XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society

Fast Taxi Run 17/08/1997

The most recent run was the best yet! The best turnout so far was evidenced by 120+ car-loads of people (a quick count, and this doesn't include those who parked near the flying club and camp sites on the other side of the airfield). As hoped for, Delta Jets' superb 'Black Arrows' Hunter carried out a display first... and that was worth the admission fee alone! But before that 1368 and 495 sqn ATC paraded in salute to the ex-V-force personnel who had arrived and very nicely done it was too!

Delta's Hunter displaying
Delta's Hunter T.7A (WV318/G-FFOX) displaying. Photo: Damien Burke
Stealing the show soon after, CAA pilot Rod Dean executed the best Hunter display I've ever seen, beginning with a sneaky long-distance circle of the airfield which led the crowd to believe he was about to appear from the clouds at the near end of the runway. He didn't, instead screaming in from precisely the opposite direction, with the Hunter's banshee howl being followed a couple of seconds later by the eerie reflection of that noise bouncing back from the trees on the far side of the airfield. Brilliant stuff!

After an excellent display showing off the all-black paint scheme to perfection against a cloudy but bright sky, he finished off with a low pass where you wouldn't have looked too silly if you'd ducked. And been standing on the runway. Well, fairly silly perhaps :) Waggling his wings as he sped off, you could see just how much he had enjoyed the display - but I doubt he had as much fun flying it as we had watching it!

With the Hunter display concluded and the sound echoing into the distance, a rather different noise began to make itself felt rather than heard... while we rushed back from the crowdline to where XM655 was parked, the gutteral blasts of the Palouste starter were quickly followed by the whining of an Olympus spooling up. An impressively quick start from the groundcrew meant that all four engines were soon up and running, though one unfortunately had to be taken offline when its fire warning light failed to illuminate when it should have done during pre-run checks. The decision was taken to take no risks and shut down that engine (which turned out to have a transient fire warning thermocoupler fault) and to do the run on three engines.

After a quick movement and brake application, XM655 taxied out past Air Atlantique's Cessna 404. Unfortunately the Twin Pioneer was unable to make it because of crew illness but Air Atlantique pulled out all the stops to provide a replacement aircraft at very short notice - well done lads! The Cessna was carrying out pleasure flights throughout the day, taking people up for an aerial tour of Warwickshire. No doubt the seating arrangements were rather more palatial than in the Twin Pin anyway! I particularly liked the cold drinks can storage at the back of the engine nacelles... Air Atlantique's Cessna
Air Atlantique's Cessna, G-MIND.
Photo: Damien Burke

Anyway, back to the Vulcan... after a pause at the near end of the runway to give us gawpers a chance to dash along to the crowdline, she proceeded up to the runway end. Pirouetting at the runway end (and stopping traffic as usual), 655 was soon lined up ready for the run. Dust and exhaust being kicked up behind her were soon followed by the rising roar of the engines and then, that magical Vulcan roar reverbrated through our bones for a good five seconds as Sqn. Ldr. Dave Thomas whacked full power on. Up to 90 miles per hour in seconds, 655 howled past the crowd for those first few seconds and then proceeded a little more quietly with the airbrakes fully extended. For those who didn't get to hear that roar - you were at the wrong end of the runway! Where she starts is where the roar is... so listen to this!.

XM655 viewed from the raised platform
XM655 viewed from the raised platform.
Photo: Damien Burke
All in all it was a great day out for Vulcan fans, and I haven't even mentioned the martial arts display (which judging from the applause was very good - I just missed it myself), the raised platform for photographing XM655 from 20 feet in the air (cheers to Steve at Delta Jets for his balancing act!) or the refreshments stall (which, going against any airshow-related tradition, actually provided both value for money and edible, nay, delicious, burgers and sausages).

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