VULCAN to the Sky Trust chief executive Robert Pleming says the historic plane must have a guardian angel after a mystery benefactor stepped forward with £458,000.

In early February the Trust announced the project faced being closed down unless it could raise £800,000 in pledges by the end of March.

But the anonymous donation has taken the total to more than £900,000, virtually guaranteeing that the iconic craft will be able to appear at this year’s Bournemouth Air Festival from August 19 to 22.

Chief executive officer Robert Pleming said: “There can now be no doubt that XH558 has a guardian angel looking after her. The board of trustees has decided that VTST now has sufficient funding in place to go forward with the planned engineering programme and onward to the 2010 display season.”

The trust is to stage a major fundraising drive next year to put the XH558 on a firm business footing with new income generation schemes.

It will include educational lectures, new merchandise, regional sponsorship and competitions as well as its ongoing annual appeal.

The trust is also organising a world record attempt for the largest number of signatures on a single birthday card to commemorate XH558’s 50 birthday since her first flight on May 25 1960.

Trustee Richard Clarke said: “It’s safe to say that because of this windfall the Vulcan will fly at air shows this year. Beyond that we have to raise funds to keep the aircraft flying for as long as possible.

“This is not just about an aircraft that appears at air shows but its Cold War heritage and its educational value.”

Air Festival director Jon Weaver said they were “absolutely delighted” with the news.

He said: “The Vulcan is one of the main attractions for an air festival so it’s really good news. Hopefully we will be able to bring it to the air festival this year. It had considerable impact last year.

“I don’t think a lot of people realised until they saw it what a magnificent aircraft it is.”