XM655 Overshoot and Recovery

30 September 2022

XM655 in the field

Report and images by Bob Jackson

As you may have read or seen on social media our sister AVRO Vulcan aircraft XM655 based at Wellesbourne, near Stratford upon Avon came to a stop in soft ground following a high-speed taxi run test on Friday 16th September. VTST were able to help with the Recovery effort.

The incident occurred following a malfunction of a cockpit instrument during the test that resulted in a critical couple of seconds delay in shutting down power to the 301 Olympus turbo jet engines. Wing Commander Mike Pollitt, Chairman of 655 MaPS, and at the controls at the time reported that all those on board or outside were safe and uninjured.

In the early days of Vulcan to the Sky Trust Mike was the VTST Operations Director having been a Vulcan pilot during his days in the RAF and saw XH558 through from the birth of the dream of return to flight, the early displays to her 50th Birthday. So our links with XM655 continue.

With the aircraft stopped in a field at the end of Wellesbourne’s 917 metre (3009 ft) runway focus turned to recovery. Within an hour of the incident Vulcan to the Sky, having offered help on hearing of the incident, were able to supply the special Rearward Towing Bridle 26DC/95193. This was located in our Central Stores in Stratford upon Avon only 3 miles, as a Vulcan flies, from Wellesbourne Airfield, so with some help from some 655 MaPS volunteers the bridle was loaded in our van and taken down to the airfield. Faster than the RAC or Green Flag!

This was the very same Towing Bridle that was used to pull XH558 out of her Restoration Hangar on the public Roll Out on the 31st August 2006 as the first phase of the restoration was completed. It worked then on concrete… would it work now on soft soil?

So come Saturday, when the heavy gang of Recovery Trucks arrived, along with mini-excavators the task being to pull XM655 backwards out of the field. Now let’s be clear a couple of points reported elsewhere.

  • The aircraft was not stuck in the mud, the field had very recently been ploughed and harrowed three times so was as close to a beach as you could wish. Definitely no mud in sight. In fact, the soft sand had helped to slow the aircraft but now made recovery harder.
  • The aircraft weighed around 65 tonnes, fortunately less than her operational weight of 93 tonnes. Rather more than the reported 30 tonnes.

The bridle used is very specific for use with a Vulcan, hence the Reference number 26DC, It is simple but very effective. Two heavy duty cables attached to a triangular spreader bar to which the recovery tow cables are attached. The Alighting Gear legs have particular points on the main casing for the attachment of the cables, the spreader bar allows for other than a straight pull to a maximum angle of 15˚ the kit is consequently extremely versatile.

So it was that after a full day of hard work, the moving and replacing of over 2500 cu metre of soil, the use of four recovery trucks, willing multiple volunteer help and a little help from a towing bridle that XM655 returned to the taxiway and then her Dispersal Pan.

We are glad to have been able to help 655 MaPS at this time and following any inspections if they find there is a requirement for some replacement parts then we would be very happy to see if we have any in the stores. VTST have always endeavoured to help the Vulcan Family where we can and over the past few years have helped XM594 at Newark Air Museum. XM603 at the AVRO heritage Museum, and not least XL426 at Southend who’s recent high speed taxi made use of some spares from The VTST Central Stores.

We continue to be determined to help keep these, and other, aircraft in a condition that allows the public to view and appreciate them for the future.

Tags: XM655