Frequently Asked Questions

We love to hear your comments, and try to answer as many questions as we can. It is important that the supporters of Vulcan XH558 understand the reasoning behind our decisions, so have put together answers to some of our more common questions.​

Operation Safeguard

When VTST first began to seek funding for our new hangar build in 2018, a third-party private investor, known to one of the Trustees, came forward and advised that he had sufficient funds available. We entered negotiations in good faith and, as a charity, then attempted a thorough due-diligence check. After over year in negotiations, no credible evidence was forthcoming that the funds existed, giving rise in March 2019 to a complete loss of confidence in the investor on the behalf of VTST. The Trust then engaged in discussions with commercial investors for the full build costs, which foundered over the contractual constraints imposed due to the location of the hangar at DSA, perceived financial risks and rates of return, and the duration of the contract out to 2085. More recently, the Trust has sought to construct a financing solution based on a mortgage plus equity raised though sponsorship, public donations and grants. It is this solution which the Trust now believes will bring success. Sadly, costs have inevitably increased over this period.

No, the mortgage solution does not place the Trust at any greater risk than any other funding solution. The mortgage is part of a funding package that will pay for the build and fit=-out of the hangar. The business plan that supports the mortgage that has been stress tested given the likely impact of Covid 19 on visitor attractions. Our visitor number assumptions were always conservative and the mortgage offer will reflect confidence in our planning.

The Vulcan Experience in the new hangar is a unique and exciting attraction that will tell the definitive story of XH558 and her return to flight. Included will be a rare and exclusive hi-definition video wall of her in flight. The Trust will tell the story of the V-Force and construct a long-overdue national V-Force Memorial.


As a unique part of the overall ‘Vulcan Experience’, the exciting and interactive Green Technology Hub (GTH) will inform and educate the public about the causes of climate change, especially those arising from aviation, and what engineers are doing to devise new solutions to reduce and eliminate these causes.


Youngsters will be inspired by what they see and understand in the GTH and will be encouraged to contribute to solving the climate challenge by following careers in aviation, engineering and technology. They will leave knowing that the route to these careers is through choosing the right science, technology, engineering and mathematic subjects at GCSE.


In other words, “Honouring the Past; Inspiring the Future”

The Hangar

As a charity, the Trust will be delivering educational public benefits in the areas of cold War history, and specifically the Avro Vulcan and XH558, but also through the education of the public on the causes of climate change, especially by aviation, and what is being done to mitigate it. The Trust’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Vulcan to the Sky Enterprises Ltd, will continue to be the commercial vehicle for the Trust.

We are, as ever, working closely with DSA and can foresee no problems. Peel Airports, owners of DSA, have publicly confirmed their long-term commitment to the airport.

It has been agreed with the Airport that the Trust will hold a 70 year lease on the land upon which the new hangar is being built.

The airport has consistently made it clear that it welcomes XH558 and VTST and recognises that there are positives for both sides. It has made a commitment to support the new hangar by purchasing the required land for that specific purpose and by providing access to the aircraft for our staff and volunteers.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport have said; “Housing the Vulcan, a prestigious piece of British aerospace engineering, is an honour for Doncaster Sheffield Airport.  We have long been supportive of their vision to meet the important objective of inspiring future generations to engineering and aviation all from a dedicated tourist centre that fully meets their needs.  As we have for many years, we are deeply committed to working with the trust to realise this goal and to working with them, this remains unchanged and of sincere importance to us.”

The Trust

As a charity, the Trust will be delivering educational public benefits in the areas of cold War history, and specifically the Avro Vulcan and XH558, but also through the education of the public on the causes of climate change, especially by aviation, and what is being done to mitigate it. The Trust’s wholly-owned subsidiary, Vulcan to the Sky Enterprises Ltd, will continue to be the commercial vehicle for the Trust.

