XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society

2 Fast Taxi Runs 11/10/1998

Aerial view
655 preparing for October's run - the cars on the grass give an indication of the attendance on the day. Photo: Jamian Peter

After a week of poor weather, the weekend was set to be cloudy, windy and wet - but the sun shines on the righteous, and the poor weather took a break for the day. Unfortunately the wind hadn't got the message and the wind was gusting quite forcefully, causing the cancellation of the planned model Vulcan flying display. Wellesbourne's resident light aircraft were having some challenging landings to cope with as a result too! Membership of the Maintenance and Preservation Society (MaPS for short) has now been opened to the public and it was gratifying to see the number of people who joined up on the spot, as well as making some fantastic donations to the cause. The turn-out for the day was superb and very much appreciated by the team.

October's crew
October's crew (left to right - co-pilot, AEO, pilot). Photo: Damien Burke
Following the programmed timetable, at 2PM the crew entered 655 and began pre-flight checks. Sqd Ldr Dave Thomas (the last Vulcan display pilot), co-pilot Sqd Ldr (retd) Martin Withers (a Falklands veteran of Black Buck fame) and AEO Sqd Ldr Barry Masefield (also part of the last Vulcan display team crew) were the crew for the day (along with some lucky passengers...). Given the amount of work that the 655 MaPS crew have put into getting 655 ready for this day, it was great to find how smoothly everything went. A minor electrical glitch and a sticky hatch were sorted out in seconds and soon the unmistakable guttering roar of the Palouste air starter was bringing number 4 engine into life.
The other three engines were started using the cross-feed method, providing plenty of noise for the assembled throng to enjoy and all too soon 655 was nosing along the taxiway ready for her first taxi run in over a year.

Previous days have only had a single high-speed run, but to make up for the cancellation of June's run two runs were carried out. The first followed the normal pattern of taxiing to the runway end, lining up and running down towards the market area. With throttles inched forward, the call of 'Abort' seconds later, followed by 'Airbrakes' made it a fairly low-speed affair. However everything had worked perfectly, so it was time to do it again!
655 beginning to taxi
Beginning to taxi. Photo: Paul Hartley
655 roaring down the runway
Roaring down the runway. Photo: Paul Hartley
Turning round to face back up the runway, while slightly stunned passengers swapped places for the coveted ladder position (the only place in the cockpit where a passenger can see anything besides a bit of sky!), a brief delay gave everybody time to wonder if this was the end of the day's activities... but no - again the throttles were pushed forward, brakes released and 655 sprang forward once more to roar down the runway. With power applied for much longer than in the first run, a higher maximum speed was reached - around 60 knots this time. After all the work in 1998, it was felt sensible to take it a little easier than normal.
Turning round and giving a few members of the crowd a taste of exhaust in the progress (to their delight as we found out later), 655 taxied back, chasing some strange chap in blue overalls away as he realised those jet pipes were getting a little close, and finally shut down after extending the air brakes and opening the bomb bay. A graphic demonstration of Vulcan Power (like Girl Power, only worth listening to) ensued as the first passenger out attempted to collapse in a heap. Yeah alright, so it was me - hell, you try standing on a narrow ladder with 80,000 lb of thrust behind you and see how your legs feel afterwards... View from inside
Passenger's eye view; Damien Burke

Anyway, a superb day with two perfect runs and no snags to speak of. 655 is BACK!

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