Did Vulcan XH558 Perform Unauthorized Barrel Rolls Before Retirement?

Avro Vulcan XH558 - Eric Coeckelberghs
Photo Courtesy of Vulcan to the Sky Trust

If there’s one warbird that has captivated the aviation community over the past few years, it’s been XH558: the last flying Avro Vulcan. XH558 has been flying since 2007 after retiring from service with the Royal Air Force (RAF) in 1984. On October 28th of this year, the Vulcan made a farewell to flight at Robin Hood Doncaster Sheffield Airport outside Doncaster, England. With a short flight and a final taxi, XH558 became the last Vulcan to fly and will be put on display and occasionally run up and taxied at the airport.

However, the Vulcan has raised some trouble with England’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with what appears to be a pair of barrel rolls during one of it’s last flights. The BBC has published footage by BDP Aviation that appears to show XH558 executing two separate barrel rolls while flying over Grantham, Lincolnshire on October 4th. The CAA had tightened restrictions on maneuvers during aerial displays following the August 22nd crash of a Hawker Hunter T7, G-BXFI, in Shoreham that resulted in 11 fatalities.

According to the BBC article, a CAA spokesperson has said the Vulcan “may have performed a roll maneuver”. Adding: “This did not occur during an air display. Although not normally allowed under its current permissions to fly, a roll is a benign maneuver and the Vulcan’s maintenance support organisation has confirmed that the aircraft is safe to fly.”

When done correctly, a barrel roll maneuver is flown at a constant 1G, meaning the aircraft never ‘feels’ that it is inverted. Famous examples of this include the Boeing 707 airliner that was rolled on a test flight, and Bob Hoover pouring water into a glass while rolling.

The investigation by the CAA is underway, and the Vulcan to the Sky Trust that operates XH558 has yet to comment.

The Many Highlights Of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

posted in: Airshows, Event Recap | 0

F-22 Raptor, F-35 Lightning II, and P-38 Lightning Under Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Another year, another EAA AirVenture in the books! The week-long event at Wittman Regional Airport annually draws in over 10,000 aircraft, from general aviation to warbirds and modern military aircraft. Many people will camp the entire week, either in the nearby campgrounds or even in a tent right under their plane, because there is simply too much to see and do for just a weekend. For aviation enthusiasts young and old, AirVenture is the biggest event of the year.

Skip Stewart - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015USAF Thunderbirds T-38 Talon - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

This year’s event stuck out to many as one of the best in recent years, thanks to the number and magnitude of highlights. The statistics certainly back up this notion; total attendance was approximately 550,000, up two percent from last year. Even more than that, there was a noticeable increase in both aircraft attendance and activity. At one point, only one parking spot was left in the Fightertown section!

With so much going on, let’s dive into some of this year’s highlights!

Airbus’s New A350 XWB

On Monday, a flight-test version of the Airbus A350 XWB (Extra-Wide-Body) gave an impressive display of the aircraft’s flight capabilities. Its tight turns, steep banks, and high rate of climb had spectators on their feet. After its performance, the aircraft was towed to Boeing Plaza for tours of the interior. On Wednesday, it was towed out of the plaza and down to the end of the runway where it gave a second demonstration before returning home. The A350 XWB can carry over 300 passengers nearly 8,000 nautical miles, and is already in service by Qatar Airways and Vietnam Airlines.

Airbus A350 - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015Airbus A350 - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

B-52 in Boeing Plaza

On the Friday before the show, many of the runway lights were taken down to accommodate one of the largest aircraft ever to land at Wittman Regional Airport: the B-52 Stratofortress. While it did not fly in the show, this massive bomber took up a big chunk of space in Boeing Plaza throughout the week, where the pilots and crew gave talks, answered questions, and sold some squadron merchandise. Fun fact: the B-52 is part of the 343rd Bomber Squadron out of Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana. This is, coincidentally, the same location as EAA Chapter 343. As a result of this coincidence, special 343 patches commemorating both the base and the chapter were sold in limited supply.

B-52 Stratofortress and B-29 Superfortress - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

The crew even got into the AirVenture spirit by registering the aircraft as a home-built with over 14,000 flight hours and asking for it to be judged. As a result, the B-52 won a special award!

Unfortunately the aircraft did not fly during the event because of the logistics of getting it back to the runway. However, we were there on the following Monday and got the best seat in the house for its departure.

Honoring the Legacy of Burt Rutan

This year, Burt Rutan returned to AirVenture to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his VariEze aircraft design (which first flew in May of 1975). Rutan is famous for his innovative aircraft concepts, such as the use of canards on various general aviation aircraft and also for perhaps his most famous milestone: SpaceShipOne. On Monday, a rare Beechcraft Starship made a special airshow arrival and the next day it joined with various other Rutan designs for a tribute during the show. Tuesday night, the Theater in the Woods featured ‘Garage-to-Garage’, a special presentation that highlighted Rutan’s legacy; 46 different aircraft designs with over 1,000 aircraft in service.

