Ramblings from the AEO’s Panel – Part 1

Part of the Ramblings from the AEO's Panel series

Barry Masefield was the Air Electronics Officer (AEO) for Vulcan XH558 and had flown in this iconic aircraft for over 30 years, also being a key member of the Vulcan Display Flight (VDF), the RAF Unit which memorably flew the aircraft on the Airshow circuit until September 1992. Barry was also a member of the crew that flew XH558 into Bruntingthorpe Airfield on 23 March 1993 – her final flight in RAF service.

Fast forwarding to 18 October 2007, Barry was once again flying XH558, as a part of the crew, alongside Al McDicken and David Thomas, who made the historic First Flight from Bruntingthorpe, after the extensive restoration programme had been completed to return her to flying status. Barry had been a regular member of the Aircrew of XH558 since 2008, and had helped to thrill crowds around the country at Airshows and other events with a spectacular and memorable flying display, which has captured the hearts and minds of many thousands of spectators.  


Well here we go again. The start the 2011 display season is upon us and the aircrew are stirring from their winter hibernation to prepare for the coming flying displays. On the 24/25th February we all gathered at our navigator Andy Marson’s house for our refresher lectures on the aircraft systems. These were all delivered by David Thomas who, anyone familiar with the Vulcan will remember, was instrumental in getting 558 back into the air. Having spent 2 days refreshing us he presented us all with an Essential Knowledge questionnaire to test whether we had all being paying attention. The evening was spent in the local pub where we all dined together and welcomed our new pilot Bill Ramsey and his wife Carole to the team. Bill is a very experienced pilot who has a very interesting background including a tour as a Vulcan pilot, a short time with the Harrier force, and working with the Red Arrows. Up until last season he was the Tutor display pilot and I’m sure that those of you who are regular attendees at air shows will have seen him showing off his aircraft to its best advantage. We welcome Bill and his wife Carole to our merry band of brothers and hope that he enjoys displaying the Vulcan as much as we do. The following Monday the AEOs went down to Hinckley to meet up with Taff Stone, our Crew Chief, to carry out our own electrical circuit board training. It never ceases to surprise me that having flown the Vulcan for over 30 years I still find something that I wasn’t aware of and it confirms that flying 558 is a continual learning process.

We welcome our ‘new’ AEO Martin Andrews. Martin has been with us on the periphery for 2 years now but is now a full member of the team. Some of you may be aware that at the end of the 2011 display season I shall be bidding farewell to the Vulcan display team and Martin will be my replacement when I retire. Phil Davies will take over my position as AEO Leader. Although he has yet to complete his training on the Vulcan it is intended that Martin will fly as many times as he can throughout the season in an observer rôle with either me or Phil Davies before he then gets the tick to fly solo. Martin is a very experienced AEO and has previously flown the Victor tanker which is in some ways electrically quite similar to the Vulcan so he should have no problems in adapting to the Vulcan. We welcome both Martin and his wife Michelle to the team.

The aircrew’s next get-together is at the end of March when we continue our practical training on the Vulcan at Wellesbourne in Warwickshire. Many of you will be aware that the MaPs team at Wellesbourne have been an integral part of our training over the past decade and we are deeply grateful for their assistance in allowing us to use their aircraft for our training purposes. Each year we have to renew our qualifications on emergency procedures and under the guidance of Andy, our navigator and Flight Safety Officer, we will be carrying out various drills on how to evacuate the aircraft under emergency conditions. Once we have completed that part of our training all the aircrew will be up to speed and ready for the first display of the season.

Well, that’s about it for this time. The next time I write we will hopefully have already flown the aircraft out of RAF Lyneham to its new home base wherever that may be. I’ll recount the lead up to the first flight and any other details that may pertain to the trip.

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