The Trust has a unique contractual obligation in the heritage jet world: it is responsible for giving XH558 the best chance it can of being an operational heritage asset until at least 2085. There are other successful ground taxying operations of similar aircraft, for example the Cold War collection at Bruntingthorpe. However it is understood that Vulcan XM655 at Wellesbourne and the collections at Elvington are no longer permitted to taxi on the runway due to airfield-imposed restrictions. Our obligation for a considerably long time period meant we thought it vital to look for a location where the runway is an intrinsic part of the business, and where there is no other Vulcan in residence. Many private airfields are at risk of development, so we could easily have landed in somewhere only to see the runway built on in a few years. It also opened up the possibility of piggybacking onto other revenue earning aviation projects, such as MRO (Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul) training, that would cut down in the funding required to keep her safe. There is huge potential at Doncaster Sheffield Airport for that to happen and it forms the basis of our long term vision.


A second reason for looking for a location with an operational runway was the ease of operating other heritage aircraft and of inviting guest heritage aircraft to visit, which are also key to our plan for XH558’s future security and funding. The Trust had experience in conducting display flights from Bruntingthorpe, Brize Norton and Lyneham prior to moving to Doncaster; it was clear that it was much more practical and convenient to use an operational civilian airport than either a non-operational runway requiring special fire cover or a military base with its security implications.


The third reason is that RAF Finningley, which became Doncaster Sheffield Airport, was a V-bomber base, was home to XH558 from 1961 to 1968, and was the only RAF station to operate all three V-bombers. Local support for XH558 is a significant factor.

As a commercial airport with excellent road connections and a committed long- term future, Doncaster Sheffield Airport was an obvious selection as the home for XH558. DSA not only wanted to have the Vulcan there but also has a top-quality runway with emergency support so we can taxi XH558 for her supporters to see.


Being family-owned, the Bruntingthorpe airfield site was seen as vulnerable in the longer term, and this has recently been demonstrated to be the case. In agreement with all who have passion for historic jet aircraft, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust is very sad to see the potential loss of some of the important British jet aircraft located there.

The Trust maintains regular contact with the HLF as part of its contract and they are aware of the current situation. The HLF remains strongly supportive of the Trust’s plans. We maintain communication at several levels and in due course we expect to use the expertise developed with XH558 to prepare a bid for funding to return Canberra WK163 to flight.

No, but it is recognised that the aircraft is best kept in a hangar. During its display flying career with VTST, it was essential that XH558 had a permanent hangar maintenance base in order to maintain the CAA conditions for the Permit to Fly; in turn the HLF contract required us to have the Permit to Fly, so one implied the other. The HLF contract itself requires that VTST keeps the aircraft in full working order and properly hangared, as far as is practicable. This wording reflects the fact that the aircraft does not need to be kept inside to be in good condition, while at the same time over an eighty year contract, it could be anticipated that there may be periods where this may not be possible. The wording of the contract itself is clearly tailored to the time when XH558 was airworthy and flying and it may be that in the future both parties would seek to amend it to better reflect XH558’s grounded condition. None of this changes the fact that XH558 is better off inside in the long term, and that is what we are working towards.

The HLF contract makes it clear that if the aircraft is sold or if other conditions are not met, then VTST would be liable to pay back a share of the value of the project. As of October 2016, that value was £427,000. However, another of the clauses of the contract makes it clear that VTST cannot themselves seek to end the relationship with the HLF. Sensibly, this guards against the possibility that the Trust would have simply have fulfilled its flying aspirations and considered the rest of the contract unimportant. The Trust understands that it has a responsibility, both to its own and any future HLF heritage aviation projects, to do all it can to fulfil the aims of agreed prior to the Vulcan’s restoration.

Both Vulcan XH558 and Canberra WK163 are being looked after as required by our former Chief Engineer Taff Stone and a team of volunteers. He knows that he has the full support of the Trust in terms of any resources that he may need (unfortunately of course, not including a hangar in the short term). XH558 is obviously fully operational and is therefore subject to a documented anti-deterioration schedule, with activities taking place roughly every two weeks. Taff is best placed to discuss the progress of this work and will be doing so. It should be noted that both the Vulcan and the Canberra were expected to spend much of their service lives outside.

