Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Robert Pleming's New Year Update

Well, 2009 was a fantastic year for Vulcan fans with many, many great displays, but now 2010 is a different kettle of fish, and one where funds are once again needed in order to see the Delta Lady return to the skies.

In fact the end of December target of £200,000 was missed by around £30,000, and a further £630,000 is required by the end of March, if we are to be lucky enough to see her flying again this season.

Here's the latest detailed statement from Robert Pleming...

New Year Message and 50th Birthday Appeal Update
10th January 2010
Dear Supporters,
Firstly, I hope all of you had a good Christmas break and, on behalf of everyone at VTST, I wish you all the very best for 2010.
The message I have today is addressed to you, the “XH558 Activists”. I hope I am right in assuming that everyone who reads these newsletters is fully supportive of seeing XH558 continue to fly, and that each, in his or her own way, is committed to helping.
Your help is the past has been the reason why XH558 returned to flight, and entertained and inspired so many people over the last couple of years. Without you, and specifically your donations, this would never have happened.
Looking forward, we continue to face huge challenges. Our costs have increased, albeit hopefully temporarily, but the economy is in dire straits. I have just read a newspaper article forecasting that the impact of the recession on ordinary people really hasn’t been felt yet, and that things will get yet more painful in 2010.
In March 2009, after we reached our £1million Pledge target, I’m on record as saying: “We know that VTST needs to change, to adopt a new business model, that will ensure we don’t need to go through this all again next year, and also to have a chance of weathering poor economic conditions.”
Changes there have been: we have chopped costs wherever we can, but given what we do and how we have to do it, there is a limit to how much cost we can take out of the organisation. One example: with the business now based at Hinckley, and with XH558 at RAF Lyneham, we have saved over £10,000 per month in rental costs. We continue to focus on cost reduction, but there will always be surprises, so a large contingency element is vital.
We have increased our airshow revenues, through a combination of charging a higher average appearance fee and through a new “regional sponsorship” revenue stream. For example, XH558’s appearance at Whitehaven was sponsored by BNFL Sellafield.
We have revamped our merchandising, with the objective of substantially increasing the income from this source. A new online store will be launched on 1st February, with all profits now coming back to us. The Commercial Partnership Programme for small businesses is proving slowly successful, but corporate sponsorship in significant amounts continues to elude us due to the economic conditions, despite a very attractive offering.
But despite our best efforts, “fundraising” in all its forms remains our largest and most important revenue stream.
Since the end of the successful 2009 display season, our plan for fundraising is based on attracting large numbers of new supporters, principally from those 2.5 million who were thrilled by XH558 last summer.
Our key question to them is “Would you like to see XH558 continue to fly, so that she can entertain you and others in years to come?”. If you, as I have done, ask anyone who saw XH558 last summer this question, the answer is an emphatic “Yes!”. “Will you help by making a donation?”; “I didn’t know how to.” – is the way the conversation usually goes.
We have had no success at getting our message to this much bigger audience through the national media, even though we have tried every route we can think of, short of a national advertising campaign, which although costly, is under consideration. The problem is that we are no longer newsworthy – it’s old news, we did it, we got the Vulcan flying again!
This is where we now need you, as our loyal “XH558 Activists”, to help, principally because I believe we now have exhausted the realistic capability of our most loyal supporters to continue to fund XH558’s operation.
We need a National Campaign to keep XH558 funded, and whilst we talk to those who have been successful in setting up such a campaign, the only way we will do this is if sufficient numbers of people make a sufficiently big noise – this is where we need to have your help.
Very much our friendliest national newspaper has been the Mail on Sunday – you may recall the excellent coverage XH558 has received over the last year. But even the Mail on Sunday has admitted that there is currently no significant “hook” on which to hang a story.
This is where you come in. As a call to action, I ask everyone who is reading this message to email or write to the Mail on Sunday to ask them to take the lead in a National Campaign to keep XH558 flying, not only for this year but right the way through to Her Majesty the Queen’s – and the Vulcan’s – Diamond Jubilee in 2012.
If you can get your friends and family to email or write, the more the better! If enough people ask for a National Campaign, this must surely stand a better chance of success.

Please email: letters@mailonsunday.co.uk
Or write to:

The Editor
The Mail on Sunday,
Northcliffe House,
2 Derry Street,
London W8 5TT
Turning now to XH558’s current 50th Birthday Appeal, as expected, the donations to the Appeal tailed off in the run-up to Christmas, undoubtedly due for the most part to the inevitable expense at this time of year.
The Appeal now stands at just over £175,000 - a very positive result, yet there is still a long way to go for XH558 to be secure for another season.
January is a critical month for us, because to keep on track to fly XH558 in late Spring, we need to move forward on the Winter engineering programme. Despite not quite reaching the target of £200,000 for the end of December, we have decided to authorise Marshall Aerospace to start the lead-in work package, planning and design office activities, and this will mean paying them a substantial amount of cash up-front from the money raised so far.
Just this work alone will seriously dent our cash-flow as we wrestle to make the best use of the money you have donated to us, especially since the National Campaign could require substantial funding itself.
With this in mind, we wish to start calling in the first batch of pledges now from those who can afford it this month; we will send out letters very soon to those who indicated that they could honour their pledges in February.
Any pledges redeemed now will be put to good use not only in moving the Winter engineering programme forward, but also leveraging greater exposure and hence giving XH558 a better chance of success. The Vulcan to the Sky Supporter’s Club have also indicated a budget that might be made available for direct advertising of the campaign, so when added to the pledges, this could make a very significant difference.
If in these difficult times you are able to make a further donation, not only will it help the now-started Winter engineering programme along, it will help us engage the wider public - perhaps now the only realistic way to ensure our cause is successful. You, our supporters, can really make the difference…

Over the next two weeks or so, little work will be done on the aircraft herself, but our engineering team will be busy on preparatory activities, housekeeping, paperwork audits and the regular anti-deterioration checks at both our new Hinckley site and in the hangar at RAF Lyneham.

For those of you thinking of visiting the AutoSport International show at the NEC at Birmingham from 14th – 17th January, I am delighted to let you that Vulcan to the Sky will once again have a stand. Members of our aircrew will be in attendance during the Saturday and Sunday to talk to those who visit.
We have triumphed before in the face of huge adversity, so I would ask you once again to do all you can over the next few weeks, be it a letter or email to the Mail on Sunday, a donation or the payment of your pledge. For the sake of all that XH558 means to the British people, we simply must not fail!

With best wishes,
Robert Pleming

Vulcan To The Sky Trust

PS: For anyone redeeming a Pledge: please mark your donation clearly as an honoured pledge, with your name and postcode to avoid subsequent reminders - thank you!