Westland Widgeon G-AOZE / 5N-ABW with restoration nearly completed.
|Westland WS-51A Widgeon Series 2,? G-AOZE / 5N-ABW, c/n WA/H/141, first flew at Yeovil, Somerset, in July 1957. It was bought by Bristow Helicopters, shipped to Bahrain and used to service offshore oil drilling operations. In 1962 it was transferred to Bristow's subsidiary in Nigeria, based at Port Harcourt, re-registered as 5N-ABW and allocated to Shell-BP for offshore oil support work.
After the Eastern State of Nigeria announced secession, in May 1967, oil production declined to such an extent that 5N-ABW was flown to the relative safety of one of the off-shore rigs before the Biafran Army could requisition it. When Bristows finally evacuated Port Harcourt in July 1967 three of their remaining Widgeons had to be left behind and two of these were eventually flown by the Biafran Air Force. Michael Draper's book "Shadows - Airlift and Airwar in Biafra and Nigeria 1967-1970" (Hikoki Publications 1999) gives a superb account of these and other aviation-related events during the conflict. The book is now obtainable from The Helicopter Museum Shop.
In 1970 G-AOZE / 5N-ABW was returned to Bristow in Redhill, England, and donated to a local school who rebuilt and renovated it. The school had to sell the machine in 1986 and it was acquired by Elfan ap Rees, now Chairman of the Museum Trustees, to join the growing collection in Weston-super-Mare. The Widgeon was re-sprayed, in its 1958 Bristow livery, in July 2003 and went on show at RIAT as part of the '100 Years of Flight' exhibition.
It was returned to The Museum in mid-August 2003 and has gone on public display, in the Main Hangar, where long-term restoration, which began in 1995, will be completed.