XH558

High power runs on the runway at Doncaster are a well-understood central piece of our proposal for future operations at the airport, prior to the decision being made on the post flight base. The airport quite reasonably needs to know that the Vulcan is maintained in a manner that means she is safe to operate on an active runway. Whilst the aircraft was flying, this assurance was available in the form of the Permit to Fly. Now XH558 is grounded, the assurance is provided in the form of a new series of agreed risk assessments and method statements, each of which has had to be developed based on XH558’s maintenance and operating procedures. In the meantime, we will be able to carry our high power engine runs, as we have been doing recently.

Vulcan XH558 flew as a Complex category ex-military aircraft through a Permit to Fly (PtF) from the Civil Aviation Authority. Although other structures outside of the CAA have been proposed, this was the only legal basis for a UK-based and civilian-registered Vulcan to fly. Under the terms of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) contract, the aircraft was required to remain UK-based and registered, for the very good reason that it was funded by the HLF for the benefit of the people of the United Kingdom. A condition of the Complex category is that the aircraft’s original manufacturers are contracted to provide ongoing airworthiness design support. By 2015, their input was very limited as the engineering capability of the Trust had developed, however their support remained a legal requirement. The acknowledged reason for this is that in the case of a serious incident, the CAA wanted the OEMs to shoulder the airworthiness responsibility. Unfortunately, at the start of the display season the OEMs notified the Trust that this support was to be withdrawn at the end of that year, as they felt that they could not find people with sufficient expertise to help. Despite the best efforts of the Trust to address this, in the end we very reluctantly had to accept that we could not change their minds, so we concentrated on putting on the best farewell season that we could.

Operating the Vulcan in the UK on anything other than a CAA permit would have been illegal. Although it has been proposed that the aircraft could be reclassified from ‘Complex’ to ‘Intermediate’, it was the judgement of the Trust that this would not be possible, as it is the CAA’s legal right to establish the category. The Vulcan’s design contained many aspects justifying the Complex category, including no manual reversion for its powered flying controls (unlike Concorde), automatic stabilisation systems such as the yaw damper and auto Mach trimmer, and requiring specialised knowledge and/or equipment for its maintenance.
However, for the sake of discussion let us put this judgement aside and assume that it would be possible somehow to operate on an Intermediate classification or US ‘N’ registration. The reason to do this is obviously to avoid the need for (and expense of) the OEM involvement. The problem that presents itself is that, unless an equivalent standard of engineering oversight was put in place, the implication would be that the standard of safety would be reduced below that which was practicable. The operator would find themselves in an untenable position if anything had gone wrong with the aircraft technically, as by definition less engineering control would have been in place and more could have been done to avoid the problem. In the case of the Vulcan, the OEMs stated that they would not supply the technical information – their intellectual property – that would allow an equivalent oversight to be provided by another party, so it was impossible legally to fly as a ‘Complex’ aircraft and unjustifiable to fly in any other manner, even if it were legal.

The Trust explored several possible options for XH558’s post flying life. The long term plan developed was for her to form the centrepiece of an aviation and engineering attraction with an educational element that would become self-funding. As this would take time to come to fruition, the plan was to continue to be based in the short term in Hangar 3 and in the medium term move to our purpose built facility. The Hangar 3 attraction (The Vulcan Experience) worked profitably and with excellent visitor satisfaction, but as is well known the airport decided not to renew the Trust’s lease, which unfortunately has led to the current situation. However, it has proven that the model is a good one for the medium term, so will be improved and restarted in the new hangar when it is ready.

