UK October 2015
Just four days at home in the UK, before heading on to the US, mainly to catch the Vulcans 'farewell tour'. First though, after flying into Heathrow on the 9th and driving home via Stansted, one very special visitor had just landed. USAF E-4B 73-1676 had brought in US SecDef Ashton Carter for a visit with UK counterpart Michael Fallon, after attending a NATO Defence Ministers meeting in Brussels. Quite a rare catch, in the very nice weather, with the aircraft later departing back to Andrews AFB around tea time as 'Grim 22'. A couple of other highlights while there, included Saudi-owned Kalair B767-300ER VP-BKS (ex Gulf Air A40-GW) and Saudi Armed Forces Medical Services Gulf 5 HZ-MS5B.
Now, the weekend of the 10th-11th October was to see the 'official' UK farewell tour of VTTS Vulcan B2 XH558. My final chance to catch a Vulcan in the air, prior to its 'real' final flight later in the month, i had decided on seeing it at my local airport, Teesside, as part of its 'Northern Tour' on the 10th, before driving down to its home base of Doncaster to catch its take off and landing there, as part of its 'Southern Tour' on the 11th. Needless to say, the typical grimey weather at Teesside (for us 'Smoggies') didn't help with any shots of the Vulcan's single fly-by along the 05 approach and left turn over the airport. Opting for a vantage point on the airport's railway bridge (at the famous least-used railway station in Britain!), along with a hundred other people, didn't turn out to be the best, apart from providing a nice belly shot, as the 'V-Bomber' turned overhead in the gloom and made a smokey departure to the North. OK, hopefully tomorrow will be much better...
And so on to the 11th, and despite some quite 'extreme requests' from VTTS for the public not to visit Doncaster Airport, of course many would still choose to, including those looking for the best shots. In the end those 'fears' of roads being blocked etc were of course unfounded, and although there were a lot of spectators there, parked (legally) around the perimeter, the police were more than happy for everyone to be there. For the take off at 1pm, the high mound on the East side perimeter was one of the best photospots, and certainly very popular! After that excitement, there was then a 3.5 hour wait for the return, with just an Aer Lingus ATR-42 and a couple of Thomson B737 movements to keep us occupied. And so to that special moment, for those seeing this thing in the air for the very last time, after so many memories over the years, came the first 'there it is'. Then, after playing around with a Jet Provost in the distance (yet another air-air shoot) for what seemed like a long time, the mighty Vulcan then made a straight-in approach to land. No rumoured short display, but maybe he'd burnt off any spare fuel with the JP. Still, some very nice touch down shots from a crash gate on the West side, and that was it, the end of an era... apart from for those who then managed to catch the 'secret' final-final flight 17 days later! For many who had contributed to keeping the aircraft in the air over the years, that was not surprisingly very contentious. Personally, i won't let that detract from being able to catch yet another 'farewell' to an iconic aircraft... one of the last British classics flying... the 'Tin Triangle'.