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What fresh lunacy is this? A helicopter?

Westland Wessex HC2 for sale!

As if the recent comings and goings at our remote and highly classified North Yorkshire base haven’t been exciting enough (Swift, Harrier, Tornado) we now have a big beautiful Westland Wessex HC2 sat out on the ‘ramp’ . Considering it’s our first helicopter I can’t help but think we’ve gone in at the deep end a bit as I look out of the window at our 65ft long, 5 ton acquisition.  It’s not just the length though …as I’ve always insisted…everything about this thing is big, you could probably kill yourself just falling out of the window (although if you did survive there are 4 stretchers inside).

A big beast like this needs a lot of power. The original Sikorsky S58 which the Wessex is based on was powered by a single Wright Cyclone piston engine whereas the HC2 had two Rolls Royce Gnome gas turbine engines coupled together which allowed this machine to carry up to 16 troops (or 8 stretcher cases) in the cab or an underslung load of 4,000lb.

The S58 and its derivatives has had an incredibly varied career with various armed forces around the world. The United States Marine Corps called it the H34 and flew it in Vietnam as an assault helicopter and even kitted out a few as gunships. The Israelis  used the S58 during the Six Day War to airlift troops into combat and the type was also used in significant numbers by Germany and France, as well as serving with many other air arms. Perhaps more relevant to us here in the UK is its use by the Royal Navy and the RAF. The former used it for utility and anti-submarine warfare duties whilst the RAF used it for SAR and troop transport missions. Perhaps the most famous British use of the Wessex was during the Falklands war when they were used to deposit SAS troops onto South Georgia in despicable conditions (losing 2 airframes in the process) and also took part in knocking the Argentinian submarine Santa Fe out of the war by disabling it with depth charges.

Basking in some late afternoon sunshine

XR506 itself first flew in 1963 and went on to give sterling service to the RAF until retirement in 2002, including operations in Nothern Ireland with 72 squadron whilst based at RAF Aldergrove. In fact, she was the RAF’s highest hour Wessex with over 17,000 hours on the airframe! Today she is in remarkably good condition. Internally the cockpit is almost 100% complete, with instruments and controls still in place and there is something very wrong with you if you get in and don’t start pulling on the collective,  waggling the cyclic and flicking overhead switches. Speaking of which, this Wessex could be classed a potential return to flight project because of its condition  although this would be a very, very costly undertaking!

XR506 clattering past minesweeper HMS Brecon

These two photos are of XR506 whilst in service in Northern Ireland and were taken by K. A Boyd who sadly passed away this year. We have obtained permission from his family to use these photos.


Below are 2 further in-service pictures provided by Athur Payne at A1 Photography.




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