|Following a last-minute offer from the Czech Air Force, a Mini-Helidays event took place at Weston-super-Mare in 2011, after several months of uncertainty, using The Heliport at The Helicopter Museum instead of the traditional Beach Lawns venue.
Scheduled for the weekend of Saturday 23rd & Sunday 24th July 2011 the helicopter line-up included two Russian-built helicopters supplied to the Czech Air Force, a French AS.555 'Fennec' and, on Sunday only, a Hiller UH-12C.
Two weeks before the show Event Organiser and Chairman of Museum Trustees, Elfan Ap Rees said "We hope that this mini-event will keep the Helidays tradition alive and, in fact, this will be the first time that the Czech Air Force has visited Weston. If all goes well they will be bringing a Mil Mi-171 'Hip' assault helicopter and a Mi-24 'Hind' gunship - another first for the town. A formidable opponent during the Cold War, the 'Hind' was Russia's answer to our own Apache attack helicopter".
Entry to the Mini-Helidays was included, at no extra charge, in the normal Helicopter Museum admission charges, with free entry to Gift Aid Museum Ticket Holders.
Many visitors to The Museum over the weekend took an early opportunity to see the three newly-restored Lynx helicopters, recently returned from their 9th July 2011 appearance at Yeovilton Air Day.
Photographs to the left, taken at Weston Mini-Helidays on 23rd July 2011, show (top left) Czech Air Force Mil Mi-35 Hind-E, ser.3371 early on the Saturday morning with crew preparing the helicopter for public display and, (left) Mil
Mi-171Sh, ser.9813, showing the cabin interior with seating along one side, a large auxiliary fuel tank on the other side and the hydraulically-actuated flat rear ramp outside. The bullet-proof mats on the cabin floor would give passengers some protection but it seems unlikely that an auxiliary fuel tank would be utilised in a combat situation.
|Czech Air Force Mil Mi-171 combat-transport helicopter, Reg. 9813, c/n 59489619813, landing at The Helicopter Museum around noon on Friday 22nd July 2011. It had flown to Weston-super-Mare via Gilze-Rijen in The Netherlands, with a short refuelling stop at RNAS Yeovilton in the UK, and remained on display to Museum visitors throughout the weekend of 23rd & 24th July. One of sixteen
Mi-171s, built at Russia's Ulan-Ude plant for the Czech Air Force in 2005, it was delivered in July of that year. It is part of 231st Squadron operating from the 23rd Helicopter Base in P?erov, Moravia.
|On the Saturday morning 23rd July, with the promise of sunshine, the Mi-171Sh, 9813, was open for inspection by Museum visitors who were encouraged to walk up the ramp (above left), down the length of the cabin and then to enter the cockpit (above right) and sit on the 'jump seat'.
|Czech Air Force Mi-35 'Hind E', attack helicopter, Reg. 3371, c/n 203371, arriving about two hours after the Mi-171 on 22nd July, with the weather and visibility continuing to deteriorate. Fortunately things improved later with blue skies appearing and an optimistic outlook for the days ahead when the helicopters were on public display. 3371 had flown directly from its 221st Squadron base at Nám?? Nad Oslavou, in Southern Moravia, to Yeovilton where it refuelled before continuing to Weston. 'Hind' photography by Alan Norris.
|A glimpse of Mi-35 'Hind E', 3371, pilot's cockpit (left) which was open for inspection. Above was the impressive main rotorhead (right) photographed on 23rd July 2011.
The French Air Force Aerospatiale AS.555AN 'Fennec', 5468/VX, arrived later on the Friday and soon attracted interest from Museum volunteers and visitors next morning 23rd July 2011, (left). Based at Villacoublay, near Paris, the squadron is normally engaged in SAR duties and air policing, known as MASA, or 'Mesures Active de Sûrete Aérienne', which was initiated in 1990.
If the French Air Defence Network detects a potential slow-moving, low-altitude terror threat then one or two of the squadron's ten 'Fennecs' are scrambled to investigate. Each helicopter carries two pilots and two 'sharpshooters'.
|Visiting on Sunday 24th July 2011, Glynn Williams' Hiller UH-12C, N5315V (right), newly-painted as US Army 779455, has recently undergone a 5-year restoration, by Vanguard Helicopters at Henstridge, which was completed in 2010. Thanks to Steve Sullivan for this photograph.
Stanley Hiller brought the UH-12C to the commercial market in 1956. One of the first batch to be released was N5315V which became the first helicopter to be used by the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) for traffic patrol, from April 1956.
The French Air Force AS.555AN 'Fennec' departed in the morning of Sunday 24th July while the Hiller UH-12C left late Sunday afternoon.
The Czech Air Force Mi-171Sh, Reg.9813, and the Mi-35 'Hind E' Reg.3371, made a spirited departure at around 0900 on Monday 25th July, which included a flypast along the Weston-super-Mare seafront, after which residents were treated to the sight of a low flying Hind attack helicopter skimming the rooftops as it turned to join up with its compatriot already climbing away to the east.