The final flight of the XH558 Vulcan drew huge crowds to Rutland Water.
The iconic plane, which is being grounded after decades, spent the weekend conducting her farewell tour and aviation fans and amateur photographers alike were drawn to catch a glimpse as she swept majestically over the reservoir on Sunday (October 11).
Rutland Water park manager Will Kerstein said staff had been promoting the flypast on social media the week before but were still astounded at the sheer number of people who turned up to watch.
He said: “The shoreline from Whitwell to Normanton Church was jam packed and on the dam itself, there were hundreds of people. The numbers far, far exceeded our expectations and it was lovely to welcome so many people to Rutland Water for such an iconic event.
“It was a really nice atmosphere - there was such a mixture of people from little ones to the older generations, who had stories of their relatives who had worked on the Vulcan.
“As it went over, it was quite emotional and it went very quiet and then afterwards some people were clapping. It was really nice to be a part of that historical moment.”
Andrew Hensley travelled from his home in Peterborough to be among the spectators there and was in front of Normanton Park Hotel.
He said: “I’d never seen Rutland Water anything like as busy, as far I could see from Sykes Lane right round over the dam to the Normanton Car Park was pretty much lined with people.
“There was a very excited buzz of expectation beforehand followed by total silence once it appeared in the distance, followed by a lot of chatter afterwards. There was a lot of respect for it.”
Andrew said the Vulcan would be sadly missed.
He added: “From my own point of view it is the only big plane that can really throw itself around the sky and create such a noise, realistically it was way ahead of its time and nothing these days comes close to matching it. I remember in the seventies being at RAF Waddington for an airshow, which started with four Vulcans taking off as fast as they could with engines to the max. The ground shook and I’ve felt nothing like it since.”
The former RAF bomber was in active service from 1960 to 1984 but XH558 flew on from 1986 to 1993 as the single RAF display Vulcan. The plane had been due to retire from the skies in 2010 but was kept running by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust. Earlier this year though, the trust announced with “considerable sadness” this would be its last flying season because three technical authorities had ceased their support because maintaining the safety record requires expertise that was difficult to find and the plane had flown more hours than any other Vulcan, so finding possible failures had become more difficult. This meant that under Civil Aviation Authority regulations, she was prohibited from flying.
Following the weekend’s activities, the Vulcan to the Sky Trust Twitter account said: “Vulcan lands safely after over 7 hours of flying this weekend. Well done crews. XH558 returning to stand and shutting down - what a momentous weekend. Thank you for watching. Hope you enjoyed it all.”
A heritage centre is being planned though so that enthusiasts can continue to visit the aircraft at her home at Robin Hood Airport in Doncaster.
Photos: Lee Hellwing, Kurt Hellwing, Kristian Hellwing, Andrew Hensley, Jim Filby, Sheila Drake.