Cold War: The Unstoppable Vulcan!

10/01/2014 15:30

A member recently gave us a news cutting from a Lancaster newspaper, demonstrating what a powerful aircraft the Vulcan was, and once the alert sounded little could stop it taking off.

QUESTION: In an episode of Strange Days: Cold War Britain on BBC2, an Avro Vulcan took off with air-brakes deployed. Was this usual practice?

ANSWER: In my time as a Vulcan crew chief at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, Vulcans did take off with air-brakes extended. It wasn't normal, but could happen when the aircraft was doing circuits and practice landings called 'rollers'.The aircraft would approach normally, with air-brakes extended and touch down. Then, after a short roll, the air-brakes were retracted, the throttles opened and the aircraft would gather speed and become airborne again. Sometimes, the air-brakes were mistakenly left out, but the aircraft would still accelerate enough to take off.


One one occasion, I was sitting in a Land Rover at the traffic lights on the runway threshold and watched as a Vulcan did a perfect approach andlanding. On touchdown, the brake parachute was streamed, a sure sign the aircraft was coming to a full-stop landing. Then, to my horror, the engines spooled up to maximum power and aircraft took off again with the 40ft diameter tail-brake chute still deployed.

Fortunately, the aircraft continued to climb out, released the chute at a few hundred feet above the runway and, at the same time retracted its air-brakes, continuing on its way in a circuit to a definite full stop on the next landing.

There must have been some red faces on the flight deck, but it was a testament to the power of the four Olympus engines fitted to the Vulcan that it could still fly with the combined drag of the brake parachute and air-brakes.


Clive Penton, Stowmarket, Suffolk