XM655 Maintenance and Preservation Society

Countdown to Wings and Wheels 2014

Avro Vulcan B.Mk2 XM655

Avro Vulcan XM655 was third from last of the Vulcan bombers produced for the Royal Air Force, being delivered in late 1964, and was part of the UK's nuclear deterrent force throughout the 1960s and 1970s. It is now owned by Wellesbourne Airfield, and is looked after by 655 Maintenance and Preservation Society (655MaPS) which is a volunteer organisation of Vulcan enthusiasts.

XM655 is one of the few Vulcans remaining in ground running condition, the only one with the most powerful of the engine variants (Bristol Olympus 301s) and 655MaPS aim to keep it running for as long as possible. The aircraft systems are powered up and exercised regularly, engine ground runs are carried out several times every year, and a "Fast Taxi" event is carried out every summer to show off the aircraft and raise funds to support its preservation.

XM655 is maintained by a small team of skilled and dedicated volunteers, many of whom are ex-RAF, (some even ex-V-Force personnel and one of whom actually worked on XM655 in service), who give up their Saturdays to preserving XM655.

19/04/2014 Engine Ground Runs

Saturday saw an early start at 655 MaPS, as we were to run the newly installed No.1 engine. As this would be the first time this engine had been run in 30 years, it was not without a little apprehension! However, our chief engineer, Eric, had done a thorough risk assessment and had limited access to just one single fuel tank to minimise any possible damage should any problems arise.

Having isolated all but one fuel tank, the magnetic drain plugs were cleaned to ensure that we would be able to identify any new debris that might accumulate there after the various EGRs that were about to take place.

The towing arm was then connected and the the aircraft towed down to the temporary engine running area at the southern end of RWY05/23, along with the necessary ground equipment.

Towing the aircraft
Roger tows the aircraft down to RWY05/23
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


For this first run, we kept the volunteer numbers down to a minimum, just in case evacuation of the aircraft became necessary. The crew consisted of Eric as P1, Len as P2 and Charles as AEO. Roger and Ben were both on the long lead as Ben is our trainee crew chief. Bry was looking after the Palouste air start trolley.

The Crew
Our fearless crew! Left to right Bry, Eric, Charles, Len, Roger and Ben.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


We also had the airfield fire truck in attendance as a further precaution, and Clive to record the event.

The Airfield Fire and Rescue
Wellesbourne Airfield Fire and Rescue in attendance.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


The new engine performed faultlessly (much to everyone's relief!) and it was accelerated to maximum cruise power of 97% RPM to check the governor.

We then returned to the pan to have a coffee and collect the rest of the volunteers for our four engine EGR.

Once we were all back at the aircraft, and with the same crew as previously, but with the addition of Avril and Nick as passengers, we prepared to start all four engines.

Crew and passengers
The crew and passengers immediately after a practice evacuation.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


At this point we discovered a problem with our air start trolley, which proved to be a wire disconnected in the lead from the aircraft. We attempted to fix the problem in situ, but ended up towing the Palouste back to the pan for the repair to be made.

The Palouste broken wire
Tim attempts to re-solder the connection in situ.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


During this time, Len's visitor John Huggins arrived. John was the youngest Vulcan Captain ever, achieving that position at the age of only 22. He was also the pilot on the two flights Len had in a Vulcan.

Ex-Vulcan Pilot John Huggins
Len's Guest, Ex-Vulcan pilot John Huggins.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


Once the Palouste was repaired and back with the aircraft, all four engines were started and the aircraft taxied a few yards to carry out brake checks from both P1 and P2 stations. A further short taxi allowed us to check the nose wheel steering.

In the afternoon, our aircrew of Wg Cdr Mike Pollitt and Nick Dennis former Vulcan QFI arrived to carry out a 'Figure of Eight' taxi to fully check out the nosewheel steering and to give Mike some extra familiarisation with the runway width. This is essential in order that the turns can be made as 'gently' as possible to avoid scrubbing the tyres, and this necessitates utilising the maximum safe width of the runway.

