The experts who restored the Doncaster-based Vulcan bomber are set to take another iconic British cold war jet back to the air.
The Vulcan to the Sky Trust, based at Robin Hood Airport, Doncaster, is now looking to restore the English Electric Canberra jet which was once the world record holder for the highest flight.
It wants to bring it back to a state where it can fly again at air shows.
English Electric Canberra WK163 shot into the headlines around the world in 1957 when a prototype rocket motor fired her to 70,310 ft and a new world altitude record. .
“WK163 was a celebrity even amongst the research aircraft,” said one senior engineer who worked on world-leading secret research programmes at the Ministry of Aviation. “She flew to the edge of space. It was an astonishing achievement.”
Since her final flight in 2007, the famous aircraft, with ‘holder of the world altitude record’ proudly written on her nose, has faced an uncertain future.
Now she is to be restored and returned to the airshow circuit with the aim of helping to celebrate the centenary of the RAF in 2018.
The restoration will be undertaken by Vulcan to the Sky Trust, charity responsible for the restoration and operation of Vulcan XH558 from Doncaster.
“WK163 embodies so much that is remarkable about British courage and innovation in the Jet Age; qualities that she can continue to inspire in us all,” said Dr Robert Pleming, who led the team that returned XH558 to flight and is now chief executive of Vulcan to the Sky Trust.
“I am thrilled to announce that the Trust plans to restore and fly WK163 for the British public, as we did with Vulcan XH558, with an education programme around her to inspire new generations of engineers and aviators.”
Entering service in 1951, the Canberra was the RAF’s first jet bomber, the answer to a 1944 Air Ministry requirement for a high-speed, high-altitude aircraft to replace the de Havilland Mosquito.
It was the the first jet to cross the Atlantic without refuelling (in 1951)
The all-British Canberra was so effective that they were operated by at least 17 nations including France, Germany, Australia and the USA.
The Americans admired the Canberra so much that they also built a significant number. They can fly so high for so long that NASA still uses three US-built Canberras for satellite development.
There are only five Canberras known to be flying in the world, including the three highly modified, USbuilt aircraft at NASA. Only two of these are English Electric Canberras and currently, none are flying in Europe.
WK163 has already been surveyed by both Vulcan to the Sky Trust and independent specialists, who agree that a return to flight is possible. Along with the aircraft, the Trust has acquired a stock of spares.
This includes six engines and a complete set of documentation and RAF maintenance procedures.
The first stage will be to remove the wings and transport WK163 by road to the Trust’s engineering facility at Hangar 3, Robin Hood Airport , where the restoration will take place.
The aircraft travelled from Coventry to Doncaster today and the trust is launching a fundraising campaign to make the first phase possible.
Once at Hangar 3, the Inspection and Project Scoping Phase will begin with a detailed strip-down, examination and testing to determine exactly what is needed to return WK163 to flight.
This is expected to take the remainder of the summer and will lead to an in-depth understanding of the condition of the aircraft, an inventory of the spare parts, their condition and documentation, and discussions with the many specialist suppliers whose help will be invaluable.
Following the Inspection Phase, a timed and costed plan will be designed for every activity required to return this important aircraft to British airshows in time for the RAF centenary.
To help fund the acquisition and transportation of Canberra WK163, readers are being offered a range of ways to take part and to get close to both aircraft, with more details at www.vulcantothesky.org.