Westland Helicopters was a British aerospace company that specialized in designing and manufacturing helicopters. Over the years, Westland produced various models for both civilian and military purposes.
Early Years (1935-1945) #
Westland Aircraft was established in 1935 in Yeovil, Somerset, England. The company was initially involved in fixed-wing aircraft production during World War II, such as the Lysander and the Whirlwind. However, the company realized the potential of rotorcraft and started focusing on helicopters after the war.
Move to Helicopters (1945-1950s) #
Westland started its helicopter production after it signed an agreement with Sikorsky in the United States to produce the Sikorsky S-51 helicopter, known as the Westland Dragonfly in the UK. Westland developed and produced a number of other licensed designs from Sikorsky and Bell, such as the Wessex and the Whirlwind.
Innovation and Development (1960s-1980s) #
During the 1960s and 70s, Westland Helicopters produced several significant designs, both independently and in collaboration with other manufacturers. One of the most famous helicopters produced during this period was the Westland Lynx, a multi-purpose military helicopter, which set multiple world records for speed. Another important design was the Westland Sea King, a search-and-rescue and anti-submarine warfare helicopter.
Political Controversy (1980s) #
The 1980s brought political controversy for Westland, known as the Westland affair. It revolved around a decision over whether Westland should merge with Sikorsky, an American firm, or collaborate with a group of European aerospace manufacturers. The controversy led to the resignation of two Cabinet ministers: Défense Secretary Michael Heseltine and Trade and Industry Secretary Leon Brittan.
Post-Controversy and AgustaWestland Merger (1990s-2000s) #
After the controversy, Westland survived independently for a few more years. In 2000, it was merged with the Italian helicopter manufacturer Agusta, forming AgustaWestland, becoming a significant player on the global stage.
Leonardo (2016-Present) #
In 2016, the parent company of AgustaWestland, Finmeccanica, was renamed Leonardo S.p.A. Today, Westland’s operations form a part of Leonardo’s helicopter division, Leonardo Helicopters.
Throughout its history, Westland Helicopters has had a significant impact on the helicopter industry, with its designs being used by many militaries and civilian operators around the world. Its influence continues to be felt in the designs produced by Leonardo today.
Westland manufactured helicopters #
Some of the more notable helicopters produced by Westland include:
- Westland Dragonfly – An adaptation of the American Sikorsky S-51, this was one of the early models produced by Westland in the post-war years.
- Westland Whirlwind – Another adaptation from Sikorsky designs, the Whirlwind served in the Royal Air Force (RAF) and the Royal Navy.
- Westland Wessex – An evolution of the Sikorsky H-34 Choctaw, the Wessex was used primarily by the RAF and the Royal Navy. It was modified for various roles, including anti-submarine warfare and search and rescue.
- Westland Wasp – A small, ship-based anti-submarine helicopter.
- Westland Scout – An army helicopter related to the Wasp but adapted for land-based operations.
- Westland Lynx – One of Westland’s most successful designs, the Lynx is a multi-purpose helicopter that has been used in both civilian and military roles around the world. It’s notable for its agility and has even set speed records.
- Westland 30 – A civilian passenger helicopter, derived from the Lynx, but it didn’t achieve the same commercial success.
- Westland Sea King – Originally a British version of the American Sikorsky SH-3 Sea King, the Westland variant saw numerous upgrades and modifications, making it significantly different from its American counterpart. It was extensively used for anti-submarine warfare, search and rescue, and various other roles.
- Westland Merlin (AW101) – Known as the Merlin in British service and the AW101 elsewhere, this helicopter was developed jointly with Italian company Agusta (the company is now known as Leonardo). It’s a medium-lift helicopter used by several countries for various roles including anti-submarine warfare, transport, and search and rescue.
- Westland Apache – A license-built version of the American AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, tailored for British requirements.