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Photograph by Peter Middlebrook
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Avro Vulcan B1A XH498 of the Waddington Wing at RAF Luqa in September 1966. The in-flight refuelling probe has been removed.

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498 was delivered as a B1 to No 617 Squadron at Scampton in June 1958. It achieved some fame in 1959 when it touched down short at a display in New Zealand and subsequently crash landed. 617s B1s became No 50 Squadron at RAF Waddington and 498 was modified to B1A standard in 1962. After service on the Waddington Wing, 498 became 7993M in October 1967 and was used as an instructional airframe at RAF Gaydon. It was scrapped in 1970.

Peter Middlebrook remembers:

"This started out as a quick visit to Luqa and El Adem in preparation for 44 Squadron’s Sunspot detachment to Malta, in October 1966.

"We positioned at Luqa on 26 September, then flew on the next morning to El Adem intending to discuss the range work, and then back to Luqa in the afternoon. The idea was to return to Waddington the following day. We actually didn’t see Waddington again for a month.

"When the undercarriage down button was pressed prior to landing at El Adem, only the main wheel lights went red at first, the nose wheel went red a few seconds later, although we then obtained the usual three greens and landed safely. El Adem was no place to jack up a Vulcan, so we flew back to Luqa, and the same thing happened again.

"XH498 was put up on jacks in one of the hangers, and the local undercarriage menders had a look at it. They couldn’t rectify the problem. To cut a very long story short, over the following weeks, a long line of experts on the Vulcan undercarriage were flown in from UK, but no one could sort out the problem. So much hydraulic fluid was used that at one time, we endangered the entire emergency stock of the Middle East Air Force.

"Under these testing circumstances, our crew evolved the tactic of meeting up in the bar for what in the Buccaneer force we called “Hydraulic Lectures”. Then, each afternoon we would visit XH498 in its hanger, to check on progress.

"None was ever made. We never saw it again. Our crew flew back at the end of Sunspot in an RAF Britannia, with a faulty cargo door. I think XH498 was ultimately flown back to UK with the undercarriage down and put out to pasture soon afterwards."

© Peter Middlebrook.

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