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What is it about the Wessex that makes people so fond of it?

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What is it about the Wessex that makes people so fond of it?

Old 23rd Mar 2004, 09:11
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What is it about the Wessex that makes people so fond of it?

What is it about the Wessex that makes people so fond of it? I remember some time back an RAF helo flew into the Manchester Zone from North Wales with a casualty for Wythenshawe Hospital. As he was departing towards Crewe on his way home to Valley the the controller said "confirm you're a Sea King?"

Back came the reply, in a shocked 'you must be joking' voice, "negative, we're a Wessex!.

All helos look the same to me (well, almost ), so what's so special about this one?

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Old 23rd Mar 2004, 09:44
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How long have you got SSD ?

Maybe you should ask on the Mil Forum, you might finish up with something as good as the Vulcan and Canberra threads......
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Old 23rd Mar 2004, 10:44
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Wessex special ?

Could be becuase it one of the few yank machines we bought and actually made better when we built then. (especially with the gnomes).

Got some great pics of a wessex at home at an airshow or something, coming in to land and taking out a brick wall with its tail. Plus some early wessex pics at sea, with one downing in the drink and the later recovery. Shame I don't have a scanner.

Having only had limited contact with them in the service (1991) I gather they regarded them as being a robust and capable machine (quite rare in our mil inventory), a bit like an SLR (FnFal) if anyone knows what I mean. You can use it in all conditions, throw it about, built a small bridge with them, march a troop across and it will still do the job witohut failing. With only a few weaknesses (recoil and no auto, plus limited mag, and later the ammo becoming non nato std(SLR)) or hot and high even with the gnome Wessex.

Last edited by Oscar Duece; 23rd Mar 2004 at 10:58.
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Old 23rd Mar 2004, 12:58
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The affection for the Wessex is borne out of nostalgia. For in the RAF, it is the Wessex that was the first big multi engined helicopter that people learned to fly in. It smelled like an aeroplane should smell. It forgave bad manners from man with stick in hand. It served for a very long time, and although somewhat late in retiring, was faithful to the end. It looked like a military helicopter and especially so when landing with speed tail on the ground, gear still aloft. It did have vices though, and could and did roll over and shake itself to bits on occasion.
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Old 23rd Mar 2004, 16:32
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I think that Yozzer is right - it was mostly nostalgia. In its day it was a good machine, with a good payload and single engine performance. It was reasonably robust and the fuel governing system was years ahead of its time when it entered service.
However, in its latter years as a civil machine it was showing definite signs of being past its sell-by date. There were problems with rotor blades, a very long lead time on some spares and it always had problems with icing.
In its heyday I loved it, but it was supplanted in my affections in later years by other machines like the Bell 212, and the Dauphin. But what do I know; I seem to be one of the few contributors to PPRuNe who loves the R22!
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Old 23rd Mar 2004, 18:43
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Queen of the Skies

Spent almost 11 years on the old girl and of all the rotary types is the one I prefer. OK it was limited in performance but we didn't mind really. Nuts and bolts technology, quite forgiving, rugged, hardly ever let me down. Few modern aids to fly it. Westlands built a good-un. Used in a number of theatres worldwide in it's heyday. Crews really felt that they were learning to fly real SH at Shawbury.
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Old 23rd Mar 2004, 20:53
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If you can double post on this subject, so can I.

To: Oscar Duece

Could be because it one of the few yank machines we bought and actually made better when we built them. (Especially with the gnomes).

Before Westland was licensed to build the S-58, Sikorsky had already built the HSS-1 which had two T-58s driving into a combining gearbox. I believe Sikorsky did this on their own hook but the US Navy was not too interested. Perchance Westland copied the design but with British engines?

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Old 24th Mar 2004, 04:47
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When one says Wessex, people normally refer to the twin engined variety known as the Wessex Mk5 in the Royal Navy. ( Can't really say what the RAF did! )
With a huge 350 hours under the belt, I had the pleasure of being at the tail end of the IFTU in 1963 or so. The Wessex was flown for 24 hours a day for weeks on end. If the weather was bad, we just hovered at 5 ft for hours. This got a lot of bugs ironed out. In 1964 848 Squadron flew the Wessex in both the Farnborough and Biggin Hill air shows with great success.

We then went to Aden and Kenya on HMS Albion and found the machine behaved well in hot high conditions. After that to the Far East to swap over with a Wessex Mk1 squadron. The Mk 5 had incredible single engine performance and a very reliable and capable auto pilot for that time. The transmission was limited to 3200 lbs of torque and 1 engine could put out up to 2950 lbs, so it had to be very hot and/or high to make much difference. Hence we had no cat A problems. On 1 occasion in Brunei, I had to pick up 9 paras with all their gear from out of a jungle clearing. Only 1 engine would start, so off we went hoping the other would start once airborne. It didn't, so we picked up all 9 with out any problems. On another occasion I had to pick up 22 rangers, no problem.

The 5 was slow, about 90 to 100 kts, tough as hell, very reliable, forgiving of stupid pilots and simply a delight to fly. Yes there were some fatal accidents but in general most were due to finger trouble by either pilot or engineer. The other 7 twins I have flown still do not have that power to weight ratio.

