Vulcan question

Discussion in 'Tanks, planes & ships' started by old_bloke, Oct 31, 2007.

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  1. OK its not PPRUNE but what was the max altitude of the Vulcan (55,000) and was it a Vulcan that took the mythical picture of the U2 taking the picture of something.

    The yanks sending their picture to the RAF and then the RAF sending back their picture of the Yank U2 taking the picture?
  2. I once saw a Vulcan and it was definately higher than the roof of my mums house.....

    I know this to be true as if it was lower it would have hit the chimney.
  3. A Vulcan B2 on test reached 61,500 feet. 56,000 was the normal maximum, and crews report flying around quite cheerfully at 51-55,000.

    A Vulcan certainly sneaked up on a Canberra PR9 operating at FL Very High Indeed and took a couple of shots of it, but ISTR that the Canberra then climbed above the Vulcan to FL Surely That's Not Possible? and returned the favour (I may be conflating two events there, though).
  4. An Ex Vulcan (V. senior) engineering chap assured me last week that it was considerably greater than any number mentioned so far.
    Sufficiently high that I'm surprised it wasn't retained in service.

    Canberra was exceptional in terms of altitude.
  5. old bloke,
    The Vulcan could easily maintain FL 550 although this was rarely done in the aircraft's later years. However, FL400 and above was regularly employed, most notably during the Black Buck transits in the Falklands War.

    I think the pic of the U-2 was more likely taken by one of our Canberra PR7s (some of which were fitted with rocket packs to allow even higher altitudes) or the PR9s. I've heard of the pic but never seen it. Alternatively, it could have been taken by an RAF Lightning.

    I also remember one instance during the Balkan unpleasantness when a U-2R pilot got an unpleasant surprise. During this period, it was not uncommon to have 2 or even 3 U-2s wazzing around Bosnia and these would sometimes track down the Bosnian/Serbian border. Us Brit AWACS types used to take great care in providing regular 'picture' calls on the secure EW freqs regarding any Serb fighter or SAM activity. Unfortunately, NATO E-3As were not so diligent and they once allowed a Serb MiG-21 to get within a mile or so, flying a parallel course just inside Serb airspace to the U-2. The first the U-2 pilot knew was when he saw the vapour trail in his 9 o'clock.

  6. EX_STAB

    Yes I knew an ex Vulcan pilot (blue steel) when I was a Spacey. He told us lots of stories about altitude both high and low. Buzzing Canadians out of their boats and even of a flight when he was not Captain.

    Captain said ' We will now fly sideways " my friend thought "No we cannot its a delta wing "

    Captain put it on its side and flew it :D

    Good chap that he was he never told us which were his targets though :wink:
  7. Ex-STAB - in theory, yes, but AIUI (from Vulcan aircrew) there was a problem with limiting factors for the cabin if they went much higher, so they didn't. 27 Squadron may have gone higher, though, since they got up to some interesting things when in the MRR/Strat R role that are still highly classified and for which even higher altitudes would have been useful if possible.

    Having had a look on my bookshelves (or more accurately some of the contents thereof), I think I conflated the events with the Canberra. There is certainly a photo of a Vulcan taken at considerable height from behind and above by a PR9 in the public domain.
  8. That figures - and we're talking higher than Pete Docherty on a good night!
  9. I spoke to a friend of mine whom flew Vulcans and he said they could go to 55k but it was difficult to breathe as the body reversed its breathing making it easy to breathe in and having to force the breath out.

    He did make me laugh when he remarked that on a wartime footing they would have to travel to target high level and once they had dropped there "Bucket of Sunshine" they would hammer back home low level.
  10. The requirement for pressure breathing and the wearing of special pressure suits and helmets was a significant reason why the Vulcan and Canberras rarely ventured above 500 in later years. Both are extremely tiring for the aircrew. They also increases fatigue on the aircraft structure itself.

    Aircrew can pressure breath via the conventional helmet and 'p'-mask up to around FL500 (I forget the limits) by lowering a toggle on the mask which tightens the masks fit. However, this is insufficient at higher altitudes.
  11. IIRC the true operating ceiling of a PR9 is still classified.

    Whilst we're discussing altitude I remember an enlightening evening with an ex-Lightning jockey who recalled his first tour on a Sqn and his first visit to another Lightning unit.

    Whilst on the visit the Sqns took part in an altitude competition. Being a young whippersnapper he decided to show the old and bold how it was done. He takes off, pulls vertical and, keeping an eye on the fuel, goes for it. He recalled that he bottled out when he saw stars and landed back at RAF Little Snoring feeling rather smug. In the bar that night the results were anounced - he came tenth! I'm pretty certain you can't get away with sort of thing nowadays.
  12. Oh I don't know. I even saw a Tornado F3 zoom climb to FL600 once although his engines weren't working too well! The Typhoon has superb high altitude perfermance and woulc be well able of 'out Lightning' a Lightning.
  13. ISTR an urban myth that runs along the lines of...

    ...a Vulcan is in transit to the USA and as it approaches US airspace, starts talking to air traffic control. Conversation between good ole' boy and laconic handlebar-moustache type goes something like:

    "Requesting clearance on FL Ludicrous"
    "Hey, if you can get there, you can have it"
    "Roger, descending to FL Ludicrous now..."
    • Funny Funny x 2
  14. I've heard that one about a SR71 in UK airspace as well.


    The story probably worls best when told by an ex-lightning jockey and I suspect they weren't as welll equipped to deal with the altitude as the stick monkeys are nowadays.

    I have no doubt that Typhoon could 'Out Lightning a Lightning', frankly I'd expect it to!