Avro Vulcan XH558, the twelfth Vulcan bomber built out of 134, is still in the air, the last of it's kind still flying.  Built in 1960, it served many roles for the RAF including duties in a bomber wing and maritime reconnasaince.  The plane sat on the bench for a few years when an engine explosion damaged the airframe, but has been the Vulcan operated the longest by the RAF.  For years after the fleet of Vulcans were set out to pasture, the RAF operated XH558 as a display aircraft till 1992.

picture of the last Vulcan bomber
The last Vulcan Bomber by Wikimedia contributor James Humphreys

The aircraft is now operated by Vulcan to the Sky Trust, who takes donations to keep this complicated and very expensive aircraft in the air. I have personally seen this aircraft at the Dayton Ohio Airshow ten or fifteen years ago and is an imposing sight. It really is amazing that they have kept it flying so long, so every year is a toss up till they see how much they get.  

One pleasant way to help is to try Vulcan Bomber Ale! Bottled and brewed by the Yorkshire Drinks Company, every sale has a percentage earmarked for the Vulcan project.  That's a painless way to donate!


picture of Vulcan Bomber Ale
Vulcan Bomber Ale

Another intesting thing this bomber does is the "Vulcan Howl", an awesome sound caused by the air intakes at 90% power.  You can hear it in this video by Wonkabar007.

Zeppelins were the terror weapon of the First World War.  Their bark far outreached their bite as technology advanced quickly to overwhelm their effectiveness.  Combat in a Zeppelin, or in the aircraft sent to destroy them was no treat for either side.

picture of zeppelin l-19

The L-19 was a German Navy Zeppelin built in  1915 as part of the first batch of zeppelins ordered after the outbreak of the First World War.  Known as the P-Class, they were powered by four 240hp Maybach engines arranged in two gondolas, being 60 meters long, and capable of carrying 3500 lbs of bombs.  The commander ran the ship from the front gondola, which also housed one of the engines, and a big heavy Mg-08 Maxim gun at either side.  The remaining crew and 6 machine guns were in the rear gondola and a section on top of the hydrogen bag.   They could cruise at 60mph at 11,000 feet.  If a British plane was launched at the end of 1915 to intercept it, it would take an hour to get to the zeppelins altitude, and breathing hard.  

 picture of zeppelin crewZeppelin crew at work

  The night of 31 January 1916 was one of the largest zeppelin raids on England during the war.  9 airships attacked the West Midlands, leaving 70 dead and 100 wounded from the raid.  The L-19 did little damage in the raid, being credited with wiping out an empty pub, and killing a few farm animals, possibly due to engine trouble.  On the trip home, she was low over Belgium, who were really quite trigger happy, and the shot up airship finally settled down in the English Channel.  Her radio was out and couldn't reach any German naval help, so the survivors climbed atop the sinking zeppelin to await their fate.  They had launched a few messages in bottles, which didn't help them at all, but had been found and the last messages of the crew are in museums.  

picture of crashed zeppelin
The King Stephen and the L-19

A British fishing trawler, the King Stephen, happened upon the last 20 survivors, but were reluctant to take them aboard, being unarmed. The captain, William Martin, was alternately berated and evangelized in the press for leaving the Germans to their watery grave.  In any event he had died within a year, the fishing boat had been appropriated by the Royal Navy and outfitted for war, was sunk by the Germans and the new captain was captured and almost hung for the zeppelin incident.  War has long memories.

The zeppelin scourge didn't amount to much, and most of the airships, like German submarines of World War Two, were mostly destroyed during the war. A hydrogen fire at 10,000 feet was not an easy thing to survive.  In a few short years, the zeppelins, which tried to rule the skies, were gone forever.

zeppelin caught in the searchlights
Caught in the searchlights