Friends of the Helicopter Museum

Bristow Helicopters' 50th Anniversary in 2003

Bristow's Sikorsky S-76A, G-BJFL, at Aberdeen, was photographed by a Helicopter Museum restoration volunteer during a group visit in 1995.
Bristow's Eurocopter AS-332L2 Super Puma 2, G-JSAR, at Aberdeen (Dyce) on 16th January 2003, was being prepared for oil and gas industry rescue service trials in the North Sea, with BP. The trials were concluded in Autumn 2003 and G-JSAR was subsequently based at Den Helder, in the Netherlands, providing SAR services to a group of Dutch oil and gas companies in the southern North Sea. Thanks to Chris Jones for supplying the photograph.
G-JSAR ditched in the sea, near Dan Helder, following engine problems on 21st November 2006. The emergency flotation systems were deployed and the four crew, with the thirteen oil workers on board, were rescued unharmed.

Built in 2002, G-JSAR was withdrawn from use in December 2010.


Sikorsky S-61N, G-BPWB, at Portland in 2004
Thanks to Fred Tooke for this photograph

In April 2003 it was announced that Bristow Helicopters was to receive a Queen's Award for Enterprise, in the Innovation category, in recognition of its continuous development of Search and Rescue helicopters since 1971. Bristow operated four SAR bases for HM Coast Guard, two in the north of Scotland and two on the south coast of England, equipped with Sikorsky S-61N helicopters (above), until 2008.

The History
In June 1953 Alan Bristow, who started Air Whaling Ltd. and operated in the Antarctic, changed the name of his company to Bristow Helicopters Ltd. Since then the company continued to specialise in the operation and maintenance of aircraft in the most demanding of environments and across all continents.

Bristow Helicopters was one of the offshore helicopter industry's pioneers and also became the leading civil supplier of SAR services and of military helicopter pilot training support in the UK. Alan Bristow retired in 1985 following disagreements with the major shareholder.

In 1996 Bristow Helicopters formed an alliance with Air Logistics, in Louisiana, under the parentage of Offshore Logistics Inc. The group now operates and maintains a global fleet of over 400 aircraft. In 2006 Offshore Logistics re-branded itself as 'The Bristow Group' and invested £1.5m in a refurbishment of the Aberdeen base and its helicopters. Bristow Group Inc. is now based in Houston, Texas.

Alan Bristow, OBE, Croix de Guerre, died on 26th April 2009, aged 85, soon after finishing his autobiography. The book, written with Patrick Malone, went on sale in November 2009 and is still available from The Helicopter Museum Shop (Telephone: 01934-635227).

The 50th Anniversary Reunion

The Helicopter Museum hosted a very enjoyable 50th Anniversary Reunion and evening reception for current and former Bristow Helicopters Ltd staff, and their guests, on Saturday 13th September 2003.
The evening reception formed part of the "Bristow Reunion Weekend" on Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th September 2003. Alan Bristow, founder of Bristow Helicopters who continued at the helm of his company until 1985, accepted an invitation to be Guest of Honour on the Saturday afternoon, when he met many ex-employees, toured the special Bristow displays and explored the other Museum exhibits (picture below).

Attractions, which continued throughout Sunday 14th September, included reduced price admission to the Museum for Bristow employees, a pictorial display drawn from the Museum archives and, of course, the former Bristow-operated helicopters. There are more anniversary pictures on another page.

The Helicopters

Eight of the helicopters in The Helicopter Museum's collection, all but one built by Westland at Yeovil, were operated by Bristow Helicopters in various periods between 1954 and 1990.
The eight are:-

Westland WS-51A Widgeon Series 2  G-AOZE / 5N-ABW
Westland WS-55 Whirlwind Series 1  G-ANFH
Westland WS-55 Whirlwind Series 3  G-ANJV / VR-BET
Westland WS-55 Whirlwind Series 3  G-AODA / EP-HAC / 9Y-TDA
Westland WS-55 Whirlwind Series 3  G-ATKV / EP-HAN / VR-BEU
Westland Wessex Series 60, WA/561,  G-AVNE/PK-HBQ/VH-BHC/9M-ASS/5N-AJL/ G-17-3.
Westland Wessex Series 60, WA/461  G-ATBZ
Hiller UH-12C  G-ASTP / N9750C

Photographs of all these helicopters appear below.
G-ANFH, G-ANJV and G-ATKV are not, normally, on display for visitors.

