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At the end of 1981 the iconic Avro Vulcan was withdrawn from service and the famous 617 Squadron faced its final days. Fortunately, these last weeks of the 617 Squadron at RAF Scampton, Lincolnshire, were captured on camera. This fly-on-the-wall documentary made by Central Television in 1982 and released by Duke Video, charts the thoughts and emotions of the crew and commanders and, importantly, shows the great aircraft being prepared and embarking on its final sortie.
The 617 Squadron was formed during the Second World War for the famous Dambuster raids, led by Guy Gibson. The legendary name was resurrected in 1958 as a fitting moniker for those who would lead Britain’s defence against a new kind of warfare – the threat of nuclear attack.
This film recalls the history of both the Squadron and the Vulcan, including footage from the 1952 Farnborough Air Show, but its main focus is the countdown to the final flight. We meet the commanding officers, including Squadron Leader Chip Brunson and Wing Commander John Herbertson, flight crew, ground crew and other key figures, hear their thoughts about the Vulcan, share their emotions and travel with them towards the end of an era.
Mike Kay (captain), Chalie Brakewell (navigator plotter), Austen Dancey (navigator radar) and Paul Beech (co-pilot), all flight lieutenants, describe their roles and how they plan a mission, and we see them flying the great machine, with footage from both inside the aircraft and air-to-air. With only nine hours of flying before the Squadron is disbanded, we see the preparations for the final flight, from briefing to take off, and beyond as we share the final chapter in an amazing story.
Even with the end in sight, the story of the Avro Vulcan is packed with drama – it is December and heavy fog throws the final sortie into doubt. However, not even the brutal British winter weather can prevent the mighty Vulcan taking to the skies, and we watch in awe as the aircraft soars over Derbyshire, flying low over the Derwent valley.