Former engineer and Vulcan tour guide Steve Ware has always been fascinated by the world of aviation, and more so with one aircraft in particular – the Vulcan XH558. Here he tells us why volunteering to share the story of this iconic feat of engineering with fans is so rewarding.
My father was convinced that I was interested in aircraft because I spent a lot of time in my pram under the flight path of RAF Valley back in the late 50s. I’ve always been very interested in aviation and as a kid, I read all the Biggles books, made models and worked hard at school and college because I wanted to go in the RAF. Sadly, I developed migraines when I was at university so that put an end to that. But it didn’t stop me loving all things aviation and aircraft. I went on to have a long and very interesting career in power electronics and engineering, and in later years, a lot of marketing and running companies within that role.
I live in Melton Mowbray, about 60 miles from the jet, and I’ve always had a soft spot for the Vulcan from way back. I have done quite a bit of flying myself and owned a glider up until a few years ago so that was an adventure into the sky for me. I supported the return of the flight of the Vulcan from very early on, and once I realised it was a very serious campaign to get her flying again, I became a financial donor. I followed it closely and joined the very first Vulcan to the Sky club.
I saw the first flight of the Vulcan into Bruntingthorpe, the first post-restoration flight at the same place and the final flight in 2015, so I’m very fortunate to have witnessed those moments in history.
When she arrived up in Doncaster, the Trust put out a call for volunteers and that stage it was mainly for shop that had opened in the terminal building, but also to build a core bunch of people who could help organise things with her being more accessible than she’d been in the previous years.
So, I answered that call. I put my knowledge of the Vulcan and my ability to talk on my feet to use to become one of the first tour guides in hangar three. I find it immensely rewarding, talking to people, telling the Vulcan story and sharing my enthusiasm. Most of the people who come to see the Vulcan are enthusiasts anyway, so you have an attentive audience to begin with, but I’ve always found the fun bit was targeting the people that were there under duress! My task was to make it interesting for them and have them leave the hangar knowing an awful lot more and understanding what it was all about. It always is a thrill.
How do I know so much about it? Well, I’ve always had a passion for aviation, the basics of flight and various types of aircraft and how they work, so that was already there. The rest of it I’ve picked up by reading, listening and talking to people. I’ve got this innate ability to store Vulcan facts even though I’ve been trying to learn the guitar for eight years now and not managed that! But I can tell you anything you want to know about the Vulcan.
The aircraft itself I find fascinating because it was so far ahead of its time, utilising systems and technology that are still in use today. What I also try to tell the youngsters on the tours or talks I give is that the whole aircraft – every single part of it – someone drew by hand. There was no computer aided design and the calculations were done with slide rules and log tables. The computers in those days were virtually non-existent, certainly for design work, and there were so many firsts on the jet. Going away from the technology, she was just the most beautiful aeroplane. You cannot fail to see a Vulcan and not be impressed. It’s also quite interesting that a lot of the fans of the Vulcan are ladies. I’ve noticed that many times on the tours. They just find her a beautiful aeroplane and a beautiful thing.
It is still amazing that there is an awful lot of people in the Doncaster area that don’t know she’s there.
I would say that one of the nicest things about being a volunteer is that because I was one of the original volunteers and tour guides, most of the people that are now tour guides and volunteers have had exposure to my enthusiasm and my knowledge. I know that several came on board because they just thought the concept of being a tour guide was great. We’re a good team. We have a good laugh and we’re all passionate about what we’re doing there, so there’s a common interest.
I think it’s important to inspire the next generation about aviation because a long time ago, I was that next generation. Aeroplanes inspired me at a very early age to work hard at school and college, to get me into the RAF and take me into university to do an engineering degree during a time when 8 per cent of the population went to university. I was inspired by aviation early on, so I want to expose future engineers, technologists and scientists that come and see the jet and get them to realise that we can still do engineering. It’s a great feeling and I always say if I can inspire one youngster to go and become an engineer, whether it be electrical or aviation or any kind, then I’ve done my job. We’re so short of engineering skills in this country now.
My youngest son is actually one of the engineering volunteers on the team. We do airshows together and have done for many years, and he was in the Air Training Corps. My eldest son is also an army officer and is very interested in aviation and anything to do with it. My boys have a saying – don’t mention the V word to dad!