Gary Parsons reports on the Vulcan's epic month of July
Farnborough, Friday - a week of meeting the aerospace industry by the Vulcan to the Sky Trust has so far proven fruitless, much to the frustration of the Operating Company. Yet the 'Vulcan Effect' on the British public has already been demonstrated at Waddington and Farnborough itself, where it was undoubtedly the 'star' attraction - so much so at Waddington where the entrance gates had to be closed just after midday due to the overwhelming queues and overflowing carparks. It was estimated that Waddington's attendance was at least twenty percent up on recent years, and despite RIAT's unfortunate cancellation pre-show ticket sales showed a similar trend with camp sites busier than usual, even with the Western Front-like conditions prevailing for most of the week.
Most telling though was Wednesday at Fanborough, when XH558 made its first display of the week - for the first time in living memory, the trade stands emptied, the meetings stopped and everyone rushed to the fenceline. Aerospace bosses put down the champagne, swallowed the last mouthful of duck a l'orange and made sure they witnessed this moment in history, a Vulcan performing at Farnborough some fifty years after the type's debut. The 'Vulcan Effect' hit its peak, yet within a month it could be all over, as funds WILL run out by the end of August if a sponsor does not come forward. The £2m or so required to ensure operations continue is a splash in the pond of the money being expended at Farnborough alone in the orgy of hospitality and aviation orders being placed this week. Yes, there is a credit crunch, but the goodwill alone a sponsor would gain from the British public would be worth much more than the cost of the cheque.
It's time for Britain to now step up to the plate - the TVOC cannot continue to operate on a hand-to-mouth basis any longer. They have achieved the near impossible - XH558 flies, it has performed in public, the public have an appetite to see it way beyond anyone's expectations. The TVOC will repaint it if necessary - what better flying advert could there be for British ingenuity, dogged determination and achieving a dream? Otherwise, the 'Vulcan Effect' may have been as brief as the 'summer' of 2008, and the country will regret its brevity in years to come.