Vulcan returns to the skies

I’ve been trying to keep track of aerospace news recently by using using various Google Alerts and subscribing to news feeds, but one story I nearly missed during the build up to the the Dubai Air Show the story ‘Vulcan bomber returns to the sky‘ (BBC News). This relates to a team of enthusiasts at Vulcan to the Sky Trust who have spent ten years restoring a Vulcan bomber (WingWeb) to flight, and have successfully flown it again.

XJ824 Vulcan B2AI have to admit that I am a bit of a fan of the Vulcan, probably because of its distinctive delta-wing design, which happened to be fortuitously stealthy and gave it an agile appearance.

(This picture is one of XJ824 Vulcan which I took at Duxford in 2005, not the XH558 Vulcan which is flying again. There are some great photos of XH558 flying again on the Daily Mail website here).

Leaving nostalgia aside, the restoration is an impressive achievement, not just because of the costs involved (£6.5m), but also the technical challenges and obsolescence issues for an aircraft that hasn’t flown for fourteen years

Obsolescence is of course a major problem facing many military aircraft, particularly those which have long and extended in-service lifetimes such as the B-52 (wikipedia), but also more recent designs. The aerospace industry is now trying to proactively address this problem through planned obsolescence, which has an impact on the architecture and design of both hardware and software. COTS can play an important role here, but the benefits of COTS in terms of upgradeability and interoperability can only be achieved by using open standards-based architectures.

This was one of the main topics which I covered in my paper ‘The Challenges and Advances in COTS Software for Avionics Systems’ at an IET seminar in September – if you would like to read it, the paper can be downloaded from here: [PDF] (size: 200kb).

Next week, I will be going to the UK’s Military & Aerospace Electronics Show, which will have a number of speakers covering topics relating to obsolescence, networking, security and other areas. My colleague, Alex Wilson, will be presenting ‘The evolving ARINC 653 standard and its application to IMA‘. Hope to see you there!