Gallery: Cosford Air Show 2015

The Red Arrows painted the sky red, white and blue delighting the huge crowd at Cosford Air Show.

Gallery: Cosford Air Show 2015

The smoke of the Red Arrows at the show

But this year they had to share the star attraction slot with the Avro Vulcan XH558, which made its final appearance at the show ahead of its retirement from flying duty later this year.

The emotional pull of that final appearance was added to by the flight also being a tribute to Sir Jack Hayward – the former owner of Wolverhampton Wanderers – whose generosity had helped get it back into the air eight years ago. 

Sir Jack’s son Jonathan said it was great that the last flight of XH558 had been dedicated to his father. 

He said: “It was a very moving moment when the Vulcan flew over, especially as today was dad’s birthday; lots of people were in tears.

“I think the only thing he would have enjoyed more would have been Wolves winning the FA Cup.

“It is so very sad that this will be the final season in which the Vulcan is to fly.”

Andy Marson, 64, is a navigator who has flown on XH558 and says it is a fantastic aircraft. He said: “We navigators, or directional consultants as we are now called, aren’t needed as much on the Vulcan anymore.

“A lot of what we did is now done by computers such as the Airbox Runway HD, which is basically GPS on an iPad, it even gives updated weather information.”

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Mr Marson said the Vulcan’s design was brilliant, but all the efforts had been focused on the airframe at the expense of everything else.

He said: “It is a typical 1950s plane, the airframe was the priority and the crew just had to fit into whatever space was left.

“I describe it as an inverse Tardis, in that it looks massive from outside, but there is very little room inside – it can be quite claustrophobic.

“But it’s a lovely aircraft and the first thing you notice when you get into the cockpit is the smell, a mix of rubber, hydraulic fluid and aviation fuel.”

The Vulcan is being retired from flying because it won’t have the technical support required for the Civil Aviation Authority to allow it to fly.

Engineering director Andrew Edmondson said: “This is for entirely pragmatic and well-argued reasons related to the age of her airframe and engines, and the growing difficulty of sourcing otherwise redundant skills.”

Vulcan XH558 returned to the skies in 2007 following what is now believed to be the most ambitious technical restoration programme ever undertaken.

Sir Jack Hayward’s donation of £500,000 was crucial to the successful completion of that programme, which was why the aircraft’s last appearance at Cosford was also a tribute to the man who helped return her to the sky.

The Vulcan may have been the highlight, but there was far more to keep the 55,000 visitors entertained, including a stunning performance by the Red Arrows that included new formations.

A history of military aviation was on display, from Allied and German World War II fighters – including the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight – through to the latest Typhoon jet.

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