Ramblings from the AEO’s Panel – Part 4

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.

Since I wrote my last blog XH558 has been very busy. She successfully flew the first display of the season at the Abingdon air show on the 8th May. I wasn’t flying that day though; the AEO for that trip was Phil Davies.

Funding will always be a matter of concern but I feel very confident that the public realise the importance of XH558 and that they will once again ride to our rescue to ensure the long-term viability of the Vulcan. As always we cannot thank enough the public who donate their hard-earned cash but I can assure you all that it is much appreciated by all of us who are involved with XH558. Thank you each and all. As I write this we have just completed a very busy weekend with an air show at Southend and a static display at Bruntingthorpe. The weather conditions at Southend weren’t very good but fortunately were within the limits set down for us to display the aircraft. Feedback I’ve had from those who were at the air show says that we looked spectacular against the threatening skies and, as is now becoming the norm, we stole the show. After the display on the seafront we flew the few miles north to Southend airport to overfly the Vulcan, XL426, based there. Some of you may recall that XL426 was our sister aircraft on the Vulcan Display Flight back in the 80’s before she was sold off by the MOD and she is lovingly being looked after by the enthusiasts down there in Essex.

After our work in the Southend area was complete we set course for Bruntingthorpe where XH 558 was going to be used as a static aircraft at the Bruntingthorpe Cold War Jets show the following day. I’m told that the gate numbers increased markedly once the public had been told that the Vulcan was going to be on the ground at Bruntingthorpe. We experienced that at first hand on the Sunday morning when trying to get into the airfield. We spent nearly half an hour in traffic travelling at a snail’s pace on the narrow country roads before we managed to get to the entrance gate.

The day seemed to be a great success for David Walton, the owner of Bruntingthorpe and the original owner of XH558 after she was sold off by the MOD, and despite the weather being very windy and overcast the crowd thoroughly enjoyed watching all the various aircraft he has in his Cold War Jets aircraft museum start up and fast taxi down the runway. We had a very enjoyable day in the VTTS tent signing books and other paraphernalia and having a chance to meet up with our ever faithful public. It’s so nice to see so many familiar faces who show such loyalty to our Vulcan. We were the last event of the day and were programmed to take off at about 5.30pm.

Although all the museum aircraft had finished their taxiing displays sometime before we were due to leave there was no sign of the crowd diminishing. None of them were going to leave knowing that the Vulcan was going to get airborne. As the afternoon drew to a close and our departure time approached, we briefed our2 sortie in the VTTS tent. The sortie was to be a re-introduction to the Vulcan for the newest of our pilot fraternity, Bill Ramsay. Those of you who read my 1st blog some months ago will recall that Bill is a very experienced display pilot having been the RAF Grob Tutor display pilot up until last year. He had previously been a Vulcan pilot some number of years ago and had also been associated with the Red Arrows as their team manager.

The ultimate purpose of the trip was to transit back to Doncaster but on the way we were going to try and find an airfield which would accept us on a Sunday afternoon for Bill to do some circuit flying training. In days past we would have used a convenient RAF airfield en-route for this but nowadays most of them are closed at weekends so we have no option but to use civil airfields. This can possibly present a few financial problems because civil airfields can and sometime do charge us for using their facilities therefore before we commit ourselves to going to a civil airfield we have to try and sweet-talk them into not charging us.

Fortunately Leicester airport said that they would be more than happy to take us at no cost so the plan was to go there immediately after take-off and use their runway for a couple of circuits and approaches. Kevin Rumens, who now had the title of Training Captain after his successful check- trip with Martin Withers some number of weeks earlier, was going to supervise Bill on his handling of the aircraft. Everything went well and it wasn’t long before Bill was becoming really au fait with the aircraft. Once the circuit flying at Leicester was complete we set course to Doncaster.

Unfortunately the rules of Robin Hood airport state that there are to be no training circuits on Sundays or Bank Holidays so we weren’t allowed to do any pre-planned circuit training. They allowed us to fly around the circuit once to allow Bill to see what the local area looked like from the air and then we had to land. It was a good flight, albeit a short one of 45 minutes, but sufficient to allow Bill to re-familiarise himself with the Vulcan and successfully set him up for many more flights with XH558 in the future. It had been a good weekend.

We had had positive feedback from both Southend and from Bruntingthorpe and so once again XH558 had done her job to thrill and excite thousands of spectators. Her next display will take her ‘overseas’ to the Isle of Man on Friday 10th June followed by a visit to the Midlands for the RAF Cosford show on Sunday 12th June. That weekend will be a significant one for us AEOs; our new AEO to the fold, Martin Andrews, will be taking his first couple of flights in the Vulcan as part of his ongoing training programme. When Martin has completed his conversion course to the Vulcan he will then take over from me after I retire at the end of the display season.

That’s all from the AEO’s panel this time.

Happy landings.

Barry

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