Jump to content

Human error’ to blame for Doncaster blast that destroyed last Vulcan bomber’s engines

Recommended Posts

From the Yorkshire Post...


An explosion which grounded the last-remaining Vulcan Bomber just prior to take off has destroyed two of the aircraft’s engines, with human error apparently to blame.

The plane failed to take off from Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport last week, with witnesses reporting a large explosion and smoke billowing from the aircraft.

The Vulcan to the Sky Trust which manages and operates the plane, based in Doncaster, confirmed that the primary cause of the damage was the “ingestion” of silica gel desiccant bags into the one of the engines on the port side of the aircraft.

The silica gel bags are used to reduce moisture and were apparently left inside the engine by mistake.

A statement on the Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s website said: “The most likely sequence of events was that material was ingested by No.1 engine, which surged and suffered LP compressor blade failure.

“Debris was then sucked into No. 2 which then also failed.”

Investigations have shown that both of the XH558 aircraft’s portside engines are beyond repair, having suffered blade damage and the effect of excessive heat.

However there was some good news for the trust and its supporters in that there has been no structural damage to the aircraft.

The head of the Trust’s Safety Review Committee is now conducting a formal investigation of the incident while work is already underway to repair the damage.

The Aircraft Accident Investigation Branch has confirmed that, as the damage to the engines was contained, the incident is not reportable to them. The Civil Aviation Authority, which inspect the aircraft regularly and carry out test flights at least twice a year, confirmed to the Yorkshire Post that they were satisfied that the Trust’s maintenance and management of the aircraft was sound and that it would not be launching any investigation itself.

The Vulcan had been due to be part of the Jubilee celebrations prior to the explosion but Michael Trotter, Business Development Director with the Trust has contacted all of the display organisers booked up to and including RAF Waddington, to advise them that XH558 would not be able to attend. It is now targeting the Royal International Air Tattoo in July for its next appearance.

The trust confirmed on its website that a meeting of the executive, in full consultation with the Board of Trustees, had “firmly established the desire and ability to press on with immediate planning for returning XH558 to flight”.

The next step is to replace the damaged engines with two from the Trust’s remaining stock.

Its Chief Executive Robert Pleming said: “The last few days have been understandably very difficult for the whole team, but we are determined to move forward, and have been greatly bolstered by the positive phone calls, emails and messages of support over the internet.

“Industry colleagues have also been very supportive and we are working closely with them on the best way forward.

“The team is now working on the removal of the damaged engines and preparations for the installation of replacement units.

“We will let everyone know how long this will take when planning has been completed.”

However the explosion will pose more problems for the Trust, which spends around £2m a year keeping it in the sky. Earlier in the year it said it needed £300,000 worth of donations to see it through the early part of the display season.

Dr Pleming said: “We are deeply sorry that this incident has happened, and at this time in 2012. The additional unplanned costs are clearly very worrying as resources are, as ever very tight.”

Michael Glynn, a councillor on Hatfield Town Council, expressed concerns to the Yorkshire Post, saying: “I would have thought it would have been inspected before take off to make sure things like this were removed, especially when it is flying over residential areas.”

Link to post
Share on other sites

What a shame, but almost criminally negligent. It was fortunate that there wasn't worse damage, which might have resulted in damage or loss of the airframe and injuries or deaths of the crew. This could have been a lot worse if the failure had gone "uncontained" and severed a fuel line or three.

It sounds as if some of the debris must have been blown forward, out the intake, to be ingested by the adjacent engine. That speaks to a pretty energetic event since anything ejected forward is bucking a pretty large air flow, even at idle thrust.

I'm afraid that more and more, we're going to see flyable warbirds not flown because the risks will be seen as too high with an irreplaceable artifact. Mustangs and Harvards are a dime a dozen. So are Spits, with the possibility that their population is about to take an unanticipated spike. Some of the larger types, however, and many of the less populous smaller aircraft are nearing the one-of-a-kind status. If nothing else, the insurance companies will eventually balk and owners will not have much choice but to leave them grounded, hopefully in places where they can still be seen and appreciated by the public.

Note I'm not suggesting they shouldn't be flown - just pointing out that events will eventually conspire to make that the sad truth for some of the more rare types. Enjoy them while you can.


Link to post
Share on other sites

There's a longitudinal bulkhead in there and any ejecta has to be thrown hard enough to get around that against the air flow (or through the bulkhead, which would be a shortcut and would probably generate even more debris).

Someone's (or several someones') head should roll over this. It's just unacceptably irresponsible behavior with an irreplaceable relic supported by public contributions. Valid operating and maintenance costs are enough to periodocally threaten the grounding of this one-of-a-kind aircraft without someone's bone-headed oversight further threatening it. Nothing but dumb luck prevented total loss of the AC and it remains to be seen if this pushes them off a financial cliff. They've been there before.


Link to post
Share on other sites

the only way this plane is kept in the air is because 98% of the people who work on it are amateurs and this appers to be an amateurish mistake, however the bags should not have been there in the first place as they have intake covers which keep out the majority of the damp which make accrue over a winter if the a/c is left outside however as it is kept in a heated hangar the silica bags are totally unneccessary so whoever insisted they were put in place should share the blame with the poor sod who forgot to remove them. No doubt the person who placed them there in the first place was not onsite on the day this occurred

Link to post
Share on other sites

Sadly I think XH558's days are numbered. Each year there is the usual appeal for money to keep her going, and as people tighten their spending charitable giving will be the first thing that stops. I'm glad that I have had the chance to see her fly a few times since she returned to the sky, and the Vulcan was the main reason for my visits to waddington over the last few years. This year it was 50/50 if I was going to go as I'm at a family wedding the night before, now I'm almost certain not to go

Link to post
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in

Sign In Now
  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...