On Saturday, 14th September 150 (City of Oxford) Squadron invited the Wing Media Officer to join them at Wellesbourne Airfield to see the exciting project they have been involved with for the past 2 years. Each month a group of cadets travel to visit one of the few remaining Avro Vulcan aircraft, XM655 where they support the small team of volunteers that are keeping the aircraft in ground running condition.
CI David McCulloch gives us some information about how the squadron became involved in the project and the activities the cadets get involved with each month. Recently 240 (Darlaston) Squadron have been joining the 150 Sqn cadets to support the work been undertaken.
“It all started in August 2010 when the squadron was returning from a camp in Wales and one of the staff arranged to pop in for a tour on the way back to Oxford. I was speaking to our guide, Derek about the work they do and could we get cadets involved, he told me they had many visits from squadrons but apart from the annual fast taxi run, nobody had ever come to help on the weekends. After almost 3 months to complete the risk assessment and talking to the cadets at the squadron about the great project this could be the first date was in the diary to attend. The cadet’s visits were initially planned to be used towards the Duke of Edinburgh award whilst helping to preserve a very important aspect of Britain’s aviation history.
Our first visit with 8 cadets and 2 staff, went very well, we erected 2 12×12 tents the society had had purchased but were unable to put up. We were then tasked with refurbishing the bomb bay doors which were in a sorry state, it was a great winter project as we could work on scrapping down the paint work sat inside with the doors closed! They had music on and the warmth from the lights/working meant the cadets enjoyed what could have been a very boring job!
As the cadet’s abilities and skills increased we were given greater engineering and refurbishment tasks to do. Ian (squadron service instructor) has a wealth of RAF service knowledge and expertise which helps with the equipment used by MaPS (Maintenance and Preservation Society) and myself previously a painter, carpenter & mechanic.
Since the start of the cadets involvement they have removed the main wheels on the undercarriage, inspected the brakes and hydraulic systems. Lifted the aircraft 3′ foot into the air to carry out oil recovery on the undercarriage (can explain the complexities of these tasks when we are on site) plus many other painting tasks both on the aircraft and ground equipment.
MaPS had for many years thought of trying to make or get some replica 1000lb’s for the rack they had suspended in the bay, so I decided to make a wooden version from which we could make a mould. It took a few months to get the “plug” ready, with the cadets doing a lot of rubbing down of car filler etc. and then painting them! We managed to get four ready for the 2012 Wings and Wheels event, and then the final 3 needed to complete the full load by May 2013 in time for the June show.
In 2012, XH558’s AEO Sqn Ldr Barry Masefield (Rtd) made a trophy from one of the Olympus engine blades which was given to MaPS to do as they wished. MaPS decided to present it to one of our cadets each year at the show, the cadets are selected from a list of attributes such as attitude, aptitude and attendance. It’s a great honour for the chosen cadet as there are usually 2-3000 people who attend the show. The squadron has also helped on several tours hosted by MaPS for other groups including a visit by Vulcan veterans from 35 Sqn who sent us a letter of thanks after the event.”
Overall the enthusiasm and work that the squadron has shown and provided to the project has helped to ensure XM655 will be enjoyed by the public for the years to come and brings an exciting opportunity for Air Cadets to get hands on with a real aircraft. To discover more about the project visit http://www.xm655.com or follow on twitter @XM655 and perhaps arrange a squadron visit one Saturday to see first-hand what the project is all about.