Mike, Nick and Charles receive a briefing from Eric
Mike Pollit, Nick Dennis and Charles receive a briefing from Eric.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


Passengers for this run were 'Mumbai John' Wood and 'Dougie the tuggie' Hales.

Dugie and John
Dougie Hales (left) and John Wood.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


Figure of Eight
Mike and Nick perform a Figure of Eight whilst marshaller Tim avoids the jet blast.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley.


12/04/2014 No1. Engine Finally Replaced

Thanks to a lot of hard work on the part of the engineers, No.1 engine replacement is now completed and wet and dry cycles have been successfully carried out.

The last job on the engine was the refitting of the end cap which was tackled by Len and Bry with some help from Nick.

the end cap is refitted
Len gets his week's exercise pumping up the safety raiser so Bry can complete the end cap refitting.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Whilst the end cap was removed from the aircraft, it was completely stripped and repainted by Av Magill, and now looks splendid in its heat-resistant silver paint.

the end cap is refitted
The end cap fitting completed.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


In order to carry out the wet and dry cycles of the engine, our trusty Palouste air starter trolley was connected. Bob, Nick and Bry were hoping they would get to warm their hands on the Palouste exhaust, or was it just a hint to get on and start it up?

warming the hands
Bob, Nick and Bry wait for the Palouste to be started so they can warm their hands!
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


XM655 is now sporting the 30/50 anniversary badge celebrating the 50 years since the aircraft came into service and the 30 years it has been at Wellesbourne.

the 30/50 anniversary badge
XM655 proudly sports the 30/50 year anniversary badge.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


05/04/2014 A Busy Day at Wellesbourne

Lots to do and lots of people doing it! Not only is Wings & Wheels preparation continuing but we still had work to do on the newly installed replacement No.1 engine. Added to that we had 11 members of the Spice Group visiting us, and being the first Saturday of the month our regular helpers from 150 Sqn (City of Oxford) and 240 (Darlaston) Sqn ATC Cadets

The ATC cadets quickly got to work on the Coleman tractor, preparing it for a re-paint.

ATC cadets prepare the Coleman
150 Sqn (City of Oxford) and 240 Sqn (Darlaston) ATC Cadets prepare the Coleman for a re-paint.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Meanwhile Charles welcomed our Spice Group visitors and introduced them to their three "tour guides" and they were then treated to a systems demonstration of the powered flying controls, air brakes, bomb doors, landing and navigation lights. We also ran the Rover airborne auxiliary power pack to provide a bit of atmosphere to the visit.

Charles welcomes the Spice group visitors
Charles welcomes the Spice Group visitors.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Once the systems demonstration was completed, whilst Damaris, Bob and Len looked after our visitors, showing them around XM655 and giving them a cockpit tour, Ben, Roger, Charles and Eric continued with the work on No.1 Engine and the rest of the volunteers got on with making sure that 655 will look her best for Wings & Wheels.

The first group go for their cockpit visit
The first group go for their cockpit visit.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Isi sands the starboard wing
Isi takes the power sander to the starboard wing prior to re-painting.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Hayley and Nick paint the underside
Hayley and Nick re-paint the underside of the starboard wing.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


23/03/2014 Bugatti Club visit us for the 5th. Time

We must be doing something right as on Sunday, the Bugatti Club visited us for the 5th. time! Frank Ashley, the Bugatti Club organiser who has been on all 5 visits said "I learn something new every time we visit!" This time Frank had brought a large group of 31 club members with him. As the restricted room in the Vulcan cockpit only allows us to take 4 visitors at a time, we had 8 volunteers standing by to act as tour guides, whilst work was still able to go on with the installation work on No.1 engine.

Charles welcomes the visitors
Charles welcomes the visitors and introduces them to their 'Tour Guides'
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


With such a large group, cockpit tours had to be limited to 15 minutes for each group of 4, but there is so much to show and explain on the exterior of the aircraft that the visitors are never bored waiting for their turn in the cockpit.

