The Blackburn Buccaneer and the Avro Vulcan at RAF Hendon and Fleet Air Arm Museums

Reading the history of two of the British RAF iconic aircraft, the Blackburn Buccaneer and the Avro Vulcan in Rolland Whites books, Phoenix Squadron and Vulcan 607, plus my past memories and travels coming across the aircraft, I needed more information, to get the feel of the aircraft.

One of the great traditions and part of the culture of the British people, is a sense of the past, the history of the nation.

Rightly or wrongly, we hoard, we hold onto items which are from the past, we rebuild castles, ancient monuments, we store them in galleries, in museums, we preserve history for generations to come. Sometimes these items are from British history, sometimes these artifacts are from other cultures, there for all to see and wonder at.

It was written, a nation is not a nation without its’ history.

History builds the culture of nations, the population has something to build the future upon, to be proud of.

Britain is rich in museums and collections of artifacts of history, and these collections include the armed forces.

I needed to see firsthand a Buccaneer aircraft, to try and understand how a small aircraft manufacturer, the Blackburn Aircraft and Car Company, starting in 1914, could go on and build, design and build, which in its’ time, such a world beating, innovative aircraft.

I needed to witness the size and shape of the Vulcan, that was built not so many years after the end of the Second World War, would only be used in anger after thirty years in service, winning many competitions against the mighty American USAF jets, again with its’ iconic shape and design features which where world beaters.

My first visit had to be to the RAF Museum Hendon, in North London. The free to enter museum is housed in a number of large buildings, The Battle of Britain Hall, Historic Hangar, the Grahame-White Factory, the Milestones of Flight Hall, and the Bomber Hall.

My aim on this visit was to see the RAF Buccaneer S2B which the RAF flew as late as the Gulf War.

RAF Buccaneer S2B on display at RAF Hendon, London

I needed to get a feel of the plane, to understand the shape the size of this world beating plane.

RAF Buccaneer S2B on display at RAF Hendon, London

Parked in a restricted area of the museum due to renovations, I was kindly given permission to enter the great aircraft’s space, to view the plane at close quarters, the folding wings and nose cone, which reduced the area required to park it, especially on an aircraft carrier.

The Buccaneer was designed for low level fast flying to get below enemy radar, and its short wings gave superb handling characteristics, but at low speeds needed for landings on carrier decks, the designers came up with an innovative idea of bleeding compressed gases from the engines, vented through the wings to give extra life, and the tailplane was designed with variable incidence for fast or low-speed flight. The then conventional bomb doors of an aircraft were just that, doors that opened outwards, but the Buccaneer’s doors rotated within the fuselage, and with the Coca Cola fuselage shape reduced drag. The two seater jet was designed in tandem, with the navigator behind the pilot, and in the S2B model the aircraft were fitted with powerful Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines.

A RAF Buccaneer S2B RAF Hendon Museum

I then had a feeling to view a Naval Buccaneer, after all, the book Phoenix Squadron was about the British Navy Fleet Air Arm flying from the carrier Arc Royal to reinforce Britain’s right in Belize. The Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm Museum houses two examples of the Buccaneer, the original S1B with the low powered de Havilland Gyron Junior turbojet engines and the updated S2B which the RAF flew.

Folding nose cone on a Buccaneer
Royal Naval Fleet Air Arm Museum
RNAS Yeovilton

I knew that at RAF Hendon they had a Vulcan, but I could not see it. Upon asking an attendant, he pointed over my right shoulder, and it was there, and as I looked it was. Perhaps it was a case of  George Millers’ 7 +/- 2 or the Monkey Video, but there it was in a corner, a massive aircraft, too big to get into my camera lens.

Avro Vulcan, RAF Hendon Museum.

The Avro Vulcan, later with the powerful Olympus engines which were destine to power Concorde, where introduced in 1953 as part of the RAF’s “V” force, being the Victor, Vulcan and Valiant, built to counter the perceived threat posed by the Soviet Block and to deliver nuclear bombs.

The main characteristic of the Vulcan was the Delta Wing.

Avro Vulcan with delta wing

Conceived in 1947, the virtually hand made Vulcan, entered RAF service in 1956, and used as a deterrent against nuclear attack, and was not used for delivering real conventional bombs until it was due to retire in 1982 when it was used to drop 21 bombs on Port Staley Airport runway in the Falklands war, as told in the book Vulcan 607.

Seeing this wonderful aircraft in RAF Hendon, being able to stand under the massive bomb bay, brought home to me the flying skills needed to get from the UK to the Falklands and back again in the Falklands war.

We are lucky in Britain to have such museums, places of interest to visit, to learn, to see, to research, to gain knowledge.

Let us hope that we all learn from all our past history.

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