One of the Royal Air Force’s most iconic bombers could take to the air over Oxfordshire for the final time tomorrow.

The last airworthy Avro Vulcan will be grounded for good unless £400,000 to cover maintenance and operating costs can be raised by the end of next month.

The Vulcan To the Sky Trust, which looks after the plane – code number XH558 – warned that tomorrow’s take-off from the plane’s home at RAF Brize Norton to visit an airshow at Coventry Airport will be the last if donations do not recover after a slump in the past two years.

The bomber, which provided Britain’s nuclear deterrent until missile-firing submarines took its place, has been a big attraction at airshows and other events around the country for the past two summers.

Trust chief executive Dr Robert Pleming said: “This amazing aircraft is one of the most popular attractions in the UK, but we survive on a tiny fraction of the budget of comparable heritage activities and receive no Government support.

“With the Vulcan now well established as an airshow star, the trust has developed a business plan that will provide substantially greater commercial revenues from 2011.

“Combined with public donations, it’s hoped that this will give her a secure future. This will allow us to increase the role the Vulcan plays in teaching science, technology, maths and Cold War history and in inspiring the engineers of the future.

“Today though, 2011 looks a long way away. If we don’t make it through October, the tremendous opportunities offered by this magnificent aircraft will be lost forever.”

Among those backing the appeal for funds is former RAF Flight Lieutenant Martin Withers, who commanded the first ever combat mission by a Vulcan, during the Falklands conflict in 1982, flying a round trip of nearly 8,000 miles from Ascension Island to bomb Port Stanley airfield, with the mission lasting 15 hours, 45 minutes, setting what was then a world record for the longest-ever bombing mission Mr Withers said: “Part of our mission is to ensure that young people learn about the knife-edge fear of the Cold War.

“If I had been ordered to press the button that releases the nuclear payload, there would almost certainly have been no Britain left to fly home to.

“The Vulcan is the most powerful symbol of a remarkable period in British history that we must never forget.”

He added: “This is one of the most iconic pieces of aerospace technology ever, and it’s thoroughly British.”

The Avro Vulcan was built to carry atomic bombs which formed Britain’s nuclear deterrent until Polaris missile submarines entered service in the late 1960s.

The prototype Vulcan flew for the first time in 1952.

It was the first successful large delta-wing aircraft, later inspiring the design for the supersonic airliner Concorde.

After helping to keep the peace during the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the Vulcan only saw combat in its final years with the RAF, during the Falklands conflict in 1982, when Vulcans flew seven missions from Ascension Island to the Falkland Islands, supported by Victor air refuelling tankers.

The bombing raids on Port Stanley airfield forced Argentina’s fighter jets off the islands, leading to the British victory.

Vulcan XH558 was delivered to the RAF in 1960 and was the last to retire from RAF service, flying until 1993 as a display aircraft.

From 1993 to 2008 the plane was kept at Bruntingthorpe, in Leicestershire.

After years of fundraising and planning, a £3.5m two-year restoration project began in 2005, before XH558 took to the air again in October 2007.

  • For more details, or to donate to the appeal, see