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James Cole's grandfather photographed his Shell tanker alongside a Vulcan B1 at Christschurch, New Zealand. James imagined the photo dated from the mid-60s but the aircraft's natural finish indicates a much earlier date. Only the first handful of Vulcan B1s delivered to the RAF were 'silver'. The first was in July 1956 when XA897, the ninth production aircraft was delivered to No 230 OCU at RAF Waddington. However, rather than train aircrew, 897 was selected to undergo a flag-waving flight to New Zealand and returned to Woodford for modifications including the fitting of long-range fuel tanks in the bomb bay, 'borrowed' from the prototype VX770. The aircraft's captain was Sqn Ldr Donald Howard. co-pilot was Air Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst, CinC of Bomber Command. Amongst the crew was another qualified pilot and a technical representative from Avro. 897 arrived at Christschurch on 18 September 1956 via Aden, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney and Adelade — the long stages being made possible with the long-range fuel tanks that provided an extra 2700 gallons (21600lbs) though filling them completely was impossible because it would have taken the all-up-weight above limits. On 1 October, 897 departed from RAF Khormaksar at Aden for Heathrow and a VIP reception on the last leg of its return journey The weather at Heathrow was bad and the aircraft touched down short, became airborne again, and climbed away before crashing. Only the two pilots, Howard and Broadhurst, escaped.

Peter Middlebrook recalls: "The three RAF aircrew killed are buried close together in the villiage churchyard at Waddington. There were two Avro tech reps on the trip. On the final flight, they flipped coins to see who would go in the Vulcan. I remember speaking to the Avro rep who lost the toss.".

© James Cole. This photograph first appeared on Airliners.Net >>

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