Visitors also have the opportunity to see several videos of previous taxi runs, and footage of XM655 arriving at Wellesbourne.

Visitors are shown around the exterior of the aircraft
Visitors are shown around the exterior of the aircraft
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


The visit terminated with the usual photo-call including 6 of the interesting vehicles in which they had arrived. I personally fell in love with the AC Bristol sports car, a real classic, whilst Kay had the opportunity to sit in the 2012 Morgan, and even start the engine! She was so excited, we were all anticipating her attempting to steal it!

The photo-call
Visitors and volunteers pose with the owners' vehicles.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


22/03/2014 No.1 Engine Change

Following the decision to exchange the No.1 engine for one of our spare Olympus 301 engines, the spare was wheeled out of the container. This engine is largely 'dressed', that is most of the ancillary equipment such as the CSDU (Constant Speed Drive Unit) and alternator are already fitted.

The spare engine is wheeled out from the container
The spare engine is wheeled out from the container
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


The spare engine did not have the rapid start system fitted and so Eric can be seen swapping the remaining parts from the removed engine to the replacement.

Eric removes some parts from the removed engine
Eric removes some parts from the removed engine for refitting to the replacement.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Once that was done, the replacement engine could be lifted into the engine bay.

The replacement engine is winched up into the engine bay
Ben, Bry, Eric and Charles winch the replacement engine up into the engine bay.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Once the replacement engine was safely located back in the engine bay, all the electrical connections, fire protection circuits, hydraulic piping and fuel pipes could be reconnected.

Eric and Roger commence reconnection of the electrical circuits
Eric and Roger commence reconnection of the electrical circuits.
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


15/03/2014 Wings & Wheels Preparation

Much work has been done preparing XM655 for our Wings & Wheels event in June. Preparation for the re-painting of the upper surface of the aircraft continues apace.

Kay sands the filler on the rivet line
Kay sands off the filler
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Bry brushes off the dust
Isi, Jon and Kay watch Bry hard at work with the sweeping brush!
Image Copyright© Av Magill.


Having replaced the No.1 engine following dropping it for maintenance and inspection, on applying fuel pressure a fuel leak was discovered from the turbine casing. The decision was taken to replace the engine with one of our 2 spare Olympus 301's allowing rectification work on the problem engine to be carried out much more conveniently.

Isi and John help drop the problem engine
Isi and John help drop the problem engine
Image Copyright© Alex Jack.


01/03/2014 Porsche Owners Visit

The First day of March made us think that Spring had perhaps arrived. The sun was shining and for the first time for weeks, a Saturday at Wellesbourne was one without howling winds!

The Porsche Owners had certainly chosen an excellent day on which to visit us, and turned up with 8 gleaming motors, and 14 members.

In the absence of our Chairman Charles, Eric welcomed the visitors.

Eric welcomes the visitors
Eric welcomes the visitors
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Our regular captain for the taxi runs, Wg Cdr Mike Pollitt, valiantly offered to come over to Wellesbourne to do all the cockpit tours. Thank you Mike!

Of course, we had to get a group shot of all the Porsches with XM655, their occupants and the volunteers.

The photo-call
The Photo Call
Image Copyright© Isi Jackson


That marked the end of the visits, and Av snapped the first of the visitors to depart.

The visitors depart
The first of our visitors departs
Image Copyright© Av Magill


We also had our regular monthly addition to our workforce with cadets and instructors from 150 (City of Oxford) sqn. ATC and 240 (Darlaston) sqn. ATC who continued with the ongoing task of refurbishing the Bomb Trolley, assisting with an aircraft tyre change, and doing some more painting on the Sentinel Tug.

15/02/2014 A Rather Special Day - XM655's 30th. Anniversary

The day had been expertly planned by a small group headed by our Events Co-ordinator Damaris Tapp. XM655 (and MaPS) is obviously held in such high esteem by everyone associated with it, that despite the appalling weather over the previous few days almost every single person who had been invited arrived at Wellesbourne at the allotted hour. The event officially started with MaPS Events Coordinator Damaris Tapp, who welcomed the assembled company and then introduced MaPS Chairman, Charles Brimson.

