We maintain XL426 in 'live' ground running condition, one of only three Vulcans in the world to be preserved this way (the others are XH558 at Doncaster Robin Hood Airport, South Yorkshire, and XM655 at Wellesbourne Mountford, Warwickshire). XL426 cannot fly but is capable of taxying under her own power.
The restoration and maintenance of XL426 is the responsibility of our Engineering Team. As XL426 is a 'live' aircraft, our engineering work programme is an extensive one and aims to keep all the Vulcan's various mechanical, hydraulic and electrical systems in good working order. We run XL426's four Rolls Royce Olympus engines regularly as part of our maintenance programme. Following an extensive period of restoration, we have recently begun taxying XL426, albeit only at slow speed for the moment.
Our engineering programme aims to keep XL426 as a 'live' ground running aircraft for at least the next 20 years.
We also have an ongoing inspection programme which identifies any corrosion inside XL426 or on the aircraft's surface. Whenever we find it, we remove the corrosion in accordance with the Vulcan's Structural Repair Manual and, where appropriate, treat the affected areas with corrosion-inhibiting chemicals.
We recently finished fully repainting XL426. The aircraft is in the green and grey camouflage scheme she has worn since the early 1980s and we have taken great care to faithfully reproduce the numerous stencil marks found all over the surface of the Vulcan's airframe. We have also put the No 50 and 617 (Dambuster) Squadron emblems on the starboard and port sides of XL426's tail fin respectively. XL426 served with both these squadrons in the 1970s and 80s.
Maintaining XL426 as a 'live' aircraft means we must also look after the numerous items of ground equipment essential to operating the aircraft. This equipment comprises an air tug (the most powerful tug on London Southend Airport), a Ground Power Unit, an Air Start Unit, the towing arm, a gas bottle trolley, a hydraulic lifting platform, servicing platforms and various steps and ladders.
At any one time we will have several projects on the go to restore specific aircraft components, such as the Powered Flying Control Units (PFCUs) or flying control surfaces, or items of our ground equipment. Depending on their nature, these restoration projects will take place either on the aircraft at London Southend Airport or at our workshop which is located near to Southend.
Our Engineering Team is also responsible for maintaining our items of infrastructure, including the workshop, our container units at London Southend Airport and XL426's dispersal pan itself.
For regular updates on our engineering work, please visit our Facebook page.