Vulcan XH558 Engineering and Events Update – November 2021

26 November 2021

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#FeeltheHowl – a day in the life of a volunteer chaperone

Sunday October 31st dawned a cold and very rainy morning, with a wind that went right through you. At The Harvey Arms the morning guests arrived full of anticipation for the final engine run of 2021. The omens did not look good. Requests to take brollies had to be denied due to the risk of the umbrella taking flight on the live airfield, and instead it was strongly recommended that everyone wrap up warm, with as much wet weather gear as they could muster, to protect against the elements.

After a short coach ride to the airport, XH558 could be seen being towed down the taxy-way towards the test pan ready for the start of the day. The coach followed her down through the wind and rain, with fingers crossed that the day could continue.

Upon arrival, Crew Chief Taff Stone came onto the coach and uttered the words that nobody wanted to hear – that the engine run would not be happening. In the interests of safety, he had had to make the hard decision to call it off. Groans of disappointment filled the coach, but looks of hope as he said that the guests were more than welcome to get off the coach if they wished and wander around under the aircraft. After all, we did have the largest umbrella in the world to shelter under!

The time passed as we paddled our way under the jet, watching as the rain-sodden engineers worked to carry out their tasks. Names were found under the wings and two by two, guests visited the cockpit for photos and the experience of seeing just how little space there is. The rain started easing and a glimmer of light appeared behind the clouds. Could it be that the weather was changing? Would the wind drop and the sun come out? Could Taff possibly change his mind? Time passed and sure enough the wind started to ease, and the sun appeared, shining through and warming our backs. The engineers continued working around the jet, as our guests wondered if the change in the weather might just mean a little bit of noise after all!

Taff asked all the guests to gather as he wanted to make an announcement and to cheers and applause, he announced that as the wind had dropped enough and the weather had lifted, we would be able, after all to start those powerful engines and “make a little bit of noise”. Ear defenders were handed out and the guests chaperoned to the rear of the aircraft for the demonstration of the flying controls, before moving to the side to hear the start of the engines. Once everything was in place, everyone was moved to the front of the jet to hear the sound of the mighty Vulcan and that distinctive howl….once…..twice……three times……four times. Even the chaperones were happy. But then – because after all it is the Halloween Howl – a fifth howl sounded.

After last photos were taken, all the guests were escorted back to the coach to journey back to The Harvey Arms and their lunch. The day had started wet and cold, but the change in the weather and the sound of the Vulcan had more than warmed everyone up. The mood was ecstatic.

Back at The Harvey Arms the afternoon guests were waiting, sympathetic to those who had been out in the weather, but happy that the day was still going ahead. They too had wondered if it would, in view of the sideways rain and the gusting wind. After a quick sandwich and a warming drink, the chaperones marshalled the afternoon guests onto the coach for the afternoon run.

What a change in the weather! The sun was out, no sign of rain, we all kept checking the weather apps and although a few clouds threatened on the horizon, they circled round, leaving us to the window of dry weather. Guests wandered around under the jet, looking for names, asking questions, taking those all-important photos and selfies, whilst the engineering team carried on with their preparations for the afternoon’s run. Cockpit visits were completed and once again ear defenders were issued, and the guests ushered to the rear of the jet to the 2nd demonstration of the flying controls before their move to the side of the aircraft and the start-up of the engines. What a contrast – the morning saw reflections of XH558 in the puddles on the floor, the afternoon was as dry as a bone. After the familiar sounds of the engines starting one by one, the guests were again marshalled to the front of the jet for the repeat of the morning’s noise.

Once again, the sound of the famous howl filled the air, making the ground vibrate and bringing smiles to the faces of all who were watching. In the morning we thought that our 5 howls were so lucky for those who were watching, however the afternoon guests were in for a treat. Five howls and then the announcement that they would be getting back on the coach, to travel back to the space between Hangers 2 and 3. XH558 was going to taxy back under own steam. With much excitement and more than a little bit of giddiness, guests and chaperones climbed back on the coach to follow the crew-van to where we would be watching her coming towards us.

After disembarking from the coach, with strict instructions on where guests could stand to watch, we waited with bated breath for the sight we had been longing to see for so long. At last, coming along the taxy-way in the distance, the familiar shape could be seen moving, accompanied by shouts of “There she is”, “Can you see her”, “At last”. What a magnificent sight she was, as she made her way along, before turning in towards us, being expertly marshalled by one of the engineering team. Slowly she came to a halt. Big grins and happy smiles could be seen amongst all the guests and the chaperones as well. Final photo opportunities and many selfies were taken before we had to board the coach to return to The Harvey Arms for the end of the day.

The day had started with rain, wind and the strong possibility of none of the above happening. Once again XH558’s guardian angel came to the rescue with the change in the weather, which gave 2 groups of guests an amazing experience and the reminder about why we still continue to love and support the jet.

Tags: Engine Ground RunXH558

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