Burt Rutan Tribute - Beechcraft Starship - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015Burt Rutan Tribute - Boomerang - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Arrival of the F-35 Lightning II

While the USMC version of the F-35 has been giving mini-demonstrations throughout the year at military airshows, AirVenture 2015 marked the first appearance of an F-35 Lightning II at a civilian show. Early Wednesday afternoon, two USAF F-35s from Eglin Air Force Base performed some low approaches before landing, unfortunately without afterburner. One of the pair was soon towed over to Boeing Plaza; setting up a rare opportunity to see it next to not only an F-22 Raptor, but a P-38 Lightning as well! Both stealth jets were kept under tight security with armed guards who kept an eye on the swarms of people surrounding them and taking pictures.

USAF F-35 Lightning II - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015USAF F-35 Lightning II - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

F-100 Super Sabre and F-4 Phantom

These two Vietnam-era jets created their own thunder in the later half of the week. The F-100, currently the only one of its kind flying, makes precious few airshow appearances and had never graced the Oshkosh skies before. Pilot and owner Dean “Cutter” Cutshall flew it in from Fort Wayne, IN and performed twice during the show. The first time was during the Friday warbird show when it flew with the Warbird Heritage Foundation’s A-4 Skyhawk and Jeff Kaney’s MiG-17 Fresco in the “Vietnam jets” segment. The real show, however, was the twilight performance just before sunset on Saturday night. The F-100 is known for its primitive one-stage afterburner that POPS very loudly when first engaged, and Cutter knows just how to show it off for the crowd. In the dim evening sky, the flame trailing the aircraft was even more visible than usual and had aviation fans drooling.

F-100 Super Sabre - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015F-100 Super Sabre - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

The USAF F-4 Phantom II had a similar showing at AirVenture, performing a couple times as well as flying during the Saturday twilight show. This particular F-4 has been modified to fly as an unmanned target drone, making its proper designation QF-4. Several of these QF-4s were given special commemorative paint schemes in recent years and taken to airshows to perform in Heritage Flights alongside current fighters. Sadly many of even the specially painted F-4s have been shot down now as the QF-4 program comes to an end and the similar QF-16 program begins. This, combined with the recent budget cuts, meant that the pilots were not Heritage Flight qualified this year, and so they were only able to perform a solo mini-demonstration. Still, an F-4 twilight demo would be a highlight of any show. Oshkosh may very well prove to be the final public appearance of a military Phantom; if so, it went out in grand style.

USAF F-4 Phantom II - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015USAF F-4 Phantom II - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Salute to Veterans

Each year, EAA AirVenture hosts an Old Glory Honor Flight, which flies veterans to Washington DC to visit the memorials built in their honor. This year, the flight honored veterans from the Vietnam War. As the American Airlines MD-80 carrying them returned to show center at the conclusion of their special day, it was greeted with a water cannon salute from a pair of firetrucks. A large crowd on onlookers cheered the arrival, and the crowd shifted to the main stage in Boeing Plaza for a ceremony followed by a performance by the Lt. Dan Band (featuring Gary Sinise, best known for his role as Lt. Dan in the movie Forrest Gump). Several Vietnam-era aircraft, including the F-4 Phantom, F-100 Super Sabre, A-4 Skyhawk, OV-10 Mohawk, and A-1 Skyraider were arranged to ring the concert, making the moment even more special.

Vietnam Veterans Tribute - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Vietnam Veterans Tribute - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015Vietnam Veterans Honor Flight - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Record-Breaking Sky-Dive Attempt

The Golden Knights will often reference a “traffic jam in the sky” when several of their jumpers are coming in to land, but even their routine is nothing compared to the massive sky-diving attempts that were performed Wednesday and Friday during AirVenture. In an attempt to set the sequential mega-formation world record, 108 skydivers from around the world were divided among 5 jump aircraft. After jumping from 20,000 feet, the group had only 60 seconds to join up and form five different formations before splitting apart. As the jumpers opened their parachutes simultaneously, the sky exploded with canopies; so many that it was clearly audible on the ground thousands of feet below! Although the group made 3 different attempts at the record, they were not successful in the eyes of the judges. However, they did end up setting a Wisconsin state record for largest skydiving formation!

Rare Bombers: B-29 Superfortress and PB4Y-2 Privateer

This year’s show featured the world’s only flying B-29 Superfortress and PB4Y-2 Privateer. Although the B-29 “Fifi” has been in Oshkosh several times in the last few years, it was the first visit for the all silver Privateer. Both flew during the week, making simulated bombing runs with the help of the Tora Bomb Squad pyrotechnics team on the ground. “Fifi” also operated out of Appleton for part of the week, selling rides to passengers alongside EAA’s B-17 Flying Fortress “Aluminum Overcast”.