The South Warwickshire Flying School was transformed (courtesy of its Principal, Rodney Galiffe) into the hub of the event . A large cake was baked specially and took centre stage as invited guests arrived to celebrate the event with volunteers who had worked so hard to both restore and preserve 655 in fully operational (if not airworthy) condition.

655 Anniversary cake
XM655s Anniversary Cake

We had invited a large guest list including former MaPS volunteers, aircrew associated with XM655, representatives from the Vulcan Restoration Trust at Southend, Vulcan to the Sky Trust at Finningley and local dignitaries.

The day started with MaPS Events Co-ordinator Damaris Tapp, who welcomed the assembled company and introduced MaPS Chairman, Charles Brimson.

Damaris welcomes all our visitors
MaPS Events Co-ordinator Damaris Tapp welcomes all our visitors.

This was followed by Charles giving a presentation covering the history of XM655 at Wellesbourne, which was very well received.

Charles Brimson gives the presentation
MaPS Chairman Charles Brimson gives the presentation.

Following the presentation, our Guest of Honour Wilbs Wilson, who was Co-Pilot on XM655's delivery flight, cut the cake.

Wilbs Wilson cuts the cake
Left-Right:Sqn Ldr Martin Withers, Wg Cdr Mike Pollitt, Charles Brimson, Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield & Wilbs Wilson.

As we failed to get photographs of the annual presentation for most best performing cadet of 150 City of Oxford Sqn. ATC at the 2013 Wings and Wheels event, we took this opportunity to rectify the omission!

Sgt Finlay Moncur receives his award
The MaPS Trophy was awarded to Sgt Finlay Moncur and presented by Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield who originally donated the trophy, an Olympus compressor blade.

The runner-up award was presented to Cpl Richelle Bartlett.

Cpl Richelle Bartlett receives her award
The MaPS Runner-up was awarded to Cpl Richelle Bartlett and presented by Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield.

Other VIP visitors included the Cllr Chris Mills, Chairman of Stratford District Council with his wife, AVM Nigel Baldwin, past 50 Sqn OC, 3 generations of the Littler family, owners of XM655 and David Close, Chairman of Wellesbourne Parish Council and his wife.

Cllr Chris Mills with his wife
Cllr Chris Mills, Chairman of Stratford District Council with his wife Susan.

Once the formalities were over, it was time for Wilbs Wilson to re-unite himself with the co-pilots seat he occupied on the last time XM655 flew on its delivery flight to Wellesbourne.

Wilbs Wilson takes his old seat in XM655
Wilbs Wilson takes his old P2 seat in XM655 (accompanied by Wg Cdr Mike Pollitt, out of shot in the P1 seat).

In sunny but windy conditions, the assembled company, guests and volunteers lined up in front of XM655 for the group photograph

The assembled company
The assembled company line up before the real star of the show, XM655.

Following the photo-call, our visitors were treated to a systems demonstration with the powered flying controls, navigation lights, landing lights, bomb doors and airbrakes all being operated.

All photographs Copyright©Clive Hanley

01/02/2014 No1 Engine goes back into 655

February 1st. saw the No 1 engine back where it belongs, in XM655. Fortunately it was a dry day (unlike the previous Saturday - see the Photo below!), but it was exceptionally windy, with gusts exceeding 30 knots, which meant we all felt the wind chill factor!

XM655 becomes a substitute umbrella!
Volunteers take shelter under the aircraft during a downpour the previous week.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Before the engine could be lifted back into the aircraft there were some ancillary components to refit.

Roger and Ben refit the last components
Roger and Ben refit the remaining components, whilst Eric prepares the chain hoists.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


With the assistance of 150(City of Oxford) Sqn & 240 (Darlaston) Sqn ATC cadets, the engine was re-positioned under the engine bay.

