Monday, 22 March 2010

Latest Update from Robert Pleming

Following the great news recently that the Vulcan had been saved, work has now begun to try to ensure that the Delta Lady is ready to thunder through the skies from June, as the annual service is now underway.

The fund that was recently given a £458,000 from one person, has now passed £900,000 and plans are now underway also to ensure that funds for the 2011 season are brought in well ahead of time, and quite rightly so, we don't want to go through all this worry again!

Anyway, time for Robert Pleming's latest update:

Following on from the fantastic news of two weeks ago with the achievement of our Survival Appeal target, our immediate priority has been to start the work required to return XH558 to the 2010 air display season as soon as possible.

This has involved formalising the contracts, and in most cases making full payments, for all of the third-party engineering activities, such as the base maintenance support programme (with Marshall Aerospace), component overhaul and remanufacture. The initial on-aircraft activities have been to remove components for return to their Original Equipment Manufacturers. Examples of these are the fatigue meters for bay servicing by Meggitt, and the ejection seats for their annual inspection by SES. The engineers will then focus on the first stages of the “Minor” service: the inspection of the airframe, engines and systems, and determining whether any rectification is needed. In addition to the “Minor” service, four additional engineers will join the team to install the two airframe modifications (Mods 2429 and 2430) needed to extend XH558’s airframe life for the coming years.

As the project plan stands at the moment, we are forecasting finishing in early June, but as ever, dates are dependent on what happens as we proceed with the work. We will keep you updated.

I must at this point pay sincere tribute on behalf of XH558 and the VTST team to all those supporters of XH558 who have donated or made a Pledge in the past four months. The generous support of a few thousand people will enable millions to enjoy XH558’s display this summer – a numerical inequality that I’m sure has not escaped you.

This time last year, because we were so focused on achieving a successful first full season, we took our eyes off the ball of ensuring that our financial future was secure. Now that we know have learnt the valuable lessons of 2009, Michael Trotter and I have agreed with VTST’s Board of Trustees that we need a sustainable financial plan in place by the Autumn. This is a vital objective.

From an administration perspective, we will shortly be calling in the Pledges made over the last few months.

We have created the mailing database and have provided the letter template to our mailing house. These letters will now be produced and despatched in the latter part of next week to all those loyal supporters who have made a Pledge. Please could I ask you to await the arrival of your letter, which will contain important instructions about how to honour your pledge. This is so that we can accurately record your contribution, and avoid following up Pledges that have already been honoured.

On the promotion and marketing front in the short term, we have been reshaping our plans for taking our project out to the wider world. We have a number of new initiatives that will be revealed as we approach the return of XH558 to flight.

We recognise that working with you, our loyal supporters, remains a very effective way of keeping XH558’s profile high, which is a pre-requisite for continued fund-raising from the public at large. The ongoing and invaluable support from the Vulcan to the Sky Club, remains pivotal to this effort.

From an Operations perspective, we have undertaken a full review of all aspects of the 2009 season. Last year, the Trust’s marginal costs of operating XH558 at air displays exceeded the money raised at airshows by over £130,000. This year we need to do much better, and have the goal of breaking even over the season. With air show organisers, we are seeking local sponsors to supplement the usual airshow appearance fees, to increase our airshow revenues.

We are still in the early stages of planning this 2010 air display season, but if we can’t see additional sources of operational revenues from the flying we do, we will be looking to cut our operating costs, by for example make fewer long (and expensive) transits. A provisional flying programme will be published in late May, based on discussions with organisers and the developing picture from the aircraft servicing.

Above all, with experience of running XH558 as a “single aircraft airline” for well over a year behind us, we are more confident for a viable future, based on our growing commercial activities and the finance streams we are building. The launch of our Annual Appeal for 2011, and other special events planned around XH558’s 50th Anniversary on 25th May, will be central to continuing this drive. In the medium term, the target of flying down the Mall on 4th June 2012, in celebration of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, remains firmly in our sights.

We will of course continue with these regular updates for you, giving the very latest news on developments.

Looking back over the past couple of months to another discomforting experience on the roller-coaster that is keeping XH558 flying, it’s clear that we all, XH558 included, owe so much to one another. We must continue to do the best for what is quite a remarkable British project and unique achievement.

For being part of that, I thank you.

With kindest regards,

Robert Pleming

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Total nears £900,000 mark

A couple of weeks ago we received the great news that the Vulcan bomber had been saved, and understandably every fan of the Delta Lady was celebrating - and rightly so.

The attention now starts to shift to the Vulcan's pre-Airshow season servicing schedule, and yesterday there was confirmation that the annual service had indeed started on XH558.

This is of course great news, and with it being a tight schedule to get the Vulcan ready for the airshow season, every second is vitally important, especially when what must be achieved throughout this year is sponsorship for the 2011 season, and possibly beyond.

RAF Cosford was the first show to witness the Vulcan's loud groans last year, and that must be the target for this year too, but we only sit 3 months away from that date now, so all the stops must be pulled out to make sure that this happens, and also that the ill fated Permit To Fly is sorted out for 2010 after the catastrophe of the Waddington Airshow last year which saw the Vulcan grounded for the week surrounding the show.

That simply must not happen again.

There will be of course, test flights once again, with I believe the only thing being guaranteed is the Display Authority, which we believe was completed late last year to enable a further 12 months of flights to take place.

So, the excitement will start to build up once again, and we'll all look forward to it, but for now, one eye must be kept on the Donations & Pledges, remember that £800,000 was needed in real money, the total of donations is currently on £622,000 with a further £275,000 in pledges, so we must not take it for granted, as those pledges will need to be honoured, but it certainly looks a far better situation than what it did this time last month!