Wonderful news about the Vulcan's reprieve. As any of our regular readers know, Flight International does not focus on historic aircraft, but for years we've been poised to write the obituary of this wonderful bird as a performing air show aircraft. Two weeks ago, it was in intensive care with the doctors about to switch off the life support. Now an anonymous donation has almost guaranteed its return to the air show circuit this summer.
Given what we do for our historic buildings, our great artwork and other cultural icons, it seems strange that national treasures such as aircraft so often have to struggle for commercial sponsorship and private donations to remain in the public eye - and especially for countries such as the UK with such a rich industrial, technological and military heritage.
Yes, we have museums, but the most stunning historic aircraft parked in a museum is only about half as awesome as seeing, hearing and smelling it take off and land. It's the difference between seeing a rare wild beast up close on safari and one in a zoo cage.
For anyone who hasn't caught up with the news, this is the press release from the Vulcan to the Sky trust:
Surprise windfall reprieves Vulcan XH558!!
After months of uncertainty, when the prospect of Vulcan XH558 ever appearing at airshows again was looking unlikely, an anonymous donation of over £400,000 has virtually guaranteed XH558's return to airshows this summer.
John Sharman, Chairman of the Vulcan to the Sky's (VTST), Board of Trustees says: "This most significant donation comes as a very welcome surprise on top of all of the thousands of donations and pledges received over the past four months from XH558's incredibly loyal supporters, and has enabled the Board of Trustees now to commit to the wide-ranging and vital engineering programme, and to return XH558 to airshows around the UK this coming summer. On behalf of XH558 and all her supporters, a heart-felt thank you to all of you who have helped "
Including the anonymous donation and all the pledges, VTST has now raised over £900,000 against its original target of £800,000. Because the campaign did not reach its target at the end of December, the start of the winter engineering programme had to be postponed, and will now commence in the next few days.
However VTST will continue to run its funding campaign under the original "50th Birthday" banner right up until the 25th May, the Golden Anniversary of XH558's first ever test flight, with the aim of building a sizeable cushion of additional donations as a prudent contingency. This funding campaign will run alongside VTST's attempt to set a record for the number of greetings on a single birthday card, to commemorate XH558's 50th anniversary.
John Sharman said; "It is vital that we continue our efforts to recruit more supporters from the 2.5 million people who saw XH558 fly last year. VTST's business plan currently shows ongoing donations as the major revenue stream; we ask all of our supporters to do everything that they can to spread the word and bring many more people on board to ensure that XH558 keeps flying!"
Dr Robert Pleming of VTST says: "Over the past few weeks, we have had countless people say to us that XH558 must carry on flying, and have backed that up with a pledge. But it's also been very noticeable this year that people are less able to help, even if they would like to - the recession has made the progress of our campaign this year much slower. So the timing of this amazing anonymous donation could not have been better. I have to believe that XH558 has a guardian angel, who has appeared more than once to save her when all seems to have been lost!"
Vulcan XH558 has attracted record crowds wherever she has appeared, thrilling audiences and creating the so called "Vulcan Effect". As defence becomes an issue of current debate, the Vulcan is a unique reminder of the importance of deterrenceas a strategy.
VTST's plans will now be geared to ensuring that XH558 flies down the Mall on 4th June 2012, in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen's - and the Vulcan's - Diamond Jubilee. These plans will include the launch of a new Annual Appeal running for the twelve months every year, starting on XH558's "Birthday" on 25th May, and a further rigorous review of operating costs.