The Westland Wessex was a British-built turbine-powered development of the Sikorsky H-34. It was developed and produced under licence by Westland Aircraft (later Westland Helicopters). One of the main changes from Sikorsky's H-34 was the replacement of the piston-engine powerplant with a turboshaft engine. Early models were powered by a single Napier Gazelle engine, while later builds used a pair of de Havilland Gnome engines.
The Wessex was initially produced for the Royal Navy (RN) and later for the Royal Air Force (RAF); a limited number of civilian aircraft were also produced, as well as some export sales. The Wessex operated as an anti-submarine warfare and utility helicopter; it is perhaps best recognised for its use as a search and rescue (SAR) helicopter. The type entered operational service in 1961, and had a service life in excess of 40 years before being retired in Britain.
Two machines were converted to HCC4 standard for VVIP duties with the Queen’s Flight. As a measure of its longevity in service, the Wessex was one of the RAF’s main transport helicopters from 1962 until the final unit, No 84 Squadron, retired its aircraft at RAF Akrotiri in January 2003 a total of some 40 years.
The Wessex also served with six foreign countries and it is believed that a few remain flying with the Uruguayan Armed Forces today. A total of 347 were built for the Royal Navy and RAF and a further 20 commercial machines were operated by Bristow Helicopters.
The Company produced Fuel Flow systems for the Wessex and also the Sikorsky H-34 notably for the French Army.
Years Manufactured: 1958 - 1967
Platform Type: Rotary Wing
Initial Maker: Westland Helicopters
Final Maker: Westland Helicopters