Infobox Defunct Company
company_name = Westland Aircraft Westland Helicopters Limited
fate = Merged with
foundation = 1915 as Westland Works
1935 as Westland Aircraft as separation from
1958 renamed to Westland Helicopters
defunct = 2000
location = flagicon|GBR Yeovil, Somerset, United Kingdom
industry = Aerospace
products = Fixed and rotary wing aircraft
Westland Aircraft was a British
aircraftmanufacturer located in Yeovilin Somerset. Formed as a separate company by separation from Petters Ltd just before the start of the Second World War Westland had been building aircraft from 1915. During the war the company produced a number of generally unsuccessful designs, but their Lysander would serve as an important liaison aircraftwith the Royal Air Force. After the war the company focussed on helicopters and was eventually merged with several other British firms to create Westland Helicopters in 1961. In 2000 it merged with Agustato become AgustaWestland.
In 1915 the Westland Aircraft Works was founded as a division of
Petters Limitedin response to government orders for the construction under licence of initially 12 Short Type 184 seaplanes, followed by 20 Short Type 166aircraft. Orders for other aircraft followed during the First World War, including the Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter, the de Havillanddesigned Airco DH.4, Airco DH.9and Airco DH.9Aand the VickersVimy. As a result of the experience gained in manufacturing aircraft under licence, Westland began to design and build its own aircraft, starting with the Westland N-1Bin 1917, which was followed in 1918 by the Wagtail and the Weasel.
Following the end of war, Westland produced the Limousine and Woodpigeon light aircraft for the civilian market, but most successful was the Wapiti close support aircraft. In 1935 Petters split its aircraft manufacturing from its
aircraft engineconcerns to form Westland Aircraft Limited, based in Yeovil, Somerset.
World War Two
The Whirlwind was the UK's first cannon-armed fighter and faster than many other British aircraft at the time but was troubled by the inability of Rolls-Royce to produce the engines. During
World War IIthe company produced a number of undistinguished military aircraft including the Lysander, and the Welkin.
The Welkin was a twin-engine high altitude design to intercept attempts by high-flying German bombers to attack Britain. When the threat never appeared production was limited.
For much of the war their factories were used to build
Supermarine Spitfires, after the Supermarine factory in Southamptonwas bombed out of action during the Battle of Britain, indeed Westlands built more Spitfires than any other manufacturer. Westland would then go on to be the major designers of the Supermarine Seafire, a navalised conversion of the Spitfire.
Post War Success
Post-war the company decided to get out of fixed-wing aircraft and concentrate solely on helicopters under a licensing agreement with Sikorsky. This upset
W.E.W. Petter, the chief designer, who left to form a new aircraft division at English Electricthat would go on to be very successful. [He would later leave EE and join Follandto desing the Gnat]
Production started with the
Sikorsky S-51, which became the "Dragonfly", flying for the first time in 1948, and entering service with the Royal Navyand RAF in 1953. Wesltand developed an improved version the Widgeon which was not a great success. Success with the Dragonfly was repeated with the Sikorsky S-55which became the Whirlwind, and a re-engined Sikorsky S-58in both turboshaftand turbine engine powered designs as the Wessex.
The chairmanship of Eric Mensforth from 1953–1968 marked the start of the transition, which was aided by the government when in 1959–1961 they forced the merger of the 20 or so aviation firms into three groups,
British Aircraft Corporationand Hawker Siddeley Grouptook over fixed-wing designs, while the helicopter divisions of Bristol, Faireyand Saunders-Roe(with their hovercraft) were merged with Westland to form Westland Helicopters in 1961.
Westland inherited the
Saro Skeeterhelicopter, a development of the Skeeter (the P531) and the Fairey Rotodynecompound helicopter ( gyrodyne) design. They continued to develop the latter sidelining their own Westland Westminsterlarge transport design.
The company continued to produce other aircraft under licence from Sikorsky (Sea King) and Bell (Sioux). They also produced their own designs the
Westland Scoutand its naval variant the Westland Waspfrom the P.531 which found favour with the Army Air Corpsand Fleet Air Armrespectively.
In the late 1960s the company started a collaboration with
Aerospatialeto design three new helicopters, the Aérospatiale Puma, Aérospatiale Gazelleand Westland Lynx, with the later being primarily a Westland design.
In 1970 Westland bought out its partners in the
British Hovercraft Corporation
For many years Westland owned the main London
Despite good support from the British establishment, the company gradually fell into unprofitability. Sikorsky approached with a bail-out deal in 1985 that split the cabinet and led to the resignation of Defence Secretary
Michael Heseltinein January 1986 over the fate of Britain's sole helicopter manufacturer. The split, which became known as the Westland affairwas over whether to push the company into a European deal or accept the US company's offer. Eventually, the link with Sikorsky was accepted. [ [http://www.whl.co.uk/history_overview3.cfm Westland Helicopters - history ] ]
Recently examples of the
Boeing AH-64 Apacheattack helicopter have also been built by Westland as the WAH-64, entering full operational service in 2005. Some of the company's Whirlwind and Wessex helicopters served the Queen's Flight(later merged into No. 32 Squadron). GKN plcbought into Westland in 1988, initially acquiring a stake owned by Hanson plcthey soon acquired the shares owned by Fiatwhich gave them absolute control. In 1994 Westland became a wholly owned subsidiary of GKN. It was merged with Finmeccanica's Agustahelicopter division in 1999. In 2004, Finmeccanica S.p.A.acquired GKN's share in the joint venture.
The former Westland site at the now-disused airfield in
Weston-super-Marehouses The Helicopter Museum featuring a number of examples of Westland aircraft. Pride of place is given to an immaculate Westland WessexHCC Mk.4, formerly of the Queen's Flight.
* Westland Widgeon
Westland IVand Wessex
Westland C.O.W. Gun Fighter
* Westland PV-3 (Houston-Westland)
* Westland PV-6 (Houston-Wallace)
* Westland Whirlwind
* Westland Whirlwind
Westland Westminster(1958) - prototype stage only
Westland Sea King
* Westland Apache
* James, Derek N. "Westland: A History". Gloucestershire UK: Tempus Publishing Ltd, 2002. ISBN 0-7524-2772-5.
* Mondey, David. "Westland (Planemakers 2)". London: Jane's Publishing Company, 1982. ISBN 0-7106-0134-4.
* James, Derek N. 'Westland Aircraft since 1915'. London: Putnam, 1991. ISBN 0-85177-847-X
* [http://www.whl.co.uk/ Westland (company web site)]
* [http://www.bartiesworld.co.uk/hovercraft/saunders.htm The hovercraft of the Westlands Aircraft Group (including Saunders-Roe and British Hovercraft Corporation)]
* Westland at Helis.com : [http://www.helis.com/timeline/westland.php timeline] and [http://www.helis.com/database/go/westland.php database section]
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