Access to XH558 was relatively simple until she left Hangar 3. While there, we offered a variety of experiences, ranging from the coffee mornings which offered inexpensive access to the hangar and activities, to premium events where small groups were guided around the aircraft by crew members. Under the current arrangements, we have been permitted by the airport to allow some public access to the engine runs. However, we were extremely limited in both the number of sessions we cold run and the number of people who can attend those sessions, which means that the premium experiences are the only ones that make sense.


Sadly, the restriction now in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic have meant the temporary cessation of public visits to see the Vulcan.


We hope that given the success of these events and the safety and professionalism demonstrated, the programme can soon be expanded. Once the aircraft are in their new home, access will be similar to that available previously in Hangar 3.

No, we have not spent any money specifically donated for the upkeep of XH558 on the Canberra.


For many years, we have offered ‘Shares’ to fund specific aspects of the Trust’s work, of which an example would be maintenance of the ejection seats during the winter service. We have also carried out appeals for specific reasons, such as the winter service for which those who donated would have had their names on the bomb bay plaques. These offers have meant that anyone who wanted to absolutely guarantee that their donation would be spent directly on the aircraft would know that was the case. At the same time, the Trust conducted other activities including the educational aspects of its remit, in accordance with its objectives and indeed the agreement with HLF.


As the end of Vulcan flying approached, the Trust altered its objectives to reflect a wider remit involving the support of flying by other heritage aircraft, by ourselves and others. If a charity wishes to alter its objectives, then it must seek the approval of the Charity Commission, which of course we did and subsequently publicised the change to our supporters. Since that change was approved, then any money donated generally could have legitimately been used to fund any of the aspects of the Trust’s work covered by those objectives. As the purchase of a new heritage aircraft fell firmly into that scope, then we could have used our unallocated funding. However, we felt it important to allow our supporters to clearly see where the funding had come from and we recognised that XH558 would have been the primary concern of most of them. We therefore ‘borrowed’ from our central funding in order to complete the purchase (which had to be done quickly) and subsequently launched an appeal using our ‘Share’ scheme to recover the cost.


We believe it is important to recognise that having a flying aircraft is a key part of the strategy to publicise XH558 in the future; unfortunately this cannot be the Vulcan herself, but a Canberra is clearly an aircraft of similar ilk.

WK163

When it became apparent that flying XH558 would have to end, the Trust considered that it should use its expertise (in which its supporters had invested) to further the cause of similar aircraft. Another reason to look to continue flying another aircraft was the need to keep the Vulcan in the public eye to help keep her safe in grounded preservation; a flying aircraft at airshows is a way of doing this.

In early 2016, Mike Collett of Classic Air Force at Coventry approached us with an offer to sell us the entire Classic Air Force fleet. After some negotiation, we concluded that to purchase the whole fleet was beyond our capabilities, but agreed to purchase Canberra WK163, given its exciting history, and the fact that once it had been returned to flight, it was highly likely to be the only Canberra  – the RAF’s first jet bomber – to be flying in the UK. She will be the largest heritage jet aircraft still flying in the UK, bringing a remarkable spectacle back to British airshows.

The Canberra represents a great opportunity in terms of being a uniquely successful British Cold War jet type, and also that this specific aircraft (WK163) was an FAI record holder.

It will take a separately-funded project, possibly including a Heritage Lottery Fund grant application, to return WK163 to flight, but given this aircraft’s uniqueness and importance, we are confident that we will be successful. After all, we have done this before…

Following the Shoreham tragedy, there have been few heritage jets flying in the UK: the sector is awaiting the outcome from the criminal trial that is due to start in October, and the formal coroner’s inquest that will follow. It is possible that there will be changes to the regulations relating to heritage jets operating on a Permit to Fly basis as a result of these actions. We cannot yet know the extent of these changes.


The Trust has decided not to invest heavily in a return-to-flight programme of work on the Canberra until it is clear that the aircraft will indeed be allowed to fly. We will keep supporters informed of progress.

No. There will be separate fund-raising for WK163, but she will still be an important part of Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s long-term ambition to become a world-class guardian of British jet-age aircraft

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