A much loved helicopter that is virtually no more.
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Old 24th Mar 2004, 11:01
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Beating the 'faster' and younger helo types from field to field in NI was always a good way to stock up the beer stash!
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Old 24th Mar 2004, 21:48
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It's fondly remembered for the same reasons as the "Shackleton" was i.e. Grey & wrinkled on the outside and Black & smelly on the inside! Similar to an elephant's orifice I believe.
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Old 24th Mar 2004, 23:18
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Ambi, actually some had grey wrinklies on the inside, and it was green and smelly! (herbivore)
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Old 25th Mar 2004, 14:01
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Wessex 5 (of course)

For Nigel Osborne:

Still got any Borneo pics Nigel? Mine all went in a box to an ex a year or three ago.

By the way I object strongly to the guys who reckon it was a reliable machine; I've lost count of the number of engine changes we did in the field. The weak links were lubrication of the engine's number 5 bearing, failure of the freewheel unit between the engine and the coupling gearbox and a disconcerting habit of both engines to stop abrubtly as you lowered the lever. When we reported this to Rolls Royce they told us their engines never stop; our boss then demonstrated this to the rep at 10,000 feet over Sembawang. He didn't bother to relight them and the white faced man got the point. Mercifully this problem was then cured by the adoption of the ugly shovel nose.

Even so, I loved the Wessex. It forgave me so many unforgiveable sins and despite a multitude of engine failures never gave me a brown moment that wasn't of my own making.

But I was a bit shocked to see it still flying around in Hongkong in the late nineties but that really shows the inherent rightness of Sikorsky's and Westland's design.
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Old 25th Mar 2004, 21:20
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Shame on you for those derogatory remarks, I thought I had trained you better!!!
In 1035 hours on the Mk5, I only once had to shut an engine down due to surging, I never had an engine fail nor did anyone in our flight in Borneo that I can recall or in 707 Squadron where I spent my final year. The big noses came after my time.

Yes, I have plenty of photos and slides of Borneo, even our old grotty house in Sibu! You'll have to visit Oz to see them!
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Old 26th Mar 2004, 10:08
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We boring old farts will have to beg to differ on reliability; but I remember the thump under your feet and the sparks from the jetpipe beside you as clear as today. And ssssSO OFTEN!

I was Bar Officer 848, A Flight, Bario under Dick Steil, also in QLD now. You and I only ever flew twice together according to my little blue books. Incidentally if the Bar Officer's Whirlwind 7 at Bario had coughed even once we would never have had any beer from Labuan and you wouldn't have someone to argue with now.

Difference was the Wessex could afford to cough (and did!) and the Whirlwind during my time there could not.

Nuff said.
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Old 28th Mar 2004, 06:28
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In nearly 3000 hrs of Wessex time I only had one engine run down on me and a spurious fire caption - other than that, the old girl just kept on going.
It was a top SH machine, hampered only by its lack of top speed and limited power due to the transmission layout. If you wanted to land a team of hooligans in some bad boys front garden at first light then the Wessex was the machine to do it in - that undercarriage saved my bacon (and embarrassment) on several occasions.
I think Lu is right, in that Westlands copied the combining gearbox so that the RR Gnome could be used (the same engines keeping me up in the air nowadays!).
Hot and high was a problem for the old girl - running out of TR authority at the top of Troodos was always entertaining.
A rattly, underpowered junk bucket by comparison to modern helos but in its day it truly was 'Queen of the Skies'.
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Old 28th Mar 2004, 13:47
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Thumbs up Fondness is in the eye of the beholder.

I may be getting my aircraft mixed up but I remember a post by a former crewman on the Wessex. He indicated that an explosive cartridge started the engines and that the propellant in the cartridges was very unstable. This individual recounted the number of times he would have to sit in the open door with his feet dangling out while he was holding the cartridges ready to dump them overboard if something caused them to sputter.

Iíll bet those guys that performed this function do not recall the Wessex with any degree of fondness.

But then again Fondness is in the eye of the beholder.

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Old 28th Mar 2004, 16:25
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That was the Wezzie 1, which had a cartridge initiated avpin starter, the problems were never the cartridges, it was the charge of avpin you carried if you were landing away and had to re-start .

The Mk 3 had an air starter, much more civilised, and the Mk 5 was an all-electric affair on the 2 gnome donks ( a la Sea King).

Westlands may have copied the idea for the coupling gearbox, but came up with their own design, as the T58s were horizontal and the gnomes at the same angle as the main shaft from the coupling gearbox to the main box.
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Old 28th Mar 2004, 20:13
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Funnily enough I had a beer in a pub just this afternoon which has a Wessex slowly rotting in its back garden.

A shocking waste I've always thought (its been there some time )

Keep the stories coming, a potential sticky in the making here !!

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Old 28th Mar 2004, 20:26
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for a wet wessex, if you dive go to stoney cove and they have a sunken one lurking in the depths.
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Old 25th May 2004, 05:07
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Wessex photos: enjoy

Last edited by John Eacott; 2nd May 2020 at 01:58. Reason: Update photos
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