On Friday 1st June 1956, a production Victor XA917 aircraft flown by test pilot Johnny Allam inadvertently exceeded the speed of sound after he let the nose drop slightly at a higher power setting. As the pilot he noticed a cockpit indication of Mach 1.1 and ground observers from Watford to Banbury reported hearing a sonic boom. The Victor was the largest aircraft to have broken the “sound barrier” at that time. This picture is of a similar Victor landing at Yeovilton in 1984. Today only two Victors remain in running condition, XM715 at Bruntingthorpe and XL231 at Elvington.
But things do change.
Following the invasion of Kuwait by neighbouring Iraq in 1991, a total of eight Victor K.2s were deployed to Bahrain to provide in-flight refuelling support to RAF and other coalition aircraft during the subsequent 1991 Gulf War. RAF strike aircraft such as the Panavia Tornado would frequently make use of the Victor’s tanker to refuel prior to launching cross-border strikes inside of Iraq. Shortly after the Gulf War, the remaining Victor fleet was quickly retired in 1993, at which point it had been the last of the three V-bombers in operational service; retiring nine years after the last Vulcan, although the Vulcan had survived longer in its original role as a bomber.