Silica gel mishap grounds Vulcan bomber

Oh dear, it’s bad news for the world’s last flyable Avro Vulcan, with two of XH558′s Rolls-Royce Olympus engines having been destroyed during an incident on the ground on 28 May.

Things of course go wrong on classic aircraft, but initial indications point to the mishap at Robin Hood airport (which serves Doncaster and Sheffield and in a previous life housed Vulcans as RAF Finningley) having been down to old-fashioned human error.

Vulcan 560.jpg“The primary cause of the damage has been determined to be ingestion of silica gel desiccant bags,” says the Vulcan to the sky Trust, which restored XH558 (file picture above from AirSpace user Gaviscon). This oversight is believed to have caused a surge and low-pressure compressor blade failure to the Vulcan’s number one engine, which then sent debris into its neighbouring Olympus powerplant. Both were damaged beyond repair, although thankfully the airframe escaped any injury.

Luckily the failure happened just as the crew commenced their take-off roll on a training flight; presumably this incident could easily have turned into a major accident had it occurred maybe 30sec later?

The Vulcan to the sky Trust says it is “actively working on a plan” to recover its Jubilee season schedule for XH558, but notes that the additional costs to be incurred as a result of the mishap “are clearly very worrying as resources are very tight”.

That sounds like a precursor to a major new funding call to my mind, but I’m not so sure that its public backers will be willing to be quite so generous this time around.


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