PB4Y-2 Privateer - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015B-29 Superfortress "Fifi" - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Roar of the Merlins

Thursday was the day of the legendary Merlin engine. The warbird portion of the show marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain by having the Avro Lancaster and de Havilland Mosquito, both powered by Merlins, fly together along with a replica Spitfire. The Lancaster and Mosquito are both one of only two of their type left flying in the world. A second Mosquito was on static display, however it is part of the EAA Museum located on the airport and does not fly. Still, the opportunity to see two side by side was incredible!

Avro Lancaster - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015de Havilland Mosquitos - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

A short time later, no less than 14 P-51 Mustangs taxied out. As they approached the runway, they stopped to perform simultaneous run-ups right in front of the crowd. Talk about goosebumps. They soon launched, mostly in pairs, and the formation-rated pilots in the group joined in three elements of four aircraft to provide high cover before diving in for individual high speed passes. Add it up and that’s twenty Merlins singing together in the skies over Oshkosh!

P-51 Mustangs - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015P-51 Mustangs - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Same Old AirVenture

Each year EAA AirVenture offers something new; something even fans who have been going for the last 35 years haven’t seen before. But at the same time, EAA AirVenture remains fundamentally the same; a massive gathering of aviation enthusiasts and fans with an unmatched feeling of camaraderie that draws people back every year. From the 10,000+ aircraft that fly in to the 1,000+ forums/workshops and the 800+ exhibitors, AirVenture will always be the world’s biggest aviation destination and that is a worthy highlight in its own right.

USAF F-22 Raptor and Fireworks - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015P-51 Mustang - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

Mass Warbird Formations - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

MiG-17 Fresco - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015USAF Heritage Flight - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015
The 4ce - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015Texas Flying Legends B-25 Mitchell and Zero - EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015

EAA AirVenture 2015: Exciting Announcements

posted in: Airshows, Military, Warbirds | 0

USMC AV-8B Harrier

EAA has made some exciting announcements recently regarding featured aircraft and performers at AirVenture 2015. Of course AirVenture is always packed with special things, but here are some of the biggest unveils of late.

USMC Harrier Demo

AirVenture will be getting some additional jet noise thanks to the inclusion of the US Marine Corps’ AV-8B Harrier demonstration. The vertical takeoff and landing jump jet will perform at just nine total events in 2015, so it is a rare treat and a change from 2014, when the Marines brought a CV-22 Osprey to perform in Oshkosh.

PB4Y-2 Privateer

Maybe the most exciting news, given its rarity, is that the world’s only flying PB4Y-2 Privateer, a naval patrol variant of the B-24 Liberator, will be appearing at AirVenture in 2015. The aircraft was supposed to make the trip from Arizona to Oshkosh last year, but engine trouble canceled the trip. However, 2014 did feature the B-24 Liberator “Diamond Lil”, one of only two flying B-24s left.

Avro Lancaster - Canadian Warplane Heritage MuseumB-25 Mitchell "Hot Gen" - Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum

Avro Lancaster and B-25 Mitchell

The Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Hamilton, Ontario has announced that their Avro Lancaster and B-25 Mitchell will be appearing at AirVenture this year. The Lancaster is the only one flying in North America, and one of only two in the world. The other is based in the UK. This is the Lancaster’s third appearance at AirVenture, following previous visits in 2006 and 2009.

The F-22 Raptor Returns

The USAF’s F-22 Raptor demo team will return to Oshkosh, but will be prevented from putting on a full display due to the limited aerobatic box. You may remember that several changes, such as pushing the crowd line back, had to be made last year in order for the USAF Thunderbirds to perform. The Raptor will instead perform a Heritage Flight with at least one warbird at AirVenture, although you can probably expect a ‘mini-demo’ of several non-aerobatic passes. It will be based in Milwaukee and fly its full demonstration routine for the Milwaukee Air and Water Show there. The appearance in Oshkosh will be a homecoming for Raptor demo pilot Captain John “Taboo” Cummings, who is a native of nearby Appleton, WI.

F-22 Raptor and P-51 Mustang - USAF Heritage FlightB-29 Superfortress "Fifi"

B-29 Superfortress “Fifi”

No stranger to AirVenture in the last few years, but a special guest nonetheless, the world’s only flying B-29 Superfortress “Fifi” will return to the show in 2015. Making this especially tantalizing is the possible appearance of what would be the second flying Superfortress, “Doc”. “Doc” is currently completing a lengthy restoration in Kansas and may be flying by the time AirVenture rolls around. Needless to say, getting the would-be only two flying B-29s in the world together would truly be amazing.

As you can see, there are a lot of special reasons to attend AirVenture in 2015!