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A Night with a Vulcan

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On the weekend of May 1, 2022, I visited London Southend Airport in Essex, England, where a unique sunset and nightshoot was organized with an Avro Vulcan bomber. This event was organized by Timeline Events in collaboration with the Vulcan Restoration Trust which is a registered charity that owns and maintains the ex-Royal Air Force Avro Vulcan B2 XL426. The beautiful delta-shaped wing Avro Vulcan is one of the most iconic aircraft produced in Great Britain since the end of the Second World War and was part of the Royal Air Force’s legendary ‘V-Force’. Because the Avro Vulcan B2 was part of the V-Force, this bomber became the backbone of the United Kingdom’s airborne nuclear deterrent during much of the Cold War. This bomber aircraft also played an important role in Operation Black Buck during the Falklands War between the United Kingdom and Argentina. 

The Avro Vulcan bomber at London Southend Airport served with the Royal Air Force from 1962 to 1986 and was transfered to the Vulcan Restoration Trust in 1993. XL426 was the 44th of the 88 Vulcan B2s built and made its first flight on August 23th, 1962 from Woodford Aerodrome. She entered service with 83 Squadron at RAF Scampton and became part of 50 Squadron at RAF Waddington in January, 1982. This aircraft was one of the four Vulcans that took part in the Falklands Victory Flypast over London on October 12th, 1982 and was later kept airworthy for air display purposes. Together with XH560, XL426 formed the famous Vulcan Historical Flight. In the summer of 1986 XL426 was put up for sale and was sold to Roy Jacobsen on december 19th, 1986. On arrival at London Southend Airport, XL426 had 6236 hours flying time on its counter, having made over 1800 separate flights.

This special photo shoot was organized on the 40th anniversary of Operation Black Buck. During the 182 Falklands War, Operation Black Buck was a serie of seven extremely long-range ground attack missions by Royal Air Force (RAF) Vulcan bombers of the RAF Waddington Wing. The objective of this complicated military mission was to attack Port Stanley Airport and its associated defenses. The attack began on April 30th, 1982 and was the first of seven raids on the airfield and anti-aircraft radar installations. This military operation was so complicated that 11 tanker planes were needed for refueling because the Vulcan bomber crew had to fly 6,900 km from RAF Waddington to Ascension Island and then another 6,100 km to the Falkland Islands. While seven raids were conducted, only five of them were successful. One Vulcan was nearly lost when a fuel shortage forced it to land in Brazil. The Operation Black Buck raids were the longest-ranged bombing raids in history at that time.

During this well-organized event, about sixty photographers had the opportunity to photograph the Avro Vulcan XL426 in the presence of several reenactors. As a bonus, the photographers were also able to witness an engine run and taxi run of the Vulcan at the start of the event. Thanks to the reenactors and the professional guidance led by Steven Comber (COAP) and Emily Mudie (Timeline Events), this was an unforgettable evening where the photographers were taken back to the time of the Cold War and the Falklands War. 

Text & photos: Kris Christiaens

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