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Doncaster's second Vulcan bomber set for take off this weekend

The cockpit of Doncaster's newest Vulcan.
The cockpit of Doncaster's newest Vulcan.
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Doncaster is to get its second Vulcan bomber - and the aircraft is set to take off this weekend.

The South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum will be unveiling Vulcan XL388 in a special renaming ceremony on Saturday - and it will mean Doncaster will now be home to two of the iconic aircraft.

The museum in Dakota Way will be unveiling the cockpit of the refurbished plane which will be renamed Mayflower III, joining Vulcan XH558 at Doncaster Sheffield Airport, what was the world's last flying Vulcan bomber.

The museum will be open from 10am to 4pm on both Saturday and Sunday for visitors to see inside the restored cockpit and ex-crew members will be in attendance - including one of the pilots who flew in XL388 during her RAF service.

Cockpit tours will be available to the public throughout the weekend, and a number of talks will be hosted by the team behind the restoration of XL388, allowing visitors to find out about all of the extensive work that has been undertaken in restoring the cockpit of a Cold War bomber.

Delivered to the RAF in 1962, XL388 went on to serve with all but two of the RAF’s Vulcan squadrons.

She had an eventful career, highlighted in 1963 when the aircraft was named Mayflower III to celebrate RAF Coningsby being awarded the freedom of Boston, Lincolnshire.

A commemorative trip to Boston, Massachusetts followed, with the crew being received by the Mayor of Boston, and receiving a tour of the Mayflower II, a replica of the original Mayflower ship.

In 1982, XL388 was flown for the final time from RAF Waddington to the fire dump at RAF Honington, where the aircraft was used for crash rescue training. It was scrapped in 1985.

The cockpit of XL388 has passed through a number of owners before being purchased by the South Yorkshire Aircraft Museum in 2016.

Having fallen into a state of disrepair, an ambitious restoration project was launched in February 2017.

Volunteers from the Vulcan to the Sky Trust’s Vulcan Experience stepped up to the plate, providing their manpower and knowledge whilst hangar tours of XH558 were not possible.

The restoration project has seen XL388 raised onto a custom built stand allowing full access to the inside of the cockpit, something that wasn’t possible on the converted engine trolley that the cockpit used to rest on.

The holes in the skin have also been repaired, with the crushed bomb aimer’s blister having been completely replaced.

The cracked, split and damaged Radome has been a focus of the work, with many discussions about how best to repair it, or whether a replacement would be a feasible option. After a great deal of work and man hours it is completely unrecognisable from before the extensive restoration work began.

The culmination of the project was a full repaint - with the Anti-Flash white of the ‘Mayflower III’ scheme winning out.

With only two other Vulcans in this scheme (XM603 at Woodford, and XA903’s cockpit in a private collection), it was known that it would be a draw.

2020 also represents the 400th anniversary of the original crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by the Mayflower, of which a number of the sailors were from the Doncaster area so it is highly appropriate that the restoration was completed ahead of that significant date.