The much-anticipated return of the Avro Vulcan bomber to the air show circuit this year could be in doubt, as a funding crisis threatens the very future of the project.
Despite XH558's successful first flight after restoration last October, the Vulcan To The Sky Trust, which is overseeing the project at Brunthingthorpe Airfield in the UK, needs cash to complete the flight-test programme to secure the "Permit To Fly" required for the Vulcan to participate at air shows.
VTST says that "potential sponsors have drawn in their purse strings and are not making available the expected funds".
There is three months' work still needed to prepare the aircraft and its crew for air displays and VTST says that "the lack of funding to start this last phase is now endangering the return of the Vulcan to the beginning of the air show season".
"If we don't fly again soon, the door will start to close on the future of the Vulcan in flight," says Dr Robert Pleming, chief executive of the VTST.
The plan has been to commence the remainder of the test flight programme in early March, "but we still have to have £150,000 ($296,000) in our hands before we can do that, plus confidence that we will go on raising at least £50,000 per month after that".
Pleming adds that "every week's delay to the restart from the end of February will push the first display appearance back by another week".
XH558 made its return to flight on 18 October 2007 following a £6 million restoration, of which £2.7 million has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The rest of funding was raised through public donations.
Donations may be sent to VTST, Bruntingthorpe Airfield, Lutterworth, Leicestershire, LE17 5QS (tel: +44 116 247 8145) or visit the website: www.vulcantothesky.com