‘Emotional’ day as Avro Vulcan XH558 made its last ever flight over Suffolk, flanked by three F-15s from RAF Lakenheath
- Credit: Gregg Brown
Today (August 27) marked the last time the iconic Avro Vulcan bomber flew through Suffolk.
Known by its old RAF callsign, XH558 marked its final tour of our county with a world first and last – flying alongside three of RAF Lakenheath’s F-15 jets on its way to Clacton Air Show.
A Vulcan will never again, and has never before, flown with the F-15s and after October this year XH558 will be grounded for good.
The delta-wing aircraft, which is privately owned and run by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, made what was thought to be its last ever visit to Suffolk in June during its Salute to V-Force tour.
However, thanks to RAF Lakeneath commander Colonel Robert Novotny, the Cold War-era plane came back one last time.
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Col Novotny, of the US Air Force’s 48th Fighter Wing, explained: “This is my first time deployed over here (England) and I have just been taken in by the enthusiasm for aviation in the local community.
“The Vulcan flew over a few places nearby and I thought how cool it would be to get it here. We are the home of combat airpower.
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“So I did a social media challenge and said I must get this plane to swing by. That is how it got started. Their (the trust’s) team reached out to our team and we said ‘hey, come fly on the base’.”
That challenge back in June, in the form of a simple Facebook post by Col Novotny, ended up with the Vulcan’s 3.30pm visit to the base yesterday.
Arriving ten minutes early, and flanked by two F-15s while another hung back to film the moment, the Vulcan silenced the waiting USAF personnel as its distinctive howl roared across the heath.
Making three passes, XH588 and its F-15 escort were greeted by a packed out control tower and even more packed viewing area, where members of public outside the fence could watch.
“It was just awesome,” said Col Novotny. “What a cool combination of the iconic Vulcan and some of our Lakenheath jets.
“It is a thank you to the community here for being supportive of us.
“It is such an iconic RAF plane and that delta wing, it’s an amazing plane.”
The Avro Vulcan served in the RAF from 1956 until 1984, while the F-15 jets and their several variants have remained in US Air Force service since 1976.
The day was topped by a “jealous” Spitfire swinging by the base while Col Novotony spoke to the media.
“How cool is that?” he said. “Things like that only happen here. Only in England can you get a Vulcan, F-15s and a Spitfire in one place.”
Vulcan to the Sky trustee Richard Clarke said the flypast was an “emotional” moment.
He said: “You will never see that again. It was fantastic – I was astonished.
“We are so lucky to be able see this and it is a great achievement by Col Novotny.
“It all started as a gem of an idea that your paper (the EADT) reported on and it is now a reality.
“It was a sight to see, the Vulcan flanked by the F-15s. It is the first time they have ever flown together and it will be the last.
“It won’t be flying again after October, which will be a very sad day. Of course we would love to see it carry on flying, but all good things have to end.”
Once XH558 is grounded, it will still remain an active plane. It will be housed at a training centre and museum at Robin Hood Airport Doncaster.
There it will be used to teach people aviation and engineering skills as well as carrying out high speed taxi runs.
The Vulcan visited RAF Lakenheath after a flying across Mildenhall, and after a 10 minute display at Lakenheath was seen crossing Bury St Edmunds before arriving at Clacton Airshow around 4pm.
Did you spot the Vulcan on its final Suffolk flight? Send us your pictures or videos to firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet @EADT24 using the hashtag #vulcan.