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XH558 hits stormy financial weather - again

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The restored Avro Vulcan XH558 yesterday took to the skies on what could be its last flight.

The V-bomber lifted off from Coventry Airport as part of an airshow in support of Help for Heroes, but unless the Vulcan To The Sky Trust raises £400k by the end of October, it'll be permanently grounded.

This latest round of XH558 tin-rattling has been prompted by "a substantial drop in donations during the recession and poor weather that stopped her flying at what would have been several profitable events this year".

Chief exec Dr Robert Pleming explained that while over a million people have enjoyed the airborne Vulcan experience during 2010, making it "one of the most popular attractions in the UK", the trust struggles along "on a tiny fraction of the budget of comparable heritage activities".

Pleming hopes XH558 will grace the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 2012, before its airframe's service life expires, but he warned that "if we don't make it through October, the tremendous opportunities offered by this magnificent aircraft will be lost forever".

Once XH558's flying days are finally over, the trust hopes to "develop a museum and educational centre around the plane, funded by conference, leisure and other commercial activities".

Squadron Leader Martin Withers - who secured a DFC for his part in the Vulcan "Black Buck One" mission to bomb Port Stanley airfield during the Falklands War - is a "passionate supporter" of the aircraft's educational potential.

He said: "Part of our mission is to ensure that young people learn about the knife-edge fear of the Cold War. If I had been ordered to press the button that releases the nuclear payload, there would almost certainly have been no Britain left to fly home to. The Vulcan is the most powerful symbol of a remarkable period in British history that we must never forget."

This isn't the first time the Vulcan To The Sky Trust has been operating on a wing and a prayer. In March 2009, it launched an emergency appeal for cash, and in February this year was bailed out by £400,000 from an anonymous donor. ®

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