Honouring the Past, Inspiring the Future.

As promised in the last message, here is news on our progress towards delivering Vulcan XH558 back to UK air displays later this year. To minimise duplication, I have written this as an update to my last message of 10th December, which is reproduced below.

The next phase in the new life of XH558 takes the aircraft from today up to its first public display. In funding terms, we estimate that it will cost about £575,000 to meet our target of returning her to public display on 1st June, an amount which is consistent with our estimated gross annual running costs of about £1.6million.

Following on from the enormous financial goodwill shown by many companies, and by Marshall Aerospace in particular, in enabling us to achieve the first test flight on 18th October, we have chosen to avoid the risk of future fiscal embarrassment by electing to pay for any major work before it starts.

Whilst the largest proportion of the £575,000 pays for the monthly £70,000 baseline costs of salaries and other vital items, the steepest part of the new challenge is the upfront outlay of £85,000 required now to restart the test flight programme. The costs of the display work-up flights and aviation insurance are the other major elements making up the total.

This leads me to our revenue generating activities.

Donations are continuing, with some significant donations coming from well-known companies, some of which fund the repayment our extremely patient creditors following first flight. We continue to seek major donations not only of cash but of support-in-kind, from many different types of companies, groups and individuals, linked to project milestones, through for example fund-raising dinners and events at Bruntingthorpe. However we cannot be confident that this is a source of revenue on which we can rely in the longer term.

Gaining commercial sponsorship remains our primary objective for the majority of the longer-term funding of our operation. As we had hoped, the First Flight has proved pervasive in establishing our credibility with potential sponsors, and contributed to a massive £1million’s worth of publicity over 2007. However the current economic conditions are extremely unhelpful: many companies are tightening their belts. True to our philosophy of never giving up, we have decided to go where the cash is: the Middle East. We already have one potential line of significant interest, but as mentioned in my last message, it may well take some time to carefully bring these opportunities to fruition. If any reader of this message has certain knowledge of a potential sponsor, please contact Michael Trotter, our Business Development Director, on +44 (0)7803 141483.

With our migration from a major capital project to an ongoing flow of commitments, we have been looking for ways to match our funding streams to the profile of our costs.

It’s clear that the Vulcan to the Sky Club, which has almost doubled in membership over the past year, is home to our strongest, most loyal and active supporters. In return for a modest annual subscription, the Club offers a range of member benefits, and is also able to remit a proportion of its income to the Trust. I have agreed with the Club’s Committee that a significant growth in the Club’s membership is not only achievable, but would reflect the sentiment of supporters and also provide a proportion of the ongoing revenues now needed by the Trust. The Club, with the support of the Trust, is therefore embarking on a significant membership drive. (As an example of one of the benefits, the presentation that I made to the Club’s members on 12th January is downloadable from the Club Area on this website.)

We are undertaking a detailed review of our future requirements for our operating base. Our primary needs are clearly operational and maintenance feasibility, and affordability (including grants), however we also need to take into account the location as regards visitor access and catchment area, timescales and notice periods. Because of the sensitivity of some of the discussions, I can’t at this stage tell you more, but will do so as soon as appropriate.

We continue to firm up arrangements for the 2008 season with display organisers, whose enthusiasm to include the Vulcan is only tempered by our need to charge a reasonable appearance fee to offset our costs!

Finally, we have launched the first stage in our Education Programme, with the announcement in December that our Partnership Primary School, Huncote Primary, will be trialling the first formal components toward the end of this month. In addition, if you are the member of a group or an association who would value a lecture or a visit, please contact Miriam Tong, our Education and Access Manager on 0116 247 8145.

I will publish a further update in March, unless there is significant news beforehand. The Avro Vulcan XH558 programme continues to be unique and challenging, but also exciting and inspiring. I’m sure that 2008 will end as 2007 just has, with a whole lot of joyous memories.

Thank you for staying with us.

Robert Pleming – Chief Executive, VTST