Saturday, June 15, 2013

Vulcan still a thriller for pilot

Saturday, June 15, 2013
Lincolnshire Echo

A Lincolnshire man who was the youngest ever captain of a five-man Vulcan bomber crew at 23 will be watching the iconic aircraft from the ground at the RAF Waddington International Air Show.

And the sight of XH558, still the only airworthy delta- winged Cold War deterrent, will make the hairs on the back of 69-year-old Tim Turnbull's neck stand on end.

The retired squadron leader, who spent five years at the Scampton base flying the Vulcans carrying Blue Steel stand-off missiles, now lives at nearby Nettleham.

But he has a true boy's own story – the son of a mill owner, he set out to fly and had his pilot's licence before he could drive. It reached a peak in January 1964 when he flew his very first Vulcan, the same XH558 which will thrill thousands in the skies above Lincolnshire later this month.

Within two years, the young pilot was elevated to captain the crew, an honour he cherishes to this day.

In all, he flew the Vulcan fleet for a total of nearly 2,000 hours, nearly 1,200 as skipper.

And he went on to log more than 7,000 airborne hours, including taking the controls of the Tornado fast jet.

Given a model airplane for his fifth birthday, he made his own and progressed to the Airfix kits – dreaming all the time of becoming an airman.

"If I hadn't been accepted as a trainee pilot, I would have run my father's cotton mill," he said. "I didn't want to do anything else in the RAF but fly.

"And I was so lucky because all the aircraft I flew were so very different. But we all still love the Vulcan because of its shape, amazing maneuverability for such a big plane – and that noise. It's such a formidable package.

"I'm really pleased that it's still flying and I'm looking forward to seeing it again at the Waddington Air Show."

Brought up in Lancashire, Mr Turnbull joined the RAF in 1961 and, after officer training, was posted to Lincolnshire to fly the de Haviland Vampire in 1963 out of RAF Swinderby.

A year later, at 20, he joined 27 Squadron at Scampton.

He then instructed at RAF Little Rissington in Gloucestershire and Manby in Lincolnshire and then secured a NATO attachment with the Allied Command Mobile Force (Land) from 1973 until 1975.

This was a quick reaction force which could be deployed at short notice to resist any attack on a member state. He was also stationed at RAF Akrotiri on Cyprus.

He was based in Germany in the 1980s before his final posting of a 37-year career – at RAF Cranwell from 1995 until 1998 as an instructor on the Bulldog airplanes.

Even after his official retirement from the RAF, Mr Turnbull stayed on for another decade at RAF Coningsby as a civilian.

"I achieved all my ambitions, had wonderful experiences, made many friends and enjoyed every minute," he said.

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