Friends of The Helicopter Museum

Westland Wessex 60, G-AVNE, History and Restoration

Wessex 60 History

Westland built sixteen Wessex 60s, based on the RAF's HC.2 model, for Bristow Helicopters, between 1965 and 1975, to replace some of the Widgeons and Whirlwinds in their fleet, which serviced the expanding UK and overseas offshore oil and gas exploration sector.

The seventh Westland Wessex Series 60 to be built, G-AVNE, Con.No. WA/561, a 16 passenger civil transport with twin 1350 shp Rolls-Royce Gnome H1200, Mk.660, turboshaft engines, was delivered to Bristow, at Redhill, in 1967. It was the first long-range Series 60 and, soon after delivery, was despatched to Sunderland, N.E. England, where it operated in support of one of the early offshore oil rigs, 'Glomar IV'.

In 1970 G-AVNE was flown out, from the UK, to Kuantan, in Malaysia, and transferred to Bristow's Far East operations, serving successively in Singapore, Indonesia, Australia and then back in Malaysia, each time with appropriate re-registration. It returned to the UK in 1973.
In 1974 G-AVNE was transferred to the Warri base in Nigeria, again to support offshore oil rigs and platforms. It was re-registered as 5N-AJL and remained in Nigeria until 1981 when, following a third and serious accident to a Wessex 60, it was withdrawn from service and returned, via Redhill, to the Westland factory in Weston-super-Mare.

In 1987, after three years in hangar storage at Hurn Airport near Bournemouth, G-AVNE was bought by The Helicopter Museum for outdoor static display at the Museum (right), which, at that time, was sited adjacent to the Westland factory in Weston-super-Mare.

Wessex 60 Restoration

G-AVNE remained on outdoor static display until 2001 when it was brought into the then newly-built Display Hangar. On 12th January 2008 it was rolled into the new Conservation & Engineering Hangar (above left) with its restoration entrusted to Mike Reading's team, while they were still nearing completion of their work on Westland Whirlwind HAR.10, XD163. An unexpected delay in the completion of XD163 meant that work on G-AVNE didn't start until 23rd February, when the nose-mounted debris filter was removed (above centre) and the erection of staging was started (above right), to allow safe access to the main rotor head and gearbox.
By early March 2008 the usual structural survey had started. Corrosion was found to be widespread though often superficial. Severe corrosion was evident in a few of the airframe skin panels and a number of these were listed for replacement. Some of the alloy rivet heads were in a very poor condition and many steel nuts and bolts were rusted (left).

The folded main rotor blades were removed, on 29th March 2008, and this task was made easier with the use of a puller tool to extract the securing taper pins which were corroded. It was fortunate that, with the main blades having been displayed in their folded state for many years, only some of the pins were still in place. The tail rotor blades had been easily detached after a few weeks soaking of the securing pins in WD-40 (below left).

Fortunately a crane was available, on 29th March 2008, to assist with steadying the main rotor blades after detachment and with the subsequent lowering of the blades to the ground. After removal of these all-metal blades G-AVNE was rotated through 180 degrees before being pushed back into the conservation bay, nose-out and alongside the Wessex HAS.3, XM328, which had been in the new Engineering Hangar since mid-2007.
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