Martin Withers, born on 12th Jan 1946 in Purley, Surrey, UK, discovered the joys of aviation on the University Air Squadron, flying Chipmunks at RAF Shawbury. He joined the Royal Air Force in August 1968 and retired as Squadron Leader in August 1991.
After leaving the RAF, Martin joined Jersey European Airways going straight into the left-hand seat of first a Fokker Friendship F27 and then the Shorts 360. In 1994, the aircraft got bigger as Martin obtained his type-rating on the Airbus A320 and was taken on as a First Officer on a temporary contract with Airworld flying out of Manchester. A year later he joined a startup airline called ‘Caledonian’, which then merged with other airlines to end up as ‘Thomas Cook’.
Having started at Newcastle and then Manchester on the A320, in 2001 Martin moved back to Newcastle on the Boeing B757. Unfortunately his 60th Birthday came before the rules changed to permit Captains to fly beyond that age and he was forced to ‘retire’. But Martin was not ready and was offered a job with ‘Zoom Airlines’ a low-cost long-haul airline at Gatwick flying the B767ER thus adding another aircraft type to his list.
During his RAF career Martin instructed on the Jet Provost and clocked 2100 hours (1750 as captain) on the Avro VULCAN. The VULCAN is the aircraft Martin’s name is associated with in the world of aviation.
At the outbreak of war in the Falklands Martin’s crew was selected as one of only three crews to train in Air to Air Refueling and Conventional Bombing to prepare for Operations in the South Atlantic. Some three weeks later, Martin was the Captain on the first ‘Black Buck’ mission to flying from Ascension Island to bomb the runway at Stanley; the first action of the conflict to ‘liberate’ the Falkland Islands. This successful mission also created a World Record for the longest ever bombing mission (15:45hrs) and Martin was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the first time this medal had been awarded for nearly 20 years. He also captained the third and last ‘Black Buck’ bombing mission on 12th May 1982 (BB7), two days before the Argentinian surrender.
Although the VULCAN went out of service with the RAF at the end of 1982, Martin returned to the controls of a mighty VULCAN in 2007. The Vulcan to the Sky Trust was determined to get a Vulcan into the air once again and Martin was invited to become one of the pilots to fly the Vulcan XH558. He was fortunate to fly her from the 2nd air test until her last flight on 28 October 2015. As Chief Pilot - and from 2011 onwards also as Operations Director – Martin displayed the XH558 at many airshows bringing back the distinctive howling sound to airfields all over the UK. For his role at the Vulcan to the Sky Trust he received an award from the Air League presented to Martin by the Duke of Edinburgh in 2012.
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