The sound of the Vulcan

an Avro Vulcan

Vulcan flying

Yesterday we went to the South East Kent Air Show. We were forced to leave later than I’d have liked, but events thankfully conspired to allow us to circle round and approach from the south east of the area, which was useful since most of the traffic approached from the west, resulting in some horrendous delays – as we were leaving, it appeared some people were still queuing to get in, and we heard of six hour queues in traffic. Generally from the direction we managed to approach, traffic was much easier (only one hour queuing!) and we arrived around 1.30, which was still after the flying displays had started. The main issue we had with traffic was car park control, which seemed virtually non-existent – we were waved in, sent up the rows of parked cars then along, and then completely left to our own devices, which led to some rather messy lines of parking, not to mention a long walk to the entrance.

Still, we’d arrived, so we joined the queue to get in (were directed to the cash line as the credit card payments were apparently playing up, so ended up with less cash than we expected for the day),  joined the queues for toilets, then joined the queues for food – poor hubby at this point had had no breakfast! Eventually we were in a fit state to wander round and see the various planes and displays.

It’s always a pleasure to see the aircraft up in the sky showing off, but one particular plane had a very unexpected effect on me: the Vulcan that had been a great draw for the show, on its first time out on public display in nearly twenty years.

Now a little background is probably needed here: my parents didn’t drive or own a car while I was growing up. The first time we had any kind of freedom to travel was when I passed my test and bought a small car. One of the ways we made the most of this freedom was to visit local airshows, where we would park up, wander round and enjoy the static and flying displays. One of the big draws was always the Vulcan, which makes an amazing sound as it flies overhead.

When I first met my husband, he and his family were also airshow visitors, and so we went to a couple of shows together, and then the airshows stopped, at around the time my eldest was born. In fact, the last airshow we went to was the previous one at Manston twenty years ago, with a toddler in tow, and chances are that was one of the last times the Vulcan flew.

Fast forward twenty years, through an interval that saw the birth of two more sons and the death of both my parents, and then Manston once again hosts an air show, and once again the Vulcan is in attendance. One son went with us, to his first ever air show, and despite all the hassle getting there, we were wandering around enjoying the sights. And then the Vulcan went over…

It truly is an amazing sight, and an incredible sound, and what I found was that it bypassed any kind of controls within me and conjured up a very strange emotion: for possibly the first time since their loss, I felt an overpowering feeling of sadness for my parents. I still find it hard to think of, a day later, because it really did defy any logic or sense, and hit me straight in the gut. I can only put it down to the fact that the sound of the Vulcan, for me, is entwined incredibly closely with those days out with my parents.

We enjoyed the rest of the displays, including the AH 64-A Apache, which again brought back memories for me – this time of a completely different sort. I used to play a computer game called Gunship, which was flying an Apache on missions. A game mission used to take 60 minutes, of which 20 minutes was flying time and the rest of it was briefing, debriefing and loading time. Lots of loading time. Probably 30 minutes of loading time, from a cassette onto my Commodore C64.

Eventually weariness and aching legs and feet took us back to the entrance, where we wandered aimlessly around for a while trying to find the car (I found it first! hah!) and then queued for half an hour to get out of the car park – again no marshalls in sight and getting irritated by people who chose to leave the back end of their queue to cut into our queue that we’d already spent twenty minutes in. A tour of the back roads of Thanet brought us to Tesco, where we gulped down drinks and then bought enough food for the evening, and then we headed for home, on roads that were as clear as a bell.

So generally an amazing day, with good flying displays, but spoilt by the appalling traffic conditions and the wind that led to the cancellation of many of the smaller aircraft. There was little information on the field as to what was flying when, and the whole thing needs to be much better managed in future, but for us it was a good day out with an unexpected twist for me personally.


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