Vulcan XH558 had been the star of the RAF’s Vulcan Display Flight (VDF) for six years, from May 1986 to September 1992, but as a result of budget cuts the MoD decided to discontinue the VDF. She made her last flight in RAF service on 23 March 1993, when she landed at Bruntingthorpe Airfield and was handed over to her new private owner, C. Walton Ltd. Vulcan XH558 was the first Vulcan B.2 to enter RAF service and after nearly 33 years she was the last to leave service. The world thought it had seen the last flight of a Vulcan.
In 1997, four years after what was believed to be XH558’s final ever landing, with David Walton’s support, Dr Robert Pleming formed a team of specialists to investigate whether a return to airworthiness for XH558 was feasible.
October 2007 was full of anticipation in the aviation world. After over ten years of planning and persuading, Robert and his team were about to complete the mission to return Vulcan XH558 to flight.
On 12 October XH558 took her first steps after restoration.
On 18 October 2007, the amazing feat of returning Vulcan XH558 to the skies of Great Britain was completed.
Acknowledgment of the achievement came from the National Transport Trust. The 2007 Preservationist of the Year Award was presented by Prince Michael of Kent to Dr Robert Pleming for “leading the Trust in its efforts to return the last potentially airworthy Vulcan to the air”.
VTST later won the Worshipful Company of Engineers ‘Heritage Engineering Award’ for 2008, for “a significant contribution to the understanding and development of engineering through the interpretation of historical sites or processes.” They went on to note that “The aircraft is the first ‘complex’ one to be returned to the Civil Aviation register (G-VCLN) and this represents a huge technical achievement by the dedicated team under Dr Robert Pleming, the CEO VTST”, further noting that “Display flights will be a spectacular example of British design and engineering excellence in the air and will be supplemented by a ground education programme aimed to illustrate the historical ‘Cold War’ context of the Vulcan’s period of service.”
On 3 July 2008, Vulcan XH558 received her Permit to Fly from the Civil Aviation Authority. Two days later, she made her long awaited return to airshows, flying her first display for an enthralled public at the RAF Waddington Airshow. An estimated 3.8 million people saw her fly that summer, proving herself as “a spectacular example of British design and engineering excellence in the air”.