Friends of The Helicopter Museum

Arrival of the Royal Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733

Royal Wessex
Westland Wessex HCC.4, XV733, formerly of The Queen's Flight, was delivered to the Museum on a low-loader, by the Royal Navy, on 15th November 2001.

After unloading in glorious sunshine the undercarriage legs were fitted before the Wessex was pushed into the Main Display Hangar where it is now on permanent display..

The twin-engined helicopter was built at Yeovil in Somerset and delivered to RAF Benson on 11th July 1969, where it served, with The Queen's Flight alongside XV732, until 1995 and was used by all the senior members of the Royal Family including the Queen, the Queen Mother, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of York, Princess Anne and Princess Diana.

In August 1977 the Queen made her first ever helicopter flight, using XV733. She also flew in XV733 during tours of Northern Ireland in 1991 and !993.

In March 1995 The Queen's Flight was amalgamated with No.32 (The Royal) Squadron, based at RAF Northolt, but the Flight was disbanded a few weeks later. XV733 and XV732 were replaced by a single Sikorsky S-76 in April 1998. The two Wessex had been in service for nearly thirty years and had made nearly 10,000 flights between them.

XV733 joins Westland Whirlwind HCC Mk.12, XR486, in The Museum. XR486 served in The Queen's Flight from May !964 until replaced by the Wessex in June 1969.

The Wessex was bought, at auction, by the Museum for £57,000, with substantial help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Since The Queen's Flight was privatised XV733 had been with a civil contractor, in storage at RAF Shawbury, in Shropshire, having flown there , from Northolt, in March 1998.

Throughout June and July 2002 The Museum staged a special Golden Jubilee Exhibition which covered the history of The Queen's Flight Helicopters and included Wessex HCC.4 XV733 and Whirlwind HCC.12 XR486. Many of the exhibition photographs and, of course, the two helicopters, are still in place in the Display Hangar.

Whirlwind XR486 was on static display at RAF Fairford, as part of the Royal International Air Tattoo '100 Years of Flight' feature, for the weekend of 18th to 20th July 2003.

The Friends of The Helicopter Museum supplied volunteers to keep XV733 clean and tidy, so helping to preserve this valuable piece of aviation history. Volunteers are always needed for this and similar jobs.

Checking the cockpitIn the air, maybe for the last time
Cockpit check   Altimeter check
Fitting the legsNearly ready to be pushed in
Clearance check Leg check
Wessex washing
On 17th November 2001, two days after its arrival at the Museum, XV733 was backed out of the Display Hangar for a couple of hours so that it could have a thorough wash and be restored to its usual immaculate condition. On the road journey south from Shawbury on the 15th, after a frosty night, it had been subjected to a lot of salt spray from the M6 motorway.

Wessex Interior 1

Wessex Interior 2

Westland Wessex HCC4,  XV733, with interior fitted for Royal duties.
Roger Dudley, a member of the Friends, writing from Dorset in 2001, pointed out that three other aircraft, albeit fixed-wing, based at Weston Airport many years ago, had previous Royal connections. All three were owned by Western Airways Ltd, the first operator of the airport. They were:-

Registration               Type                              Dates at Weston
G-ABFV                    DH80A Puss Moth                1936-40
G-ADDD                    DH89 Dragon Rapide            1937-40
G-AHTB                    Percival Q6 Petrel               1946-47

Puss Moth G-ABFV was owned by the then Prince of Wales for eight months in 1931 and used during his tour of South America. It entered service with Western Airways in 1932.

Dragon Rapide G-ADDD was owned by the Prince of Wales from mid-1935 and absorbed into the newly-created King's Flight in July 1936. It was replaced by an Airspeed Envoy in 1937 and bought by Western Airways Ltd for £3,345.

Petrel G-AHTB, as P5634, was allocated by the RAF to The King's Flight from 1940-42.

Her Majesty The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh visited The Helicopter Museum in July 2007

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