Spirit Chasing Where is that plane?

How can you miss this?

I had another couple of weeks in hospital during September, apart from not being at home and the almost claustrophobic feeling of being in prison, it wasn't so bad and I definitely benefitted from my stay there.

Meanwhile the last flying Vulcan, 'Spirit of Great Britain' or xh558 as she is better known was coming to the end of her last flying season and I was missing the action. So, it was great that a week after my discharge from Nottingham city hospital, a flight south was planned.

Initially, I planned to drive over to Finningley to see her take off, should be able to get a decent shot or two and have the bonus of that great sound and the amazing feeling of having this huge jet right over my head. A quick check on the Vulcan facebook page put paid to that idea though. The 'powers that be' asked all the Vulcan fans to stay away, as one fan put it, 'they want me to pay for it but don't want me to see it'. Look at the published route maps and find, somewhere on route to view her flights.

Final landing 2014


The request to stay away from the airport was all due to 'health & safety concerns'. The sort of thing that pisses me off no end. One year ago, I took the shot above, just after she'd done a fantastic mini display for the couple of hundred people around the outskirts of the airport. There were dozens of cars parked along the road and yet the Vulcan flew over them several times, showing off some fantastic manoeuvres. In my younger days the whole family were occasionally driven up to the old Roman road at Waddington by my dad and we had multiple Vulcans flying right over our heads, both in the car and sometimes sat outside having a picnic, also, I have seen video from yesterday's landing taken by someone stood on top of a van, right under the flight path, so I'm more than a little sceptical when asked to stay away for 'Health & Safety concerns'

Still, the next flight was going south east from Finningley and Gringley on the hill was shown as right under the flight path. This is only a 7 or 8 minute drive from home, so considering the request to stay away, Gringley seemed like a reasonable spot to go to. On a clear day you can see the airport from the hill and you can definitely hear a Vulcan taking off.

I got there in plenty of time as walking up the hill is a bit of an effort and was first there with half an hour before the planned take off. It was a little misty in the low lying areas but once she was in the air, there would be a good clear view as she took off north, banked right and flew straight towards the gathering crowd, (about 30 turned up) this was a good choice, it was going to be great, what could possibly go wrong?

Well, a delay to take off time was the first sign of an issue, somebody tweeted that there was a 10 minute delay. Then we heard that familiar sound of a Vulcan speeding along the runway and immediately realised that she was taking off south, not north and south she continued, only turning east about a mile south of Bawtry, bringing her below Gringley about a mile or two away. The best shot I got is below.

Gringley ish

Rubbish shot, isn't it? It was very quiet walking back down the hill, although I did hear someone mention their regret about not going to Finningley. My feeling exactly, why show a route and then deviate from it immediately? I planned to go to the airport for the return but was too tired to bother. The next flight, was the farewell tour of the north, potentially taking in Gainsborough, so all was not lost.

Home town flight

How hard can it be?

Saturday October the 10th arrived and it was confirmed Gainsborough was the first place on the route. Excellent. Then I had to decide where to go to get my shot. The published route didn't help much, the marked path showed them going over Morton, not Gainsborough, the waypoint was pretty much over the roundabout at the bottom of Thorndyke way, closer to the town centre and the name given to the turning point was Gainsborough south. So, it was very difficult to work out where to go from the map. I decided to be positive and go with the Gainsborough south bit, as that's where I live.

During the 2015 season, I normally see her in the distance, as in my Gringley pic, flying almost straight south towards Newark and thought that the likely path would be that they would fly south then turn east as they had done last week then turn hard left between Lea and Gainsborough and fly along the line of the Trent and over town, this seemed to be the most likely scenario to me. They were heading north and the waypoint was called Gainsborough south, so surely, this was very likely?

I set up a camera over the road, pointing towards the house which I could set off remotely from my bedroom. Then planted myself in the west facing ensuite and watched out the window and waited for that familiar shape to come into view. It was at this point that the wifi decided to throw a fit, so I couldn't track her online. No problem though, I can see for miles from here. Take off time arrived and passed, still no triangle to be seen. Then a shout from Roz in the bedroom, 'She's coming', 'where?' I replied moving towards the bedroom window. It was that moment when I realised just how wrong my guess was. They'd taken off north, sharp right to the Trent then right again and flew south over town along the line of the river.

Over Gainsborough.

Not the shot I hoped for at all but at least it shows that the plane was indeed over Gainsborough and it was heading straight toward me, so there would be a better shot coming right?


No, no there wouldn't. She turned away before getting near me. Next?


I can't miss again, can I?

So, that was that, the last flight over Our town and I didn't get the shot. It's better than nothing but nowhere near what I hoped for. The next day she was due over Lincoln and I just happened to be going anyway because the camera club I'm in is currently having an exhibition at Whisby and it was our official launch day. The timing was good, a half hour visit to Whisby, then off to find a spot for a decent Vulcan shot. I used the published route guide to pick my spot.

So, they would be coming in from Torksey direction in a straight line over the south of Lincoln. Lessons learned though, I didn't assume it would be this straight forward, so found a quiet spot with a good view of the cathedral, which all being well would be the background of my Vulcan shot. It made sense, they had to fly between me and the cathedral, I should get a decent shot, not award winning by any means but a shot with the Vulcan and the cathedral in for sure. The shot below, shows my view.

Cathedral test shot.

A little bit of work in post production to get rid of those wires and Bob would indeed, be your mothers brother. Now I just had to wait.

As the time got nearer, I started to get a little nervous, I had a good clear view for miles, yet I couldn't see her. Had I missed her, had they taken her another route? I was prepared for this to happen because the spot I chose would also give me a view of the plane over Waddington and I knew for certain that she was going there. Still no sign, by this time I'm looking in all directions and beginning to resign myself to the fact that I'd missed this shot and started to concentrate on looking towards Waddington for my backup shot. Then a quick glance over the distant houses and this...

Share space

She was a mile or so off course and heading right for me.



So, they were in the wrong place again but so was I this time and my wrong place turned out to be the right place. Once again I didn't get the shot I wanted but I was a lot less bothered about it this time. Sure, the cathedral shot would have been nice but a Vulcan right over your head at a couple of hundred feet is a great second prize. A case of 'some you win, some you don't lose'.

Over Waddington

And I still go the Waddington shot. Third time lucky? Yes but if only they could stick to the route, I'd have got all 3 shots. Mustn't grumble though.


So close, I can't fit it all in.

Such a nice shape

Cleaner than a VW

Round Waddington for the second time

Created By
Neil Mallett
All my own work.

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