XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society

Fast Taxi Run 2000 20/09/2000

The fine dry day which we had previously ordered duly arrived and were set for our best ever taxi day. This year's event was sponsored and organised by Autela, Edmunds Walker who are a major supplier of spares and equipment to the commercial vehicle industry. Managing director Brian Waters and his team from AEW led by Dominique Peacock made sure that there was plenty for the visitors to see and do while waiting for 655 to run up and attractions included tombola, trade stands, stands selling books and models, bouncy castle and stilt walkers! The entire team from AEW worked tirelessly throughout the day and aour sincere thanks go to them all for making the day such a success. The RAF was also on site a mobile information display. As usual the local ATC squadron provided excellent food on their barbecue stand. Lookin' good!
Ready to run. Photo: Paul Hartley
Still lookin' good!
Showing off in the sun. Photo: Michael Baldock
Highlight of the ground exhibits was the superb display of vintage vehicles. Nick Waters had managed to secure a lie-up of over 40 immaculate entries which included buses, cars, lorries, tractors, motor cycles and military vehicles complete with a working mobile radar station. Every entrant was presented with a vehicle care kit worth over £20 by Chris Coombes and his colleagues from Comma Oils & Photo: Chemicals and the three best entries were awarded spectacular prizes by sponsors AEW. Prodrive Racing of Banbury also attended with their Volvo FL10 race truck which provided a magnificent view of the days events. Some 200 guests of technical sponsors AEW and Truckline were present to enjoy the family environment of the day. The good weather and the fact that the event had been well advertised by AEW on the local radio station ensured a good crowd which meant plenty of work for the cadets of 1368 ATC Squadron under the command of Flt/Lt Barry Lee, looking after entry and car parking. In the event several members of the AEW team were needed to help with the corwd and spent a long hot day on the crowd line - many thanks to their help at short notice. Thanks also to Sue and Ruth who staffed the 655 stand throughout the day raising funds for 655 and also answering many queries from members of the public.

The last two weeks before the run had proved quite eventful, with major engineering work being completed and checks being carried out. At the last moment, 5000 litres of fuel needed for the run were loaded aboard the aircraft. A last minute problem loomed when we were unable to obtain the loan of a starter needed to fire up the Olympus engines. A phone call to David Walton of The Vulcan Operating Company secured the loan of their big SPAD starter but we would need to collect it and return it after the run. Since the SPAD weighs in at around two tons some expertise was needed! Brian Waters contacted the owner of local haulage firm John Snape Transport who immediately agreed to collect and return the SPAD at only the cost of his diesel. Incidentally, the return to Bruntingthorpe was made at a time when fuel was virtually non-existent and hauliers were rapidly becoming an endangered species. Many thanks to John and to the VOC who refused to accept payment for the SPAD.

On the day we were pleased to have our usual crew aboard consisting of Sqn/Ldr Dave Thomas, Wing Cmdr Mike Pollitt and Sqdn/Ldr Barry Masefield. They had come down to Wellesbourne on the Saturday and given 655 a full systems check, engine start and short taxi. Also aboard for the run were - Peter Ludford representing Beagle Aircraft who have sponsored the elevon repairs, Edmund Hughes of Ryder Trucks as nominee of major sponsors AEW and 655 engineer Malcolm Campbell-Ritchie whose efforts with the painting of 655 were due for recognition. Sponsorship for the repaint which everyone agrees is transforming 655, is still being provided by Masons Coatings PLC who provide paint on an 'as required' basis via Masons sales manager Peter Draper. Finally, of course, the bomb bay had a few passengers - Corgi models of 655! Corgi loading
Corgi models get loaded onboard. Photo: Michael Baldock

The start of the main event was slightly delayed due to a serious road accident near the airfield preventing people from arriving in time for the scheduled start. With three fire appliances from the Warwickshire Fire Service providing fire cover on a voluntary basis, the Olympus 301 engines were fired up in sequence in front of the crowd. Full systems checks were carried out before the throttles were opened up and 655, with paintwork gleaming in the sun, taxied out onto the main runway. Turning at the end of runway 18, Dave Thomas held 655 on the brakes while the engines were spooled up to around 90% power. Leaving behind a cloud of good Warwickshire topsoil, 655 accelerated down the short Wellesbourne runway. All too soon it was throttles back and brakes and Dave returned 655 to park in front of the crowd.

Some disappointment was expressed that the nosewheel was not lifted and that 655 had performed only one high speed run. Several people wondered if 655 had suffered some major failure. The answer to these questions is simply that for safety reasons the display had been limited. Photo: it must be remembered that 655 had not moved under her own power for a full year. During this period she had undergone major repair work to the airframe including removal of control surfaces and the refurbishment of the PFCUs. Work had also been done to the engines and the wheels and brakes, not to mention dealing with the vandalism incident. There was not enough time between the completion of all this work and the taxi day to carry out the extensive testing required to establish 100% confidence in the airframe. The runway at Wellesbourne is both short and narrow which gives absolutely no margin for error in the event of a failure. Dave Thomas and his crew perform to a profile which they determine will give maximum safety to the public, the crew and the aircraft in the conditions which prevail on the day. We would have it no other way.

It's rude to stare!
Looking up a lady's skirt...? . Photo: Michael Baldock
After engine shutdown the public were allowed to walk around the aircraft and talk to the air and ground crews. 655 MaPS members were as usual given access to the cockpit on production of their membership cards. Thanks to the many hours of work put in by the 655 engineers over the last year, another run day successfully completed. If you were at Wellesbourne for the run you may have noticed the black ribbons tied to the undercarriage. These were in tribute to ex-655 crew chief Barry Goodwin who sadly passed away shortly before the run day.

655 was not the only lady celebrity at Wellesbourne on the 10th - Dame Judi Dench - a Vulcan fan! - had heard of the run, and took time out to visit the airfield and watch 655 strut her stuff. The aircraft has now been returned to our servicing area to enable work to proceed during the winter months. A heavy maintenance schedule is already being planned and hardy volunteers are always at a premimum. At the time of writing, no date has been set for the next run but this will be published here as soon as it has been finalised. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who has helped and supported our efforts to keep XM655 alive and well - a complete list of sponsors can be seen on the Thankspage.

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