myself.
It took me just 12 months from seeing XH558 at Waddington and taking part in a tour to the Yeovilton airshow when I was doing the tours. It was great to see the progression in a year from knowing not a lot about the aircraft to being able to answer all the questions.
It was the inspiring story of XH558 that made her stand out to me at that first airshow. There was lots of modern stuff, but the Vulcan stood out because it was different and there was such a fascinating story behind it, the restoration, and the drive of the people.
I felt so lucky that she was at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and it only took me five/ ten minutes to get to her.
In the hangar visitors flocked and we did lots of tours. We had public tours that were for up to 60 people and smaller VIP groups that were much more personal. For the VIPs you could really tailor it to the audience and their experience.
It has been a great experience and through the tours I’ve met ex pilots, ex crew who all had their own story to tell. The easiest tours were when you had ex crew members as they’d often bring their families, and you’d throw out a fact and they’d weave it into their story.
Since XH558 left the hangar, I’ve been part of the engineering team and together we look after the Vulcan for ground runs and taxying, so from building up my knowledge and sharing the stories of this magnificent plane I’m now able to get hands on and help with her maintenance. It is nice to have gone full circle.
As I said, I would love to get a pilot’s license at some point, as I’ve always wanted to do this. My day job sees me working at RAF Coningsby working in aircraft engineering. The difference in my day job and my volunteering is that at work they tell you what’s wrong .and what needs fixing, with the Vulcan there is nothing saying this is what is wrong, you have to work it out step by step, that is where the teamwork and the experience really comes in and it’s nice to have that exploratory side.
I’m 23 so I never got to see XH558 fly with the air force, when she came to Doncaster, I could see her flying over my school. I remember seeing her on one of the last flights of 2014 she took off low and banked round. You don’t forget something like that.
I’m lucky to have seen her at airshows around the country and I travelled to where she was going to be to give up my time to help to share her story.
It’s thanks to XH558 that I ended up in the career I’m in. In 2015 I applied for an apprenticeship with BAE systems and got a place in Doncaster, before I started BAE moved to Humberside, I thought I’d be working in the same hangar XH558 was in but ended up in Humberside. My involvement with the Vulcan made me aware of the apprenticeship and the rest is history.
I am now really looking forward to the plans for the new hangar. The Green Technology Hub will be a vital part of this. The aviation industry has challenged because of fossil fuels so introducing the public to ideas about green technology in the industry will be a great first step. There is nothing like it out there at the minute.