AN HISTORIC aircraft which was Britain’s last line of defence in the Cold War could be grounded or sold unless its owners can raise £150,000 by the end of tomorrow.
The Vulcan, the last all-British designed and built military aircraft, was on around-the-clock standby to drop the atomic bomb on the Soviet Union during the east-west standoff.
Now the Vulcan to the Sky Trust, which displays the last flying Vulcan – XH558 – at air shows during the summer, needs to raise money urgently to maintain the aircraft at RAF Lyneham until Christmas.
The trustees will meet tonight and if they are not satisfied that the funds can be raised by the deadline, the charity will have to call in the administrators.
Chief executive Dr Robert Pleming said: “By Thursday evening, we need to be sure that we will have £150,000 by the end of the week.
“If there is any doubt, she will follow Concorde into permanent retirement or be sold to a collector almost certainly abroad.
“If we don’t make it, a heritage icon as popular as the Tower of London may never be seen by the British public again.
“We have a great business plan for 2011 that will substantially improve our commercial funding but the stark reality is that we look unlikely to survive beyond October.”
The last flying Vulcan thrilled almost two million people this year and has featured at several shows, including the Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford and the Kemble Air Day.
The aircraft, built in 1960 and restored between 2005 and 2007, is currently being looked after at RAF Lyneham by a team of 11 people, including five engineers.
Taff Stone, a retired RAF sergeant, who is the chief engineer and crew chief, said: “If it cannot continue, I would be absolutely devastated.
“I came out of the RAF to restore the aircraft and I used to be on the display team when it was in service so I have been with the aircraft since 1981.
“It is the last all-British designed and built aircraft, it’s part of our Cold War history, which now is part of the National Curriculum, as well as a living part of the Cold War design.”
Former fighter pilot Harry Bromley, 84, of Broome Manor, who travelled in the Vulcan when it was in service, led the original fundraising campaign to restore the aircraft.
He said: “It is part of the history of this country in aeronautical terms and it was the last military aircraft that was built. Every bit of it, every nut and bolt, is British.
“It was years and years before its time and it did a sterling job when it was part of the nuclear deterrent for this country.
“That aircraft is too valuable and I would regret it if it was allowed to go just because of the sum that’s been asked for.”
At the start of October, the trust needed to raise about £400,000 but has already generated £350,000 through donations from individuals and businesses.
To support the appeal, call the donation hotline on 0845 5046 558 or visit www.vulcantothesky.org/donate