No1 engine positioned under the engine bay
No1 engine is positioned under the engine bay.
Note the aluminium sheets laid to make the movement easier on the uneven pan surface.

Image Copyright© Av Magill


As the engine is lifted, electrical connections can be reconnected to the engine. This can be a difficult task as there is very little room between the engine bay sides and the engine.

Roger reconnects the electrical connections
Roger reconnects the electrical connections
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Finally the engine was lifted into its final position. All that now remains is to reconnect the alternator cables, hydraulics and fuel connections, engine and airframe cooling ducts, air systems pipework, engine breather and nose bullet. test the fire warning system, re-position the jet pipe which has to be moved backwards to remove the engine, and refit the end cap, which will be done over the next few weeks.

Almost there!
Almost there!
Image Copyright© Av Magill


The engine will be tested on a ground run sometime in the coming weeks, as arrangements have to be made with the airfield to move the aircraft to a suitable location to run the engines

11/01/2014 Spice Group Visit

The Spice Group must like us, because they keep coming back! Being a national group, it does tend to be different members on each visit, however.

They did bring glorious winter sunshine with them, which made a nice change from recent Saturdays, particularly the previous one where the pan was partially flooded!

This time we had 20 members come to visit us. For the systems demonstration we had to omit operating the bomb doors, as the hydraulics system is currently drained following the temporary removal of the No.1 Olympus engine for servicing.

Eric takes the roll of Crew Chief
Eric acts as Crew Chief during the systems demonstration.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley


For the now mandatory group photo, they had even brought their own poster to advertise the group!

Spice Group pose for the group photo
Spice Group pose for the group photo along with Charles and Damaris.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley


The party did have the opportunity to get up 'close and personal' with the No.1 Engine which is currently out of the aircraft undergoing routine maintenance.

Inspecting the No.1 Engine
Spice Group members inspecting the No1 Engine.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley


Meanwhile the engineering work on the No1 engine continued with Roger and Ben getting it ready for re-assembly.

Inspecting the No.1 Engine
Roger and Ben prepare the No.1 Engine for re-assembly.
Image Copyright© Clive Hanley


16/11/2013 No1 Engine Dropped for Inspection

We were all very grateful for rather milder weather than when we last removed an engine for routine inspection two winters ago!

Over the previous three weeks, the engine has been prepared for the main event by removal of air ducting, hydraulic feeds, throttle linkage, intake make-up pieces and electrical and fire detection connections to the engine.

Roger disconnects one of the firewire connections
Roger disconnects one of the firewire connections.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Eric prepares to remove some of the piping
Eric prepares to remove some of the piping.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Once more we called upon the assistance of 150(City of Oxford) Sqn. ATC cadets to provide the muscle power to drop the engine, partly as good experience for them, and partly to save us "old codgers'" backs and arm muscles!


Not all of the electrical wiring can be disconnected whilst the engine is in its normal position. A couple of connectors can only be reached once the engine has been lowered a little, but great care has to be taken to disconnect them before the wiring gets broken.

Len removes the remaing electrical connections
Len removes the remaing electrical connections.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Once the last of the connections was removed, the cadets could continue carefully lowering the engine, Eric supervising from the engine inlet to ensure the engine stayed level during the operation (His feet can just be seen at the top of the above photo).

The cadets continue to lower the engine
The cadets continue to lower the engine.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


No1 engine almost safely on its engine stand
No1 engine almost safely on its engine stand
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Av applies a fresh coat of paint to the end cap
Meanwhile, Av applies a fresh coat of paint to the end cap
Image Copyright© Len Hewitt


19/10/2013 Autumn Engine Ground Run

XM655's Autumn EGR was carried out on October 19th.

The weather looked less than promising as the aircraft was towed down the main runway to runway 05 where the run was to be conducted.

Roger tows the aircraft
XM655 is towed down to Runway 05 by Roger.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


By the time the aircraft was in position for the EGR, and waiting for the ground equipment to arrive, the weather was looking rather more promising.