Click any of the pictures below to enlarge and read a brief history of that helicopter.
G-AOZE - click for History and Picture G-ANJV - click for History & Picture
WS-55/1 G-ANFH WS-55/3 G-AODA Widgeon G-AOZE    WS-55/3 G-ANJV
Wessex 60 G-AVNE Hiller UH-12 G-ASTP Wessex 60 G-ATBZ WS-55/3 G-ATKV
Click any of the pictures above to enlarge and read a brief history of that helicopter.
Yeovil started to produce the Westland WS-55 Whirlwind, a civil version of the Sikorsky S-55, in 1953. It was powered by a 600hp Pratt & Whitney R1340 radial piston engine with 3-blade metal main rotor. A two-seat cockpit was located in the nose above the engine bay and the lower main cabin accommodated 8 passengers. Subsequently a WS-55 Series 2 was announced with the more powerful 750hp Alvis Leonides engine, modified tail boom and broader tail fin. In 1959 the Westland WS-55 Series 3 was introduced with a 1050shp Bristol-Siddeley Gnome H1000 turbine engine and capable of carrying up to 12 passengers. A number of older WS-55s were converted to the Series 3 specification, some by Bristow at their Redhill base. At least thirty WS-55s were owned by Bristow Helicopters, at some stage in their lives, performing a variety of duties. The Museum examples are G-ANFH (Series 1), G-ATKV (Series 3), G-ANJV (Series 3) and G-AODA (Series 3).
The Westland WS-51A Widgeon, a 5-seat general purpose helicopter first flown in 1955, resulted from a major re-design of the WS-51 Dragonfly including an extended cabin and the choice of the more powerful 520hp Alvis Leonides 521/1 radial piston engine. A new rotor head, evolved from that used on the WS-55 Whirlwind, was fitted. A total of 15 Widgeons were built by Westland at Yeovil, three of which were WS-51 conversions.
The first two new helicopters owned by Bristow were Widgeons G-AOZE and G-AOZD. A total of five were acquired and used by Bristow in the Middle East and Nigeria for offshore work, some being fitted with pontoon-floats. Other Widgeons went to the Hong Kong police (2), the Royal Jordan Air Force(1) and the Brazilian Navy (2). The Museum example is G-AOZE / 5N-ABW.
Up to fifteen Westland Wessex 60s, a 16-seat civil variant of the RAF's Wessex HC Mk.2 operated with Bristow Helicopters Ltd., throughout the world, from October 1965. Their twin 1350 shp Rolls Royce Gnome turboshaft engines and improved performance made them ideal for a wide variety of roles, including world-wide offshore support work, oil and gas exploration and flight training. However, after three accidents, the third of which killed all the passengers and crew and was never explained, Bristow withdrew all the Series 60s from service in August 1981. The Museum examples are G-ATBZ and G-AVNE.
The Hiller UH-12 series started in 1948 with the Model 360's innovative 'Rotor-Matic' system using a pair of small sub-rotors at right angles to the two main rotor blades. These gave directional stability and allowed "hands-off" helicopter flight for the first time. The UH-12 was used by the US Army for training and casualty evacuation. Later versions were used by Fison Airwork, in partnership with Bristow Helicopters, for crop dusting in Central America and around the Caribbean. Twenty UH-12Cs, with bubble canopies, and powered by single 200 hp Franklin 6V4-200-C33 piston engines, were used by Bristow from 1963 until 1976 for civil and military pilot training at Redhill and Middle Wallop in the UK. The Museum example is G-ASTP (UH-12C).

Click on the small pictures above to see an enlarged photograph of each of the eight ex-Bristow helicopters which are held by The Helicopter Museum.

Restoration Highlights