In Position
XM655 awaiting the ground equipment
Image Copyright© Av Magill


The crew for the EGR consisted as Eric as Captain, two 'new' pilots, John Tye, BA B777 Training Captain and former Concorde pilot as P1 and Nick Dennis, former Vulcan QFI and Britannia B737 Captain. Our AEO was Charles as usual for our EGRs. John's wife, Lynne was also aboard as passenger for the EGR.

Charles goes through the check list
Charles goes through the check list prior to engine start.
Image Copyright© Alex Jack


Although Nick hadn't been at the controls of a Vulcan for almost 35 years, he was immediately at home in the co-pilots seat, and it took no time at all for him to familiarise himself with all the multitude of switches and buttons!

John and Nick in the 'hot-seats'
Nick starts up No.3 whilst John keeps a close eye on the RPM and JPT indicators.
Image Copyright© Alex Jack


On the second engine run of the day, Eric moved up into the pilot's seat along side Nick, who, once the engines were started, did a short taxi run. Apparently, Nick was all ready to do a much longer taxi run, as he was enjoying himself so much!

Nick and Eric taxi the aircraft'
Nick and Eric taxi the aircraft.
Image Copyright© Gareth Stringer


Eventually, the threatened rain arrived, but passed fairly quickly, as can be seen by the puddles on the taxiway as Roger parks XM655 back on her pan.

Roger tows the aircraft
Roger parks XM655 back on her pan.
Image Copyright© Av Magill


09/07/2013 to 16/11/2013 What DOES MaPs Stand for?

Well, MaPs has often been said to stand for "Making and Painting Sheds", and the Summer months saw it meaning just that!

Thanks to the dedicated efforts of 150(City of Oxford) Sqn. & 240 (Darlaston) Sqn ATC Cadets, all our accommodation (which had been in a variety of different shades of peeling paint), was transformed into a collection of uniformly RAF Blue sheds and containers.

150 Sqn ATC cadets 'prep' the old paintwork
Members of 150(City of Oxford) Sqn & 240 (Darlaston) Sqn ATC 'prep' the old paintwork
Image Copyright© Av Magill


The next time the Cadets were visiting, out came the paint brushes and rollers and they set about giving the sheds and containers a much needed facelift.

 Painting the sheds
The cadets of 150(City of Oxford) Sqn && 240 (Darlaston) Sqn ATC painting away
Image Copyright© Av Magill


The next job was to re-roof the sheds, adding insulation at the same time so we should be a little warmer this winter. This has been largely done by Bob and Bry although Av and Isi have also been seen wielding hammers around the roofing felt!

roofing materials
Bry passes up the next board to Bob
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Over the summer, Bob has also been busy changing the earth point for the aircraft and re-positioning the mains feed to the aircraft to a much more convenient position, reducing the number of trip hazards due to cables. He has also been working on updating the cockpit lighting so that our visitors have rather more light when having a cockpit tour.

07/09/2013 Porsche Speedster Club Visit

Our visitors arrived in 10 highly polished Porsche Speedsters, one of the largest number of cars to be parked in front of XM655 during an organised visit we have seen.

When we have Group Visits from car clubs, the 'photo call' usually occurs at the end of the visit, but this time the cars were lined up on arrival, marshalled into an immaculate arrangement by Bry.

Speedster Line-up
All set for the compulsory Photo-call!
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Once the group had taken all the photographs they wanted, Charles welcomed them all with a chat about XM655 and 655MaPS (as well as the usual health and safety briefing). The visitors then attached themselves in groups of 4 to the volunteers for their cockpit visits - somewhat shorter than usual due to time constraints as the group were going on to their Club AGM at nearby Wellesbourne House.

Charles welcomes the visitors
Charles welcomes the visitors
Image Copyright© Av Magill


Av grabbed another photo opportunity as our visitors departed in convoy for their next engagement!

the visitors depart
Our visitors depart in convoy
Image Copyright© Av Magill


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